Honda Civic Type R review

Honda Civic Type R review

We put the latest incarnation of Honda’s hot hatch through its paces – on the road and on track…

There are a handful of new cars worthy of a genuine fanbase, and the Honda Civic Type R is one of them.

With a pedigree stretching back to 1997, it’s become a legendary model in the automotive world – and now it’s the turn of the sixth generation Civic Type R (which is based on the 11th generation Civic).

Known as the FL5 in Honda-speak, it takes over from the FK8 (2017-22).

Honda Civic Type R review

I had high hopes for the new Civic Type R after driving the impressive family hatchback version of the now hybrid-only Civic, because it handled very well.

I praised its agile drive, adding, “it stays flat in more challenging corners, there’s good grip and the steering is nicely weighted, which all bodes well for the upcoming Type R”.

Well, I got my first taste of the new Honda Civic Type R at a wet Thruxton circuit, preceded by a varied road route on and around a sodden Salisbury Plain.

The new Type R is really a finely tuned evolution of the acclaimed outgoing model, so a tough act to follow.

Honda Civic Type R review

Already the track record holder at Suzuka, Honda reckons the FL5 “is a fitting way to celebrate 30 years of the Type R nameplate”.

Priced from £46,995, it’s the best looking Type R yet. Inheriting the standard Civic’s softer lines and good proportions. Let’s say it’s less boy racer and all grown up.

Sure, there are plenty of extra aerodynamics compared to its sensible sibling, but even the considerable rear wing seems restrained compared to previous generations.

Unlike the regular Civic, there’s no electrical assistance. Instead, there’s a more powerful-than-before 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

Honda Civic Type R review

It’s got 325bhp to offer up – slightly more than the 316bhp you got in the old car – as well as 420Nm of torque.

Slightly swifter than its predecessor, it can sprint to 60mph in a time of 5.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 170mph. In terms of economy, that’s 34.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 186g/km.

Inside, it’s had a much-needed update. Not only has the overall quality improved, but there’s also a new infotainment system (lifted straight from the standard Civic).

Add red Alcantara-trimmed sports seats up front, red carpets, a brushed metal gear knob and a ‘serial plate’ with the car’s build number on the dashboard, and you know you’re driving something special.

Honda Civic Type R review

There are three drive modes (Comfort, Sport and R) and they alter the car’s engine, steering and suspension feel.

There’s also a new ‘Individual’ drive setting, where the steering, adaptive dampers, rev match system and engine response can all be adjusted separately.

Comfort is just fine for long journeys and cruising motorways. Sport sharpens things up nicely, while things get hardcore when you engage the R mode.

Honda Civic Type R review

Here, the driver’s display switches to a new layout, more familiar to racing drivers. There’s a linear rev graphic flanked by a digital speed readout and 12 separate items of vehicle information, ranging from coolant temperature to steering angle and a G-meter.

The idea is to allow drivers to view their inputs and how the vehicle reacted. Ultimately, it can help you see where improvements can be made and go faster on track.

For comparison, I drove the outgoing FK8 on track before the new FL5. Overall, the FL5 is more sophisticated, forgiving and responsive. I had a couple of moments (corrected thanks to my razor-sharp reflexes!) in the FK8 on a couple of corners at soggy Thruxton, but no such drama in the FL5.

Honda Civic Type R review

I definitely felt more confident in the FL5, which ties in with the biggest gains over the old Type R, namely the improved chassis rigidity and handling performance as a result of tweaks to the steering and suspension.

Needless, to say, the new Honda Civic Type R is incredibly fast – and not just in a straight line. Its ability to corner at speed is phenomenal for a front-wheel drive car, while the traction on offer is nothing short of astonishing.

Honda Civic Type R review

The brakes deserve praise too. Not only do the Brembos (in conjunction with wider 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres) work superbly, but Honda has made changes to the front wheel arches to aid cooling.

Tweaks have also been made to the exhaust system (there are now three pipes!), so the soundtrack is better than ever. Naturally, it’s at its loudest in the R setting, but some may also find a long trip in Sport mode tiresome, so best to stick to Comfort, which is easier on the ears and offers a more compliant ride.

Final word to the smooth and precise six-speed manual gearbox.

Honda Civic Type R review

And as if all that isn’t good enough, then the Civic Type R is a practical daily driver too. There’s ample space up front and only the tallest of rear seat passengers have reason to complain (the penalty for that swooping roofline). You also get the same 410 litres of luggage capacity as the standard Civic, expanding to a useful 1,212 litres with the back seats flipped.

So, the new Civic Type R is hard to fault. Perhaps the only fly in the ointment is its premium price and the fact that it will be offered in very limited numbers in the UK – and we’re talking hundreds, not thousands.

