Sunday June 11, 2017
By Richard Bosselman
DOLLAR and delivery detail about the hottest Honda in years has been released.
Announcement that the Civic Type R will cost $59,990 and that the order book has opened now, with first deliveries coming in September, reflects that Auckland-based Honda New Zealand is shaping up for a fight in the niche but nicely nasty performance hatchback field.
The one challenge to ownership of the most potent and fastest Civic road car ever created is that it serves up purely in old-school manual gearbox format.
How will that affect its appeal in a market that has swung massively toward two-pedal direct shift or fully automatic formats? Enthusiasts might say the gearbox simply sorts the posers from the true players.
Certainly, the purist transmission has not inhibited the model’s appeal internationally – the motoring media feedback has been incredibly positive, with important outlets praising not just the outright kapow but also those other elements – the steering, the chassis, the brakes, the tyre choice - that would have been equally import when the model cracked out a Nurburgring type lap record in April.
Honda New Zealand has yet to outline its volume expectations for a model that will reintroduce it to a buyer segment it has not engaged with for such a long time.
The push toward winning the backing of performance fans will likely demand a wholesale change to marketing attitude, although the latest advertising campaigns have themselves been surprisingly racy. For all that, the Type R will by and large be a flag-waving exercise; not only because of what it is but also because it might well be subject to supply constraint.
However, it has at least started positively by appearing to have used the usual suspect rivals as barometers for setting its price.
The big name Volkswagen Golf GTi spans from $58,990 to just under $62k while Ford’s Focus ST and RS are respectively $53,000 and $70k. The Renault Megane RS comes in at $5,000 in 265 format with the more honed 275 car has sited around $75k.
The model coming here has the same turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, now producing 228kW and 400Nm, and braking system as the previous Civic Type R, which was never considered for this market. But everything has changed.
The chassis is 35 percent stiffer than the old car’s (with a 45 percent gain in bending rigidity) and yet, according to media comment, the ride quality – which in the old car was often criticised as being too harsh – has been much improved, with genuine ride comfort now part of the story. That’s seen to be a result of the car having adopted a multi-link rear axle and adaptive dampers.
The car also delivers a new Dual-Axis front suspension setup with aluminum lower arms and steering knuckles for improved at the limit cornering and reduced torque steer; a new four-wheel Adaptive Suspension System with three chamber dampers; a retuned and adaptive dual-pinion electric power steering system with variable gear ratio; and a helical limited slip front differential.
Mounted to the suspension are 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels shod with 245/30R 20 performance tyres. Stopping power comes from Brembo four-pot aluminum calipers squeezing 350mm cross-drilled rotors at the front. The rear braking system features solid 305mm rotors.
The Type R’s responses are further enhanced by a body more rigid than the substantially improved Civic Hatch on which it’s based, enhancing steering response and cornering stability while mitigating body vibration and cabin noise.
Honda says the improvements are made possible by the application of structural adhesive throughout the body. Ultra-high strength steel is used for 14 percent of the body structure, and the Type R has an aluminum bonnet, contributing to a 16kg reduction in body weight versus the previous edition.
The model features three driving modes: Comfort, Sport (default) and Plus-R. The driver selectable modes adjust steering and throttle response, transmission rev-matching, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and the Adaptive Damper System.
The rand says the cabin fitout “adds to the overall driving experience” with heavily bolstered, lightweight sports seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift boot, aluminum shift knob, aluminum sport pedals, red Type R driver’s meter and serialised Type R plate on the centre console with red sports detailing throughout. The infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Honda has also released pricing for its mainstream Civic hatch models coming on sale on June 27, with the surprise that the entry SX edition will eschew the normal policy of carrying a premium over their sedan counterparts. The the SX hatch will have the same $32,990 (plus on-roads) tag as the SX sedan, while the Sport Hatch – which has no three-box equal – carries a $4000 premium. The RS Sport Turbo hatch, at $40,900, is $1000 dearer than the equivalent sedan.
This edition has a 1.5-litre turbo engine making 127kW/220Nm, whereas cheaper edition run the 1.8-litre mill that has been familiar to Civic buyers for some time.