New cars seem to have fallen out of fashion. Not merely in this corner of here, but in wider society – environmentalism and the communications revolution have seen to that. Why though has this indifference blighted the dep-o parish…? I’m still not too sure.
A recent test-day just left me feeling gloomily underwhelmed. I had a go in a few cars that would have, no, should have injected a rev-head with perky bright-eyed enthusiasm, but didn’t.
The first car I drove – and subsequently the only one I could bother to photograph – was the Honda Civic Type-R 2.0GT. Originally, we were invited along to the launch of this model, but more important things got in the way. Still, if there was ever a car that should have relight the blue touch-paper of the Charlesworth new-car mojo, then this was it – for I’m rather partial to cars boasting the red ‘H’.
Forced induction now blights the most mighty of naturally-aspirated engines, and I am horrified.
Doubts started to arise when I approached RJ16 LPV in its £32,300 costume – yes, we really are talking about a thirty-two grand Civic here. It has been a good few years since Honda has produced a handsome car and this retouched Civic is rather ghastly – although not as pig-ugly as the shiny-new one. Essentially a reboot of the striking FN2, this car is fussy and peculiar enough in non Type-R trim; but here it is bordering on the embarrassing, looking as if Ali G had won an all-you-can-fit Ripspeed competition.
The last Civic Type-R was damned for its lack of performance and the dumbing down of its VTEC cam profile ‘step’; it had been toned down to resemble a gentler, more inclusive access ramp so that it would appeal to a broader demographic with greater Type-R ignorance. Its rear suspension was Honda’s first attempt at a torsion-bar set-up, replacing the costlier more effective double wishbone design, and was largely regarded as a poor show. Of course, the great British public bought them by the shedload, but its bread-van EP3 predecessor fainted with embarrassment, whilst its JDM three-boxed brother wished to be disassociated from it. All it really achieved was that it reminded us old lags of how Type-R things were and should be.
Honda seems to have lost its way. Their cars used to be understated, endemically Japanese and dressed with a blend of intelligent foresight and gawkiness, but this car resembles a flash pair of expensively crass trainers
To address this, Honda has strapped a turbo on to this Civic Type-R. Yes forced induction now blights the most mighty of naturally-aspirated engines, and I am horrified. This though is only the beginning of my teeth grinding frustration. You see, this flabby CTR only comes with five doors and it even has a Type-R button for everything to become more, erm, ‘Type-R’ (in 2016 this now means firmer, harsher and generally more unpleasant). This is all unspeakably wrong. Admittedly I did de-activate the button, get out and check to see if its jazzy appearance had calmed down, but sadly it didn’t look less like KITT in super pursuit mode, so you remain at risk of being mistaken for a tosser. It just looked the same – brash to the point of TOWIE tittery. Five doors not only encourage heavy passengers, but they are added bulk. Remember when Honda used to fit lightweight windscreens, carpets and gearstick gaiters to Type-Rs…?
Certainly it did handle better than its soggy predecessor, without the rabid leanings of a Mugen-tuned CTR, but it did torque steer, the steering was numb (always a weakpoint with the exception of the DC2) and the easy performance – 0-62mph in 5.7secs, top whack at 168mph – was largely an irrelevance on the test route’s busy roads. Gone was the AC/DC VTEC soundtrack, replaced by an unremarkable Righteous Brothers cover. It either rode okay or was abysmal, depending on that button, but the whole 306bhp at 6500rpm (295lbf.ft at 2500rpm) experience was depressingly detached. It was so troublingly ordinary that I followed the button, switched off and couldn’t be bothered properly evaluate it.
Lithe machines with minimal inertia that thrilled your slightly sweaty buttocks by giving them a cheeky spank
Honda seems to have lost its way. Their cars used to be understated, endemically Japanese and dressed with a blend of intelligent foresight and gawkiness, but this car just resembles a flash pair of expensively crass trainers. It’s gawdy, clumpy and heavy. Not since someone tried to introduce me to Grime have I felt so out of touch and confused by someone else’s notion of progress.
Yet despite all this piss and vinegar, Honda may well have sold another Type-R – albeit of the second-hand variety. This experience has reminded me of my overlooked lust for their models of yesteryear. Cars which had to be thoroughly spanked – revved to the lower stratosphere to get anywhere quickly. Models which didn’t need a red button to mimic Type-Rness. Lithe machines with minimal inertia that thrilled your slightly sweaty buttocks by giving them a cheeky spank. Cars with naturally-aspirated engines that sing like supercharged chainsaws, turning stereos into dusty relics. Hondas which spurned the advances of family guy with his child-seats and kept commuters in their sensible Golf wombs tuned to the mothering heartbeat of Radio 4.
Yes, I feel in the mood for a proper Type-R, before they join endangered VTEC dinosaurs – such as myself – perched on the threshold of extinction and all that is left are vague memories.