Paul Healy reviews the FN2 Civic Type R 2.0 Vtec

With its futuristic styling, both inside and out, the FN2 CTR looks every bit the modern hot hatch and despite a misshapen rear end it stands up well against competitors such as the Ford Focus ST, Renaultsport Megane R26 and Opel OPC.
Styling wise it is much more exciting than the class leading Golf GTI which is the most conservative car of the bunch. But how does the FN compare to not only its rivals but also its predecessors? Does it live up to the high
standards set by Honda for their range topping cars and more importantly does it deserve to wear the exalted Type R badge?

Well let’s start with that styling. From whatever angle to look at it from, bar straight at the rear end, it is a much more aggressive looking car than the EP3 that came before it, especially if the deeper valances were ticked on the
options box. The overall shape of the car was inspired by the classic teardrop and in profile you can definitely see those influences.  There are a number of nice exterior touches such as the rocket shaped door handles, rear spoiler
integrated into the window and of course the twin triangular shaped exhausts that emit a sweet rasp once this car hits that magical Vtec.

Inside is much of the same. The Type R monogrammed seats are figure hugging and supportive making you feel more confident as you put the car through its paces. The emm larger gentleman may find them a bit too figure hugging though. Fans of the EP3 may lament that the gearlever has reverted back to its more natural position but for the rest of us this is a good thing as the previously dash mounted lever was something of an acquired taste. The dashboard is a wrap around affair that really cossets the driver, making them feel more involved

and it is adorned with all manner of buttons and gizmos that purists will say do not belong in a Type R. Dual zone climate control is a standard feature as too is Honda’s nod to traction control – Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). Only
the limited edition Championship White Edition is graced with a good old fashioned LSD. The materials used are tactile and nice to touch with brushed aluminium used for the gearlever and pedal and perforated leather for the
steering wheel which sits in front of the Gran Turismo style digital speedo.

A lot has been made about the changes in the suspension set up in this car over previous Type R’s. Gone is the double wishbone setup of old in favour of the less complicated and cheaper to produce torsion beam suspension. I have to say
when driven normally you are hard pushed to tell any difference – if anything the FN2 is a more comfortable ride than the more hard edged EP3 or EK9 which tended to jar the bones anytime you went over a cats eye. It feels much more
civilised at speed aswell which only encourages you to make the most of the 201bhp K20 Z4 under the bonnet. The power delivery of this unit is much more linear than that of the old K20 in the EP3 with the needle just spinning
headlong towards the 8,200rpm redline. Strangely though there is no discernable Vtec engagement point – it just keeps going as if nothing has happened. With the extra sound deadening under the engine bay you can’t even hear the usual Vtec wail and the only way to tell is to look down at the speedo and then weigh anchors because you are undoubtedly going to be in trouble with the law if you continue.

It is when you are really pushing the car along, through the stomping ground of Type R’s – the back roads that you begin to notice the inadequacies of that torsion beam suspension. Ninety per cent of people will probably go through
their Type R ownership without noticing it but there are those few, who having cut their teeth on a DC2 or EK9, will push the car to its limits. The trouble area comes under hard braking for corners when the weight of the car is
redistribute to the front. Freshly lightened the torsion beamed rear end starts to get very jittery and only an experienced driver will be able to keep it out of the hedges.

Overall the FN2 is undoubtedly a superior car to the EP3 in almost every way. In everyday use it looks better, drives better, comes better equipped and is generally a better drive. That is its downfall though. Type Rs of old were
uncompromised hot hatches with hollow fibre carpets to save weight, devoid of creature comforts that may distract from the driving experience and designed to spend their lives on the edge. The FN2 is just too civilised – it’s like a
watered down Type R or one where the R no longer stands for Racing but instead for Refinement. A Type R should not have dual zone climate control, built in sat nav, cruise control and VSA. It should be a bare bones racer that makes no
apologies for what it is and what it does. Unfortunately Honda seem to be using the name as a marketing badge nowadays, a fact further confirmed by the news that the company plans a diesel Type R! There is no doubting that the FN2 is a great car – it just doesn’t do what it says on the tin.

Paul Healy