Verdict: The Honda Civic Type R has matured into hot hatch royalty. Remarkably good to drive, it’s an awesome blend of performance, driving engagement, technology and practicality.

Honda UK

Honda Civic Type R review

Toyota GR86 review

Toyota GR86 review

There are a handful of affordable new cars worthy of a genuine fanbase, and the sports coupe previously known as the Toyota GT86 is one of them.

At the end of the ICE age of motoring (Internal Combustion Engine), there will be a special place in heaven for this thrilling, budget buy.

Before we continue, let’s deal with the obvious question – why has the new version of the GT86 confusingly morphed into the GR86?

Toyota GR86 review

Well, Gazoo Racing is Toyota’s motorsport division and it’s recently been turning out acclaimed GR versions of the Yaris and Supra.

Now it’s the turn of the GT86, which has been re-named for its latest incarnation so that it fits in with the Gazoo Racing family of sports cars.

At first glance, the Toyota GR86 looks not unlike the old GT86. In other words, there’s a long, low bonnet and the same pert rear end with twin tailpipes. The GR86 is actually slightly lower (10mm) the wheelbase is a tad longer (5mm) and it’s lighter.

Toyota GR86 review

The reality is that it has a more aggressive stance than its predecessor, thanks to the addition of aerodynamic front air intakes and outlets, sleek side spoilers, rear wheel arch fins and a rear spoiler.

To simplify matters, there’s just one standard trim level available, and the GR86 is offered with either a manual or automatic transmission.

But don’t feel that you’ve been short-changed because the level of equipment is a marked improvement over the outgoing model, with more on-board tech and safety equipment, more power and suspension tweaks.

Toyota GR86 review

The GT86’s four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine has been replaced by a larger 2.4-litre unit, giving the GR86 a 17% power boost to 231bhp. Just as importantly, there’s a claimed 22% increase in torque with the 250Nm peak now arriving at almost 3,000rpm lower down the rev range.

As a result, the 0-62mph acceleration time has been cut by more than a second to 6.3 seconds, while the top speed is now 140mph. The automatic is slightly slower, but not much (6.9 seconds/134mph).

Considering the power on tap and high enjoyment factor, it’s no gas guzzler either. Toyota claims up to 32mpg, while CO2 emissions are around 200g/km.

Toyota GR86 review

GR86 goodies include 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights and automatically-folding door mirrors. Inside, there’s a central 8-0-inch infotainment screen, suede and leather seat upholstery, and heated front seats.

Other tech highlights include a 7.0-inch driver’s digital display, smartphone charging, cruise control and a reversing camera, as well as safety features such as blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.

Overall, the cabin has a classier, more solid feel, but there are still a lot of hard surfaces and it’s definitely old school in terms of layout.

Toyota GR86 review

The best news is that the GR86 is essentially the same classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car that it ever was – except even better.

We tested it on the challenging Monteblanco Circuit near Seville in southern Spain, followed by an entertaining road route.

There’s plenty of space up front, but clearly the rear seats are next to useless thanks to the almost complete lack of legroom, while boot space is limited (226 litres).

Toyota GR86 review

That said, the new front sports seats are slim yet supportive, while the rear seats can be folded down to reveal a load space big enough to hold four wheels (ideal for enthusiasts driving to and from a track day).

The low-slung driving position is almost perfect, while the flat-four engine’s growl sounds the part, though many enthusiasts will disapprove because it is augmented via the audio system.

There’s noticeably more power and a much broader torque curve, making it feel quicker, while the increased body rigidity and sports-tuned suspension makes the handing more responsive and improves handling through faster corners.

The addition of grippier Michelin Pilot Sport 4s hasn’t robbed the GR86 of any its playfulness either, so there’s still scope for drifting (on track of course).

Toyota GR86 review

In a nutshell, the balance of this sports coupe is spot-on. A near-perfect blend of power, nimble steering and well-managed body control. Tremendous fun on the road and track, it generates generous amounts of driver confidence.

If I had to nit-pick, I’d say the six-speed manual gearbox is on the notchy side (a slick-shifting MX-5 is still hard to beat), but overall, it’s hard to fault – especially at the price (£29,995).

As for rivals, the obvious ones are Subaru BRZ (it was developed alongside the GT86/GR86), plus the Audi TT, BMW 2 Series and Mazda MX-5 RF.

Now for the bad news. The entire two-year allocation of GR86 coupes has already sold out. And because of forthcoming changes to European safety regulations, this car will only be sold for two years before being withdrawn from sale in 2024.

Verdict: Toyota has pulled off a masterstroke with the new GR86, retaining the outgoing GT86’s fun-to-drive character, but also successfully improving it where it matters. More power, more torque, a classier interior and sharper handing only add to the magic. Enjoy the Toyota GR86 – an affordable, living legend.

Toyota UK