One look at the latest Honda Civic Type R tells you it’s a mean machine.
Unlike its more sober predecessor the new Type R is dressed to impress, with such a dramatic body kit you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at one of the Touring Car Championship entrants that’s accidentally slipped on to the highway.
But unlike some cars this one really can live up to its image. It’s powered by the most extreme and high-performing Type R engine ever built.
Honda says it’s “a race car for the road”, and after a week with one I can’t argue with that.
The new 310bhp engine will rocket the car from zero to 62 mph in just 5.7 seconds and on to a class leading top speed of 167 mph.
It’s not a car for the faint-hearted. With a huge rear wing behind the back window, flared wheel arches with vents in the trailing edges of the front ones to help take heat away from the brakes, dramatic side skirts and an aggressive front, the Type R is hard to miss.
Inside, too, the effect is dramatic, with high backed suede-effect red and black sports seats – complete with red seatbelts – that hold you firmly in place and a cabin that wraps around you.
This is a car that takes no prisoners. On the road it feels every inch a race car with a dramatic roar from the four exhaust pipes when you push the start button.
The short throw six-speed gearbox – there is no automatic version available – is slick and easy to use and while the car’s designed for high performance it’s surprisingly easy to drive it gently.
And when you do its remarkably comfortable, with nice compliant suspension, and it’s easy to get sensible fuel consumption from the 2.0-litre VTEC turbocharged engine.
Wind up the revs, however – it reds lines at 7000 rpm – and you feel a real kick in the back as the Type R takes off. In fact it’s difficult to find a road suitable to try out such dramatic acceleration.
But just when you think you have mastered it you find there is more to come – when you press the +R mode button on the dashboard.
At that point all the dials turn red and I’m sure I saw a pair of horns sprout from under the bonnet. Certainly the torque-mapping changes, the four-point adaptive damping system which gives independent control of each wheel firms up by 30 per cent and the steering becomes even more responsive.
Put your right foot down hard and the raw, aggressive power just keeps on coming. Honda has done a lot of work to control torque steer but this engine is so powerful there is still an element of it left.
The road holding is superb and the grip so good you would swear you were driving an all-wheel-drive car.
The new car is the first Type R from the brand in five years and is available in standard form or as a Type R GT – the model I drove.
Opt for the more expensive GT version and you get extras like parking sensors, a premium audio system, satellite navigation and auto lights and wipers.
But whichever you select the performance is the same and it’s performance that sells this car. Try one out for size but make sure you are tightly buckled in when you press that red button.
Model: Honda Civic Type R GT
Mechanical: 1,996cc, 310 bhp petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox.
Max speed: 167.8 mph
0-62mph: 5.7 secs
Combined mpg: 38.7
CO2 emissions: 170 g/km
BiK: 29 %
Warranty: 3 years/90,000 miles