Cars - Honda

Road tests and reviews of the latest Honda models available in South Africa

2015 Honda Civic Type R

2015 Honda Civic Type R

By Franky Johnson

After a five year wait, 2015 sees the arrival of the world’s most keenly anticipated hot hatch, the Honda Civic Type R. Billed as a ‘race car for the road’, the all-new Honda Civic Type R is powered by the most extreme and high-performing Type R engine ever built, and will set new standards in the high-performance front-wheel drive hatchback segment.

Taking their direction from the Japanese word ‘Buttigiri’, meaning ‘to break on through and leave the rest behind’, Honda’s engineers sought to develop a Type R that would more than live up to this high expectation of the red badge. The new Civic Type R has been engineered to deliver a dynamic, class-leading performance whether on fast roads, winding roads or the circuit. At the same time it delivers the ease of use and practical packaging expected of a Civic.

A world-first application of Honda’s new VTEC TURBO engine, a sensuous sporting sound, aggressive function-led styling, and pioneering new chassis technologies combine to deliver one of the most immersive and rewarding driving experiences available in any sector. Civic Type R is equally at home delivering this experience on the road as it is on the track, at the push of a button.

The new 2015 Civic Type R signals the start of a new performance era for Honda, drawing on the brand’s racing DNA to deliver the peak of the Civic line-up.

Part of the wave of next-generation and all-new vehicles from Honda in 2015, the new Civic Type R demonstrates the brand’s pioneering approach to technological innovation which makes life better for its customers. Available only as a five-door, with two trim grades, it is set to catapult Honda back to the top of the two-wheel drive performance hatchback league when it goes on sale across Europe from July 2015.

At the heart is an all-new, direct-injected turbocharged 2.0 litre VTEC TURBO petrol engine, which delivers power, torque and performance figures unmatched in the front-wheel drive hot hatch segment. Peak power output is 228kW at 6,500 rpm, and peak torque is 400 Nm* at 2,500 rpm – both higher than for any previous Honda Type R model.

Red-lining at 7,000 rpm, the engine – part of Honda’s next-generation Earth Dreams Technology series – features an advanced new turbocharging system which incorporates Honda’s legendary Variable Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) technology to boost low-end torque while delivering sustained acceleration.

Combining a turbocharger with Honda’s VTEC and VTC provides benefits in output, efficiency and packaging. VTC allows a degree of valve timing overlap which is finely controlled across a broad rev range to improve responsiveness and efficiency. VTEC varies the degree of exhaust valve lift to reduce turbo lag through increased exhaust pressure at lower rpm while delivering a high output at higher rpm. As a result of the benefits these technologies bring, a mono scroll turbocharger can be used to produce a class-leading peak output, while maintaining response at lower engine speeds and a high-revving power delivery. To further improve responsiveness, the turbo-charging system has an electronic wastegate offering a higher degree of freedom in induction pressure control.

The mono scroll turbocharger combines with cast aluminium pistons, aluminium VTEC rocker arms, forged conrods and a lightweight crankshaft to minimise the overall weight, size and rotational mass of the engine.

High precision combustion technologies assist with improving engine output and lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and competitive emissions. At the core is a direct injection system preventing fuel sticking to the intake ports by injecting directly into the cylinders and drawing only air through the ports, aided by Honda’s multipoint injection control. A high pressure (20MPa) injector is used to greatly increase fuel atomisation and is supported by an 85% improvement in flow rate and 45% increase in fuel pressure over conventional systems.

Honda’s engineers worked exhaustively to ensure that once the fuel has been injected into the cylinder, strong tumble intake ports promote fuel mixture consistency within the cylinder. The shapes of the intake port and piston crowns were optimised through extensive computer aided modelling and analysis to ensure they combine to generate a strong tumble flow. This optimises the fuel / air mixture and therefore the effectiveness of combustion. Idling Stop further enhances efficiency, and speedy ignition response assures the driver of rapid acceleration from standstill. The Idling Stop function is disabled in +R mode.

The new Civic Type R’s performance is unmatched in the front-wheel drive hot hatch segment: the 0-to-100kph sprint takes just 5.7 seconds and top speed, where permitted, is a class-leading 269kph. Despite this, the Civic Type R achieves low CO2 emissions of just 170 g/km, high speed fuel consumption and compliance with Euro 6 emissions regulations.

