Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. You either think this car is an eyeful or you love the drama, boldness of the design and the statement it makes. Irrespectively of where you fall between the two ends – one thing remains true and that is very few cars are the driving machine that this car promises to be. And what a driving machine it is! It has the same 2.0L turbo charged 4-cylinder engine from the previous Type-R but now uses a monoscroll turbo charger with improved boost-bar power, and it also has a VTEC variable lift on the exhaust camshaft that helps reduce turbo lag. The flywheel is lighter and allows the engine to rev more freely. All this has increased the power slightly to 228kW and 400Nm of torque. To put the figures in perspective, this car is fractionally more powerful than a Porsche Cayman… all while being able to be a family hatch – but more on that later.
The dramatic looks are not just for show. Form follows function here. The front air-intakes direct the air flow to pass the front wheels and exit through the side air-vents and then to the bottom side skirt wing-let for better aerodynamics. Above the rear window are vortex generators that swirl the air so it goes over the rear upper spoiler to provide down-force at high speeds for improved stability. Honda also states that this is the only car in its class that produces negative lift at high speeds – just like a race car does! How’s that for a unique touch?
The interior continues with the sporty theme of the exterior with a well-built, leather trimmed polarizing dash design and a flat-bottom steering that greets you as you enter the cabin. The red and black faux-suede bucket seats are amongst the comfiest I’ve sat on in any car. They are supportive without stabbing your chubby bits if you possess these as I do. The shift knob is a solid aluminum ball that is a joy to use.
The gear shifts are short and well directed. The steering is perfectly weighted and precise. This ensures that you always know exactly where the wheels are pointed. The overall driving experience of this car is just perfect. The car has three modes that you can select, being Comfort, Sport (which is the default setting when you switch the car on) and Race. The steering weighting and suspension dampers are altered depending on which mode you have selected. In Comfort mode, the car had a buttery smooth ride that absorbed bumps in a way that made you completely forget that the car was riding on R20 30/245’s. When in race mode the dampers stiffened up for a tighter road handling feel and the steering weighted up to an almost racy feel. All these elements are brought to life by good acceleration and great handling. This car is quick – very quick. It doesn’t have off the line traction like an all-wheel drive but once it gets rolling – the acceleration is astonishingly brutal. It doesn’t match up to the 9.7L/100 I averaged during my time with the car. I thought it would have been more – but it wasn’t. This is pure voodoo!
So as I got used to the car I thought some annoying things about the car would start to show. Luckily it never got to this point. The car was great to live with in all aspects. Space, comfort gadgets such as dual climate control, satellite navigation were right up there with the best. The boot has a wide opening and more than adequate for carrying everyday merchandises. I also liked the infotainment. It is unconventional and different, just like how a difficult game is. The process of getting acquainted with the car and this tricky infotainment made things all that more interesting. Intuitive things are overrated. This is not Pacman. It’s a Type-R. Seeing the level of boost pressure, PSI power for brakes, and an illuminated shift notification light that beeped and blinked, G-force system and a stop watch made every bit of this car awaken the inner child in me.
So before it sounds like Honda gave us a brown envelope for this review – Is there anything I didn’t like or I felt was missing? If I have to nit-pick, it would have been lovely to be able to set the car driving modes independently, i.e. Sporty steering plus comfort dampers, etc. The touch screen of the infotainment was not as responsive as the one in something like a VW Golf R. Sun or panoramic roof? Yes – I would have liked to see it. Ultimately, there really isn’t much to dislike about this car at a functional level and what it is intended for.
What Honda has achieved with the dynamics of this car and how it can be civilized and practical at the same time – shows how hard the engineering team has worked. This car offers great value – even at its asking price of R635,500 – which gets you a 5 Year / 90 000km service plan, 5 Year / 200 000km warranty plus an AA road side assist. Just note that the service intervals are every 10 000kms.
This is the king of thrills. Comes free with endless grins!
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