Honda's latest Civic Type R offers an uncommon blend of everyday usability and hair-raising performance
Rarefied racer: Honda's latest Civic Type R The Honda Civic Type R's suspension is firmly sprung, but offers an excellent blend of ride comfort and sharp handling. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

For a car with more than 300hp and triple tailpipes adorning its bewinged rear, the Honda Civic Type R comes to life in a rather undramatic way.

Hit the start button and the car, which holds the front-wheel-drive lap record on the Nurburgring, comes to life with no more fanfare than its ordinary namesake.
But do not let that deceive you for one nanosecond. The Civic Type R is every bit the performance machine Honda makes it out to be.
It is very fast, very furious (if you happen to have enough free tarmac in front of you) and endowed with a level of chassis control no other car in its price range can match.
Yet, surprisingly, it is not brutish. Its suspension is firmly sprung, but still offers an excellent blend of ride comfort and sharp handling.
This quality is often understated, partly because it sounds like a compromise. In the Type R, it is anything but. The car does deliver both in abundance and in equal measures. After a hard drive, you are stirred, not shaken.
SPECS / HONDA CIVIC TYPE R
Price: $188,999 with COE
Engine: 1,996cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Power: 310hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,500-4,500rpm
0-100kmh: 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 270kmh
Fuel consumption: 8.8 litres/100km
Agent: Kah Motor
Its steering is superb. At the helm, you actually feel the car responding to every minute input without a moment of lag, with buckets of feedback. Yet, it is not twitchy like in some sports cars, except for a teeny-weeny hint of torque steer.
The only shortfall here is its turning circle, which does not feel as tight as you would expect of a car its size.
Next, the Type R's six-speed manual gearbox is really quite a gem. Short-throw and flawlessly accurate, each cog is slotted in place with no more effort - but a lot more fun - than a paddle shifter.
Nothing takes the joy out of a manual box quite like a poorly devised clutch. In this hot Honda, the clutch action is wonderfully snappy - with an ideal weight and travel, as well as a bite point which is unwaveringly dependable.
To make things even sweeter, it comes with Rev Match Control, which shields occupants from all but the most violent gear changes. This sensor-based gizmo optimises engine speed to match any intended gear - up, down or skipped.
This novel feature not only makes for smoother gear changes, it sets the car up for faster exits out of a corner, just like a hard-to-master heel-and-toe manoeuvre.
Driven sanely, the Type R offers all the comforts and refinement of a solid German product. Its bucket seat is hip-hugging yet cushy, there is zero cabin rattle and, most impressively, there is no detectable vibration at the wheel.
On that front, it is a very usable day-to-day car, one which unleashes its full potential if road conditions allow. Keep your foot on the pedal, see the tachometer spin past 6,000rpm, shift up and repeat.
If you do not run out of road or guts, the steroidal Civic will show you a glimpse of its Nurburgring-conquering side. Most times, you will wish you were actually on a track.
The only complaint is that the car's design is a little garish, suited to the taste of boy-racers, no doubt. A small trade-off really, for something that beats the Volkswagen Golf R in terms of driving enjoyment and price.
You might miss the sound that is absent below 4,000rpm. But my bet is, your neighbours won't.

Hit the start button and the car, which holds the front-wheel-drive lap record on the Nurburgring, comes to life with no more fanfare than its ordinary namesake.

But do not let that deceive you for one nanosecond. The Civic Type R is every bit the performance machine Honda makes it out to be.

It is very fast, very furious (if you happen to have enough free tarmac in front of you) and endowed with a level of chassis control no other car in its price range can match.

Yet, surprisingly, it is not brutish. Its suspension is firmly sprung, but still offers an excellent blend of ride comfort and sharp handling.

This quality is often understated, partly because it sounds like a compromise. In the Type R, it is anything but. The car does deliver both in abundance and in equal measures. After a hard drive, you are stirred, not shaken.

Its steering is superb. At the helm, you actually feel the car responding to every minute input without a moment of lag, with buckets of feedback. Yet, it is not twitchy like in some sports cars, except for a teeny-weeny hint of torque steer.

The only shortfall here is its turning circle, which does not feel as tight as you would expect of a car its size.

Next, the Type R's six-speed manual gearbox is really quite a gem. Short-throw and flawlessly accurate, each cog is slotted in place with no more effort - but a lot more fun - than a paddle shifter.

Nothing takes the joy out of a manual box quite like a poorly devised clutch. In this hot Honda, the clutch action is wonderfully snappy - with an ideal weight and travel, as well as a bite point which is unwaveringly dependable.

To make things even sweeter, it comes with Rev Match Control, which shields occupants from all but the most violent gear changes. This sensor-based gizmo optimises engine speed to match any intended gear - up, down or skipped.

This novel feature not only makes for smoother gear changes, it sets the car up for faster exits out of a corner, just like a hard-to-master heel-and-toe manoeuvre.

Driven sanely, the Type R offers all the comforts and refinement of a solid German product. Its bucket seat is hip-hugging yet cushy, there is zero cabin rattle and, most impressively, there is no detectable vibration at the wheel.

On that front, it is a very usable day-to-day car, one which unleashes its full potential if road conditions allow. Keep your foot on the pedal, see the tachometer spin past 6,000rpm, shift up and repeat.

If you do not run out of road or guts, the steroidal Civic will show you a glimpse of its Nurburgring-conquering side. Most times, you will wish you were actually on a track.

The only complaint is that the car's design is a little garish, suited to the taste of boy-racers, no doubt. A small trade-off really, for something that beats the Volkswagen Golf R in terms of driving enjoyment and price.

You might miss the sound that is absent below 4,000rpm. But my bet is, your neighbours won't.