Honda Civic Type R Sport Line review: the wingless, ‘subtle’ super-hatch

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So what is going on here? I see a smaller rear spoiler…

And it’s what we’ll always call it: the Civic Type R with the smaller spoiler.

The Sport Line is Honda’s (belated) answer to everyone who agreed the Civic Type R was a terrific ride, but balked at the idea of ​​driving something like a stegosaurus on a skateboard. So Honda went back to the drawing board and tried to come up with a super-Civic that was subtle, unobtrusive and inoffensive…

What’s new?

The rear spoiler still intersects with the rear window, but no longer wraps around the top. Rear visibility is just as compromised as the standard car.

Not a very good start, especially since without the shelf wing, the car doesn’t look very well balanced. Now he’s like an older bulldog: all teeth and snarls up front, but hunched over and a bit pathetic if you sneak up behind him.

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Elsewhere, 20-inch wheels have been replaced with 19-inch wheels, and there are no longer any thin red stripes painted around the outer face. The side skirts, front splitter and diffuser also received an anti-lipstick wipe. Wow, now he’s as shy and reserved as a nocturnal field mouse.

Except it really isn’t, is it?

No, it is not. I feel like the heart of Honda really wasn’t in it. They went to great lengths to get a hot sleeve hatch to generate real downforce and then, like hell, they were going to get the marketing to tell them to cover it all up in a wise creator suit.

So the roof line always pushes spikes that generate vortices. The Honda badges still practically glow red with intent. Just like the huge brake calipers.

Honda Civic Type R Sport Line Top Gear Review

And inside? A shelter of leather and wood now?

Pffff. Honda reupholstered the fabulous bucket seats in black velor instead of deep red and left the dash trim in crimson. And the seat belts. And the steering wheel. Which is now trimmed in Alcantara and looks like it would be equally at home in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

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All in all, it’s a crazy job. Calling this Type R “the subtle one” is a bit like saying tokyo drift is the most nuanced, the most delicate Fast and Furious movie. Who are you kidding?

What have all these modifications done to performance?

Smooth alpha-foxtrot. Which means it’s not just a brilliant ride ‘for a Honda’ or ‘for a compact car’. This generation of the Type R is one of the most successful cars in the world.

In fact, if I had to name the three most exciting and fun-to-drive new cars on sale right now in 2021, I’d pick the manual Porsche 911 GT3, Ariel Atom 4 and stuff. It is (still) sensational, four years after its release.

So Honda didn’t go soft on the Sport Line at all?

Not deliberately: The 315-hp engine is still ripping hard and rough, the diff is eager and tenacious in its pursuit of traction, and the way the chassis tackles bumps and grips like dried pasta sauce while maintaining comfort and composure is strange.

Oh, and what a change. Direct, mechanical and cheerful. You will never want popsicles. Already.

Follow. Something must be different.

Only one really: the smaller wheels make it easier to drive if you feel like implementing R mode on the road. As usual, you choose between an extremely soft Comfort setting, a default Sport mode, and defcon R. The modes progressively stiffen the dampers, weight the steering, and unclog the response of the VTEC turbo. You turn off the ESC separately.

Usually the R mode is too high for public roads. And that’s a shame, because the Civic rejects an individual mode (like a Hyundai i30N or a VW Golf GTI Clubsport) to mix and match the angry engine with a smooth ride.

But the Sport Line’s slightly narrow tires mean for the first time that the Type R’s ultimate set-up is tolerable on a country road without being unintentionally upside down, upside down, and upside down again soon after.

Still ugly, still great to drive, still hot hatch, so?

Just one problem here: Honda just closed the plant.

The Swindon factory, which built all Type Rs for the EU, recently closed. With the supply tap turned off, used values ​​are apparently skyrocketing faster than 2020 toilet paper roll prices, and while the Civic Type R is still available to order on Honda’s UK website Kingdom, getting one might not be as easy as it was even last year.

Of course, we are talking about first world problems here. People have lost their jobs. A community has been uprooted. And in the midst of all this turmoil, one of the world’s greatest cars is now a hot commodity.

Plus, the next-gen Civic has already been revealed and a Type R is in the works, so this car is about to become history regardless.

But. If you can scrape together the £35,400 to buy one (£985 more than base spec, but £1,150 more than a top-of-the-range GT with the big wing), and you can handle the awful dashboard and hour-long infotainment, I don’t know. feel disappointed with the impressive and exciting experience. Whenever that R-type moment comes along, Mr Ugly here comes out on top.

Honda Civic Type R Sport Line Top Gear ReviewHonda Civic Type R Sport Line Top Gear ReviewHonda Civic Type R Sport Line Top Gear Review

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