The new engine has a high compression ratio of 9.8 and is turbocharged, both of which make thermal management particularly important. As a result, the engineering team incorporated numerous cooling technologies, such as cylinder head and piston cooling, sodium-filled exhaust valves and a high-capacity air-to-air intercooler. The cylinder head has a two-piece water jacket, lowering exhaust gas temperature and effectively lowering the combustion chamber temperature, while each piston individually features a cooling channel to provide increased oil flow. Together, these technologies ensure the engine always delivers a high output even under high load, high speed driving conditions.

Whether setting lap times around race circuits, engaging the driver on a favourite country road or providing day-to-day comfort, an exceptional engine requires an exceptional transmission. A slick-shifting, six-speed manual transmission was chosen to safeguard an intimate, rewarding connection with the driver while making the most of the engine’s high output, strong torque and high revs.

The gear-change feel is designed to be the best in Type R history. Gear change speed relates directly to race circuit lap times, while gear change feel is fundamental to the joy of driving. The same 40mm shift stroke as the 2002 NSX-R contributes to an exceptionally quick shift time, but this would not be possible without at the same time reducing the force required to move the gear lever. A significant reduction in mechanical resistance has been achieved through a large capacity synchromesh, and vibration each time the clutch engages is supressed by a dual-mass flywheel. Through increasing the rigidity of each component part, shift control when shifting diagonally between second and third, fourth and fifth gears has been greatly enhanced.

Each of the six gear ratios has been optimised for performance and matches the engine’s output and torque curve. For example, the maximum speed of 269kph is achieved in sixth gear when peak power is reached at 6,500 rpm.

Final drive is through an exceptionally responsive helical limited slip differential. This type of differential aids strong cornering traction, even during hard cornering. This technology, when compared to a traditional differential, reduces the new Civic Type R’s lap time by three seconds per lap around the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

In keeping with the focus of the new Civic Type R, an oil cooler specific to the gearbox provides a cooling performance capable of enduring consistent high load situations such as those encountered on the race circuit. It’s fitted to the lower part of the transmission and is fed cool air by the fin-shaped transmission case which is matched to wind-channelling vanes in the engine undercover. Despite this addition, the use of a high-rigidity transmission case assists in making the new Civic Type R’s transmission the lightest in its class.

Making the purpose clear from the first moment the engine is started, the four-exit exhaust is tuned for sound as well as performance. The system is able to handle a higher exhaust gas flow rate due to a straightened pipe with deleted silencer in the front section, while the exhaust sound is enhanced by the deletion of the silencer generally used to dampen noise. Instead, a resonator in the rear section maintains noise within certification levels and reduces only specifically selected frequency bands. The exhaust’s mounting bushes have also been re-tuned to allow the inclusion of a secondary noise element within the overall sound while ensuring the exhaust sound increases in line with the torque of the engine.

The styling changes uniquely applied give the car an aggressive, purposeful stance, yet almost all have a functional purpose. The size of the holes in the front bumper grille, which serve air to the intercooler, are specifically shaped to minimise aerodynamic losses. The sleek and aerodynamically-efficient design reflects a car developed first and foremost to perform at speed. The focus on aerodynamics has ensured a zero lift coefficient and a minimum of drag which provides a class-leading overall aerodynamic performance.

The Civic Type R’s unique aerodynamics utilise specific downforce-generating elements to create overall negative lift which is unusual in the industry and unique for this class in particular. The focus on airflow, not only around but also through the car, ensures negative lift at both axles combined with a minimum of drag. This is particularly noteworthy at the front of the car and allows high speed stability with a class-leading top speed of 269kph.

To achieve this, the fourth generation was subject to exhaustive aerodynamic analysis, testing and development. The development team tirelessly pursued its objectives through computer-based CFD modelling and wind tunnel testing at Honda’s dedicated motorsports facility in Sakura, Japan; home of Honda’s Formula One engine programme.

This development work was validated through extensive prototype testing on road and track: at Suzuka, the Nürburgring Nordschleife and at the Takasu test facility.

A new, almost completely flat underside aids airflow under the vehicle and combines with a rear diffuser to optimise downforce – effectively ‘sucking’ the car onto the road. A wide front splitter and deep side skirts also manage airflow to generate downforce on the front axle and reduce lift, while the front bumper has been designed specifically to inhibit air turbulence around the front wheels, enhancing high-speed stability and further reducing lift forces.

