The new Honda Civic Type R is a practical hatchback that offers awesome performance and precise handling. But how does it compare to its predecessor?
From its in-your-face looks to its eat-you-alive performance, the Honda Civic Type R has always been the Rottweiler of the hot hatch world, barking with aggression even standing still, eating red meat for breakfast and going from nothing to DEFCON 1 in the blink of an eye.
The new version largely sticks to that template, and even uses the same turbocharged 2.0-litre engine as its predecessor – albeit tuned to produce 316bhp rather than 306bhp. But that’s no handicap: the engine was one of the high points of the old Type R.
Instead, the biggest negatives were its rock-hard suspension and overly track-focused driving manners. So, have those shortcomings been addressed? To find out, we’re comparing the new and old car side-by-side.
Honda Civic Type R new vs old – styling
You don’t have to be a Type R fanatic to spot the family resemblance. Angry face? Check. Gaping air vents? Yep. Oversized rear wing? Of course. Neither car is for shy and retiring types.
That said, the new Type R’s hot hatch jewellery is better integrated, looking like it was designed at the same time as the rest of the Civic range, rather than stuck on later as an afterthought. And it’s a longer, lower and wider car, which makes it look even sportier.
Honda Civic Type R new vs old – engines and driving
While the old Type R was a teeth-rattler, the new one isn’t. Indeed, when you put the suspension in Comfort mode it’s relatively soothing at all speeds, not only compared with its predecessor, but also the Ford Focus RS. True, the Volkswagen Golf R still rounds off road scars better, but it’s no longer a matter of chalk and cheese.
You can also ratchet things up in the new Type R by switching to Sport or the stiffest +R setting, although the latter is really only for track days.
We drove the car on road and track, and either demonstrates that the new Type R is at least as much fun as its predecessor. On the way into a corner, the firm brake pedal is reassuring and, more importantly, effective at scrubbing off speed. And even in Comfort mode, body control is sublime, so the car doesn’t lean discernibly and it’s now less likely to get forced off-line by spiky mid-corner bumps.
The steering is still quick off-centre, too, without feeling nervous, so you can tip the car in to turns and feel the front tyres reacting keenly. Meanwhile, the feedback streaming up through the steering wheel is pivotal in letting you gauge the amount of exploitable grip left.
Finally, there’s the engine. If 316bhp sounds puny next to the 345bhp the Focus RS musters, believe us, the Civic Type R won’t leave you wanting. Get past the momentary lag before the turbo kicks in and there’s competitive thrust, allied to a free-revving character that most its rival can’t match.
Honda Civic Type R new vs old – interior and equipment
There’s lots of red trim whichever Type R you’re sitting in, but for a hot hatch that trades on being loud and proud, this is a good thing.
The differences between old and new are to be found in the quality of the materials, with the latter feeling significantly plusher. It’s still not up to Golf R or BMW M140i standards, but makes a Focus RS feel cheap.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the interior of the old Type R was that you felt like you were sitting too high, even when the seat was in its lowest setting. Fortunately, the new car offers a much sportier driving position, and its front seats are still heavily bolstered to hold you tightly in place through corners.
Likewise, rear visibility is improved; there’s still a bar that slices across the rear window, but it’s thinner than before and the new car gets a rear-view camera as standard to help with reversing.
Honda Civic Type R new vs old – infotainment
What hasn’t really been improved is the touchscreen infotainment system, because it remains slow and clunky, with disappointingly low resolution.
Mercifully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring are standard on the new Type R, so at least you can bypass Honda’s own operating system when using the touchscreen to access your phone and its apps.
Honda Civic Type R new vs old – space and practicality
Both cars give the driver and front passenger loads of space, but leave taller rear passengers wishing they had a bit more head room. And both have a huge boot that can swallow numerous suitcases or the biggest of baby buggies with ease; here they put rival hot hatches to shame.
Surprisingly, though, the old Type R is more versatile than the new one, thanks to its ‘Magic’ rear seats, which let you flip up the bases like cinema seats to create space for tall items.
Honda Civic Type R new vs old – costs
Don’t dive into Type R ownership expecting regular hatchback running costs; a 2.0-litre turbo car with more than 300bhp is never going to be parsimonious on fuel or cheap to insure.
That said, the new car does manage 36.7mpg in official tests, which is almost 5mpg more than its predecessor. And while the list price has risen by almost a grand to £30,995, that doesn’t feel like a lot given how much easier it is to live with.