It’s good to see you again, Clint. When you first appeared in wheels, almost a decade ago, you had a 2010 Civic Type R and then several other hot-hatches after the Honda. Now, you’ve come full circle; what attracted you to the new model?
There are two cars I regret selling in the UAE, my 4C, and my FN2 Civic Type R, so that’s always been in the back of my mind. That’s lead me to want to get back behind the wheel of the red logo.
Honda doesn’t sell this car here which is a real shame; where did you find it?
Purely by chance, scrolling through online ads I saw it advertised in Ras Al Khor by a company that specialize in importing spec levels that we don’t usually get here. It had just arrived, I went to go look at it and put down the deposit. They’ve made arrangements with various companies so that I still got a 5 year (unlimited km warrantee, and comprehensive insurance). Effectively it was a brand new car with 32km on the clock, and imported from Canada.
How does it compare to your previous Civic Type R? What are the obvious and not so obvious improvements that have been made to it?
It’s a Type R through and through. If you’d blindfolded me and put me in the car I would have known immediately what it was.
The Type R has a driving dynamic that is different to other hot hatches, and fairly noticeable. Improvements — not so much cheap plastic anymore, and three drive modes (with adaptive suspension). In comfort mode you won’t know you’re driving on 20in wheels, but in +R mode there will be no doubt as to what the cars’ purpose is.
You weren’t so keen on the stock exhaust system but have since replaced that with a Borla — how much of a difference has that made to the joy of dropping down the gears?
The car is incredibly quiet stock (almost as quiet as a Focus ST), so I trawled Youtube to find an aftermarket exhaust with a sound that appealed to me. The Borla Atak does the trick, and as it growls, I grin.
I’ve also got a Mishimoto air intake that I’ve still got to put in, and playing with the idea of getting a Stage 1 tune from a local company called PumaSpeed.
Hot-hatchery has moved on a long way to the point that these days a Golf Gti isn’t considered the pinnacle anymore — would you say the Civic Type R is deserving of that title?
I think it’s a personal thing. Most hot hatches are good for spirited driving. I’d put the Focus ST over the VW Gti, with the Giulietta at the back because of its mediocre dynamics (that’s hard for an Alfa guy to say, but I think it’s honest). The Type R though still seems to suite me more. I feel as though I belong in it more than I do the ST. Don’t forget that Renault Megane Trophy RS Cup is the new front wheel drive Nurburgring king as of a few weeks ago — but I have not driven one so can’t pass any comment on it, except that I know Honda is back on the Ring with the new Type R, and will not be surprised if Renault finds itself just keeping the seat warm for a while.
A lot of them have all-wheel drive while the Honda still sends the grunt to the front; how good is its chassis at translating the 306 horses to the road?
It translates into a ridiculous amount of wheel hop when pushing hard off the line, but the magic of the helical LSD means no torque steer at all. There are videos on Youtube of guys launching in a straight line with their hands off the wheel.
For the rest, she’s lighter than most other hot hatches, and despite a solid feel to the car itself, she’s very light and nimble on the road.
Some may say the in-your-face styling screams of teenage rebellion, but, we wouldn’t have it any other way — would you?
That would make me a 49 year old teenager. There are some angles that I even consider just a little over the top, and I like wings and things — but for the most part she looks purposeful, there is no doubting why Honda built the Type R in the first place.
We love the hood-mounted air intake, huge rear-mounted wing, a triple-pipe centre exhaust, various canards and underbody spoilers, red H badging, flared wheel arches with cooling ducts, red brake calipers while the stealthy looking Sonic Grey paint really does the car justice. Visually, what’s your favourite aspect?
I think the rear three quarter view of the car. It leaves no doubt as to the aggressive nature and intent of the car. The hood mounted air intake, by the way, is not to provide air to the engine. It’s actually an aerodynamic consideration to effectively channel the large volume of air hitting the car when at high speed, where it can be better utilized for stability.