The structure of the rear wing aerofoil – its angle, height and shape as well as its vertical end plates – have been carefully engineered to optimise downforce on the rear axle without causing a significant increase in drag at higher speeds. This helps improve road-holding abilities, particularly through high-speed corners.

Heat management was another major focus for the design team, influencing several prominent external design modifications. Enlarged upper and lower grilles in the front bumper allow a greater volume of cooling air into the engine bay that is equivalent to a 4,000 mm2 grille. The airflow is channelled through the engine bay to outlet vents above the wheels on the front quarter panels and vents at the trailing edges of the widened front wheel arches to provide cooling and ventilation for the high-output engine.

The new Civic Type R’s front and rear wheel arches are widened to accommodate an increase in front and rear track. The integrated arch extensions are in aluminium, providing a 42% weight saving over a conventional steel panel. The vents in the trailing edge of the front wheel arch extension also improve heat dissipation from the brakes.

The front spoilers and door spoilers wear a piano-black gloss finish to highlight the car’s wide and low appearance. At the rear of the car, a pair of dual-exhaust tailpipes emerge prominently at the flanks of the rear diffuser. Clearance between the tailpipe finishers and the piano-black gloss rear diffuser has been reduced to an absolute minimum of around 20 mm. This imbues the car’s rear-view with an extra degree of aggressive tautness.

At the front, running along the lower edge of each combination headlamp cluster is an LED daytime running light. Its sharply ‘up-ticked’ shape, produced using two LED light sources and a light guide, highlights the headlamp’s shape and is the longest lighting element produced by Honda. The rear combination lamps also feature distinctive LED light bars.

New lightweight, high rigidity 19-inch alloy wheels, unique to the new Civic Type R, complement the visual changes. They fill the enlarged wheel arches with 235/35 R19 tyres that were developed specially for the Type R in conjunction with Continental.

The new Civic Type R is available in five distinctive colours that give the purposeful new styling added impact. As well as Championship White – shared with successive generations of iconic Type R vehicles – buyers can choose from Crystal Black (pearlescent), Polished Metal (metallic), Brilliant Sporty Blue (metallic) and Milano Red.

Inside, a range of exclusively designed aesthetic and functional upgrades, provide a cockpit that is not only suited to driving on a circuit, but also makes day-to-day driving feel sporty. The seats, steering wheel and gear stick are all unique to the Type R model and take into account driving position, visibility of key information and driver control requirements.

Exclusively designed high-backed sports seats, trimmed in suede-effect black fabric with red double stitching, provide driver and front-seat passenger with ample lateral support during harder cornering. An important factor in providing a suitable driving position for the new Civic Type R is the seat height. By reviewing the density and height of the urethane foam used in the seat, engineers were able to make the front seats 20% leaner, while maintaining comfort for day-to-day driving. This translated into a structurally low seat and enabled a hip point that sits 20 mm lower in the seat than that of the standard car. The floor was also lowered by 10 mm, meaning the overall hip point is fully 30 mm closer to the road than in the standard car.

A redesigned rear seat bench accommodates two passengers and although the tip up function of the seat base has been deleted the seat back offers a 60 / 40 split fold function and flat loading space when folded. The modifications result in a weight saving of 17% compared to the standard Civic five-door while retaining the same maximum load volume.

In light of the front seat’s low hip point, the steering wheel has been lowered to ensure clear visibility of the information displays. A flat-bottomed steering wheel preserves maximum knee room. The driver’s feeling of control has been enhanced by reducing the thickness of the steering wheel spokes, making the feel and the position of the grip feel more familiar. The red centre-position marker at the top of the steering wheel rim gives the driver a visible indicator of the steering angle when cornering.

Red double stitching on the black leather-clad steering wheel and black gear-lever gaiter matches those on the seats and the roof-lining is trimmed in black fabric, augmenting the focused ambience. As with previous Type R models, the gear stick is made from machined aluminium alloy.

The intelligent Multi Information Display (i-MID) includes display information specific to the Civic Type R. Additional information screens unique to Type R can be individually selected by the driver.

