Review: 1 day launch and 5 day test
Engine: 2.0litre 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 228kW, 400Nm
Price: R648 300
Let’s get one thing out of the way first – the look of this hot hatch is divisive. More divisive than the pineapple-on-pizza debate. It gets heated. While we’re firmly on the no-spiky-fruit side of the argument, we’re a little ambivalent of the sharply-angled design. It’s not a hate or love decision for us – what we’re fully behind is the fact that it’s not normal, that it does smash conventions. This is not a boring car. It is not a boring drive. Therefore, the design and look of this road-based jet-fighter gets our whole-hearted approval. Honda needs this to be a rebel and head-turner – both in performance and looks, and in our opinion, that’s exactly what it is.
One thing that isn’t in debate: the performance and driving feel of this hot hatch – it is deeply rewarding. It is front-wheel drive, but thanks to some black magic aerodynamics (wings, scoops, splitters, inlets, ‘air curtains’); a bespoke, high-tech suspension (an advanced dual-axis front system and multi-link rear), a smart +R Race mode and a low centre of gravity, this car handles curves and corners much better than it should, according to real world physics. It feels light, stiff and responsive – it has an excellent power-to-weight ratio (168Kw per ton), and it has garnered plenty of awards and lap records – like being the fastest front wheel drive hatchback at Nürbringring. We were lucky to drive the Type R on the track – and we had pro racers take us around too. The videos don’t do this justice, but it is a start.
We’ve spoken about the looks, but the most important realisation: it’s lower (36mm), wider, and longer (165mm) than before, and it reflects in the drive in a very positive way. It has a muscular stance, and hunkers down and bites into the tarmac on tight corners, and then unleashes on the exits.
The interior is Spartan and sporty (and very red), but done with an almost faultless build quality. There’s plenty of red stitching and carbon fibre effects along with brilliant bucket seats. It is shoehorned with tech and safety spec, and offers plenty of value for the sticker price. It is not anything like its German peers – and that’s the beauty of it.
But for our money – this is all about the driving performance on the track and on the twisty stuff. It isn’t refined or as comfortable as a Golf R (or as quick in a straight line) – but man, it’s so much more fun to drive. We were lucky to drive this at the launch, and on the road later, and it was impressive on both – just change it to Comfort mode, and this Type R can do double duty as a ‘normal’ car.
PROS: Potent performance, grip and handling; One the best manual gearboxes ever; Excellent steering; Impressive Brembo brakes; Triple exhaust; Snug bucket seats; Surprisingly big boot and rear legroom. And lastly, that Sonic Grey colour-way is amazing.
CONS: Love-or-hate design. Electronic parking brake.
WHAT WE LOVE: The 5th generation Type R is smarter, meaner, and a helluva lot faster than before. It’s also one of the most satisfying driver’s cars we’ve ever experienced.
COMPETITORS: Volkswagen Golf R (R667 700), Renault Megan RS (R549 900), Audi S3 Sportback (R662 000)