It had a Nurburgring lap record and we have a sneaky feeling you have several of your own charging up and down Jebel Hafeet... How often do you take it out there to play and how big of a grin has it planted on your face?
The car is always playing, and I’m always smiling, even on the work commute. I have taken her up the mountain a few times though, but I’m impatiently waiting for temperatures to drop again so that I can experience exactly what she is capable of. And take her down to the Autodrome as well.
It isn’t just an out-and-out race car, it is quite comfortable and practical as a daily driver too, right?
Yes, it has 3 drive modes, Comfort, Sport, and +R. They are all noticeably different, and Comfort is great for the daily grind. But to be fair, you’re asking a guy who was/is quite content with the stiffness of the 4C as a daily driver.
From overseas reviews though, testers always seem impressed with the cars’ B-road capabilities, so I’m guessing it’s found the balance between daily, and track.
That metal gear knob likes singeing your palm but you don’t mind because that six-speed is so fun to row isn’t it?
If you watch Youtube videos from Canada, you’ll see guys complaining about how cold the gear knob gets in winter, whereas here you can’t touch it after a few hours in the sun. It seems Honda cannot please anybody. Seriously though, it’s as smooth a manual as I’ve ever driven. The best way to explain it is that it feels like a Type R gearbox.
Under the bonnet resides the most powerful iteration of Honda’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot equipped with VTEC; how good is the drivetrain?
I believe that this is the best Type R yet, and everything feels incredibly smooth. There is never the sensation of parts banging against each other as they engage, and apart from the wheel hop the car feels as I’d imagine we expect every car to feel like in the year 2019.
Any detectable turbo lag?
In the third question I said that it feels like a Type R. The difference now is that they’ve added a turbo along with the VTEC. The car does not rev to 8,300rpm anymore, but somehow they’ve managed to recreate the VTEC kicking in without any noticeable turbo. If you floor it it feels like a pure VTEC engine — it feels like a Type R. As you put your foot down, you excitedly wait for the “VTEC” to kick in, and it’s a rush in all senses of the word.
Handling is a priority for the Type R; it packs an adaptive suspension, aforementioned helical limited slip diff and 20in wheels wrapped with high-performance tyres — how good is the car particularly in the corners and how keen is to change direction? Is it better than your Focus ST?
You can select a G-meter as a graphic on the screen in front of you when you drive, and it’s calibrated to 1.5 lateral g. I’m not one to cross lanes when going through a roundabout, I stay in mine, but I have discovered that I don’t actually need to slow down at all for roundabouts. Grip is immense and she changes direction very quickly with negligible body roll (must be in +R mode though).
I modified the suspension of my Focus ST, and it was still not as planted, or as crisp as what the Type R is.
That had a full Hennessey conversion — do you still own the Ford?
It had the Hennessey for a short while, but was not happy with their after-sales service. So it very quickly became a Stage 3 COBB ST. I sold that, but bought a 2018 ST at the beginning of this year to tide me over until I found the Type R.
And do you regret selling your Alfa 4C? In fact, since we last saw you in 2015, run us through all the cool cars you have owned and sold…
I do regret selling it, but since the 4C, I have had two Ford Ranger Wildtrak’s (I hate trucks, but think these are awesome), 2018 Audi RS3 (incredible engine, but most boring car I’ve owned), 1998 Alfa Romeo 2.0L GTV Spider (still have her and she generates more attention than the 4C did), 2008 Alfa Romeo 3.2L V6 GT (in the process of selling her now), and the 2018 Focus ST, which I converted to match the FSWerks 2015 SEMA show car.
Finally, what is next on the wish list — and will you be able to convince your wife Karen?!
Oddly nothing right now, I’m still very much in love with the Honda. I am hoping that Alfa will bring something new here soon to tempt me with, like for instance the new Tonale in QV guise, but who knows where the motoring world is going to be a year from now.
If you ask Karen or any of my friends they’ll probably say that they’d not be surprised if there is something new parked at my villa a year from now.