A rev indicator above the main tachometer provides the driver with visual information to aid optimum performance gear shifting. When engine revs increase, lights from both edges of the indicator converge to give the driver a visual reference on the optimum timing of the next gear shift without distracting any attention from the road. A gear shift display shows the currently selected gear and responds within 0.2 seconds of a gear change.

A number of advanced new suspension systems, unique to the new Civic Type R, have been introduced to produce rewarding handling characteristics and to maximise power transfer to the road.

A new four-wheel Adaptive Damper System was developed specifically for the Type R model. It enables continuous independent control of each wheel to deliver exceptional road holding performance, limit wheel-load transfer during sharp acceleration and deceleration, and maintain a stable, flat ride. It also means that the ride is more comfortable and supple in everyday driving and cruising.

The Adaptive Damper System utilise multiple sensors to monitor the car’s status every 1/500th of a second. In real-time, the current to the electromagnetic coils inside the dampers is adjusted, altering the oil flow channels and thereby controlling the damping force. Independent control of each wheel through a logic developed specifically for the suspension and tyres, improves contact with the road surface (including on uneven surfaces) and maintains high levels of traction at all speeds. Further, it ensures sharp handling and stability during cornering at higher speeds through limiting body roll, while in normal driving maintaining an exceptionally supple ride.

The Adaptive Damper System also limits wheel load transfer during acceleration (through the front of the car lifting) and deceleration (through the nose of the car diving) which secures greater traction during acceleration and maximises braking performance. This assists in achieving a stable, flat ride longitudinally (on pitching roads, for example) and latitudinally (in strong cross winds, for example).

An advanced Dual Axis Strut Front Suspension system enhances high speed stability, on-the-limit cornering and steering feel. As opposed to ADS, the Dual Axis Strut Front Suspension is a mechanical system featuring two supporting ‘kingpins’. Instead of an integrated knuckle-and-strut set-up of a conventional strut system, the knuckle and strut are separated, so that the knuckle receives steering input and the strut receives information from the road surface. An independent knuckle translates into a smaller centre offset, thanks to a reduced kingpin inclination, which helps reduce torque steer by 55% compared to the standard Civic’s suspension system. Also contributing significantly to the minimisation of torque steer are drive shafts which are precisely balanced for rigidity and a revised wheel offset.

The front suspension system is able to provide a larger caster angle which translates into excellent straight-line stability at high speeds. Meanwhile, finely tuned camber characteristics keep the tyres on the road when turning to increase the car’s cornering performance. In pursuit of increased rigidity and weight reduction, the lower arms and damper forks are made out of aluminium and the very high resistance compliance bushes also contribute to the car’s responsive handling.

Dual Pinion Electric Power Steering (EPS), developed from that fitted to the standard Civic, helps to deliver rapid yet linear steering response and abundant steering feel with increased power and torque. Pinion gears which transform the turning movements of the steering wheel into a straight movement are placed in two locations. This layout enables steering and tyre input to be transmitted to the driver without any negative influence from the power assistance, which operates exclusively through the second pinion gear. Furthermore, a steering angle feedback control logic has been developed which provides a solid feel when steering around the central position while still providing good response under cornering. An increase in the rigidity of the area around the rack gear bearing, the aluminium housing and the mounting helps further increase feel and response.

The Type R’s H-shaped torsion beam rear suspension enhances high speed stability, even in high speed corners, thanks to its contribution to maximising roll rigidity. Unlike that of the standard Civic, the Type R’s H-shaped torsion beam is made of crushed pipes rather than a solid block which improves rear roll rigidity by 177% and removes the need for a rear anti-roll bar, thus saving weight. Very high resistance trailing arm bushes also help to improve lateral rigidity.

An increase in body rigidity by 18% was achieved by optimising the bracket designs and application of adhesive instead of using additional structural steel material. This strategy saved 4.5 kilograms.

Agile Handling Assist is another advanced technology that further enhances the dynamic stability of the car, particularly when reacting to fast steering inputs or high cornering loads such as are experienced during emergency avoidance manoeuvres. Agile Handling Assist operates through the Vehicle Stability Assist system and applies a light braking force, imperceptible to the driver, to the inner wheels when the steering wheel is turned. The result is increased vehicle responsiveness and stability, and a more satisfying driving experience.

