Top Gear’s Chris Harris isn’t sure how to feel about Honda. It had its good days, back in the second generation of its front-wheel-drive Civic Type R, but lost its charm for years afterward. But the new car is so good that Harris wonders if one of its biggest competitors, the Ford Focus RS, needs to power all four wheels.
We Americans haven’t had much of a tangible relationship with the Civic Type R, Honda’s performance-badged hot hatch, since the car made it into the U.S. market for the first time ever this model year. But other parts of the world have been blessed with that little red “R,” and Harris recently decided to compare the car that “rewrote the hot-hatch book,” the second-generation EP3 Civic Type R, and the new, fifth-generation car.
While Harris didn’t love everything about the new one, it sure did make him ponder how he felt about which wheels hot hatches send the power to:
Harris likes the 200-horsepower second-generation type R, basically, because it’s cheap and fun. The seat height is awkward, the interior is cheap and it feels like the money is being spent on performance-oriented aspects of the car rather than making it fancy everywhere else. He thinks it’s an affordable, fun car—like a hot hatch should be.
The new Civic Type R, Harris said, looks absurd on the inside and out (it’s not for everyone!). But he makes a good point: It looks like a car a young person would be into, yet its nearly $34,000 MSRP that’s being marked up by just about everyone in the U.S. doesn’t exactly put it in the “young and fun” category. Kids have bills to pay, Honda.
Harris thought the new Type R was a couple of tweaks from incredible, although the exhaust note isn’t great and the car doesn’t allow a driver as much freedom as he would have liked: All components of the car have to be in either comfort, sport or race mode, and drivers can’t choose to have certain elements of the car in different modes than others. (That’s pretty common in cars, though.)
Regardless, the driving felt so great that Harris said the art of front-wheel drive has become “really clever” instead of just that thing everyone groans about, and the Type R’s traction made him wonder if Ford’s RS hot hatch really needs to be all-wheel drive. The Type R was more fun and two-wheel drive, he said.
Hopefully, you weren’t as surprised as Harris was about that last admission. You’re going to need to avoid spitting coffee on your computer in order to save up for these expensive modern hot hatches, after all.