Unable to find a tyre that naturally suited the character and nature of the new Civic Type R, Honda’s engineers worked with Continental to create a bespoke tyre that delivers enhanced grip and cornering stability.

The car is also equipped with a high performance Brembo brake package developed specifically for the Civic Type R. At the front, four-piston calipers apply braking force to 350 mm discs – the largest ever to have been installed on a production Type R model – which are drilled to aid cooling under extreme load.

The diameter of the rear discs was increased by 20 mm, as well as the thickness, in order to increase heat capacity and improve performance.

The new Civic Type R will mark the debut of the new ‘+R’ mode that increases the response of various chassis and drivetrain systems. This delivers an even more intense driving experience which is ideal for the track.

Located to the left of the steering column for left-hand drive cars, and to the right for right-hand drive cars, when +R mode is activated a number of visual changes alert the driver. The floating dial surrounds in the instrument binnacle change from glowing white to glowing red. A +R logo is displayed to the left of the rev indicator and the Idling Stop system is disabled.

With +R mode selected, several dynamic changes are activated within the Civic Type R’s powertrain and dynamics systems.

Engine responsiveness is heightened, with torque-mapping changed to a more aggressive and performance-focused setting allowing more of the available torque to be unleashed at lower engine speeds. The electronic power steering becomes shorter-geared with reduced power assistance to provide a heavier and tighter steering feel.

Basic damping force from the new four-point Adaptive Damper System is increased by 30% making the behaviour of the car firmer and more agile for high-performance handling. The Vehicle Stability Assist programme is adjusted to focus on acceleration and performance, allowing a greater yaw and slip rate before intervening.

+R mode also brings a more dynamic focus to the i-MID screen in front of the driver. When in +R mode, it is possible to access the Type R layers directly from any of the four basic information screens, or to directly access the first specific Type R screen. The selection of a specific performance screen is indicated by the display of an image of the Type R. In +R mode it is also possible to display vehicle information content even when the stopwatch is running.

The all-new Honda Connect infotainment system is standard to the new Civic Type R. Easy and intuitive to use, Honda Connect runs Android, the world’s most popular smartphone operating system – and employs the familiar ‘pinch, swipe and tap‘ functionality of a smartphone to access its features.

Honda Connect gives rapid access to everything from vehicle information, rear-view parking camera and music, to Bluetooth connectivity. The new system’s functions include: internet access, pre-installed apps, Honda App Centre, AM/FM/DAB and internet radio, phone interface and Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel controls and rear-view parking camera with dynamic guidelines. Sound is fed through a six-speaker 320-watt sound system.

Honda Connect is also MirrorLink-enabled, delivering seamless connectivity between the system and the user’s compatible Smartphone. With Honda Connect you can also connect to the internet through Smartphone Wifi tethering or Mobile Wifi Router, allowing for full internet browsing provided the car is stationary, making it possible to search for local amenities or learn about landmarks near to the vehicle’s location.

A range of apps are pre-installed and the user can download more from the Honda App Centre. Pre-installed apps include ‘Aha’, which offers thousands of stations of audio – spanning music, news, podcasts and audio books – as well as social media news feeds and location-based services. Aha also includes POI searches, helping users locate the nearest restaurants or hotels.

Automatic climate control air conditioning and cruise control with speed limiter complete an extensive list of standard equipment.

The new Civic Type R retains the same five-star Euro NCAP rating as achieved by the standard Civic five door. It shares the same Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure and system of airbags (driver, passenger, side and side curtain), restraint systems (including whiplash lessening front headrests) and active electronic safety systems.

Developed in the car-to-car crash testing facility at Tochigi, the ACE™ body structure is now a well-established strength of Honda’s safety credentials. The ACE™ body structure provides significantly enhanced occupant protection in a variety of real-world crash conditions. A front-mounted polygonal main frame is designed to prevent cabin deformation by distributing forces through multiple major load bearing pathways - and away from the passenger compartment. Additionally, it helps to minimise the potential for under- or over-ride situations, this is particularly important where a frontal collision occurs between vehicles of differing heights, weights or frame construction.

City-Brake Active system (CTBA) helps avoid or mitigate low speed accidents and utilises a laser radar system that scans the road ahead and applies the brakes if an imminent risk of collision is detected. The system operates below 30kph and detects cars and trucks.

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