You wont mistake the Type R for any other Civic or indeed any other car

You won't mistake the Type R for any other Civic or indeed any other car

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It's fast, high-priced and not exactly subtle in appearance. Honda is hoping that the Type R version of its built-in-England Civic five-door will be shocking enough to change how people across Europe mainly see the brand - a maker of ultra-reliable cars for the elderly. 

In the US, Honda's largest market, September records were broken with a year-on-year gain of 7.4 per cent.

While in the US, Honda's largest market, September records were broken with a year-on-year gain of 7.4 per cent, the picture in the largest European markets is a less happy one. The UK is a sadly typical example. During what should have been a great month thanks to the arrival of the 67 registration plate, Honda UK saw its deliveries drop by 14.5 per cent compared to a 9.3 per cent fall for all brands.

This wasn't an isolated incident either, with Honda having had a dreadful few years in both Britain and across EU-EFTA markets. The latest numbers from ACEA show Honda registrations having dropped by 17 per cent in September, meaning year-to-date registrations number just 110,920 cars with market share falling below one per cent.

UK sales falling but Honda still in the black

Much has been hoped for from the latest Civic, which as a hatchback is built solely in England. That gives additional kudos to the Swindon factory, which continues to build up its export business to the US. Putting some numbers on what the benefits to Swindon have become looks like this: during the twelve months which ended the parent company's financial year on 31 March, Honda of the UK Manufacturing (HUM) reported turnover of GBP2.16bn, up from GBP1.84bn. Even though the UK operations remained in the black, pre-tax profit fell to GBP9m from GBP15.4m during the prior year.

The great news for the Swindon plant was a 30.1 per cent gain in annual production to 149,000 vehicles, which was greatly influenced by the start of exports to the US. The factory west of London, which employs 3,500 people, also sends cars to Japan and other parts of Asia as well as to EU and EFTA countries. Daily production has risen from 640 to 790 units.

Could the Civic become the USA's best selling car of 2017?

The fall of Sterling against major world currencies has been a boon for Honda's British factory. This has also happened at exactly the right time for an operation which now has a solid percentage of its output linked to sales of the Civic in North America. Last month, US market sales of this model surged by 26 per cent, although of course the majority of those were of the sedan. Nonetheless, the five-door is rising in popularity, thanks to the addition of the Type R. The Civic is even on course to do something amazing, which is to potentially become the USA's best selling car for 2017, beating the Camry. The mid-size Toyota has held the title since 2002.

American Honda notes that 23 per cent of its Civic sales during 1 January to 30 September were of the UK-built five-door.

Such numbers are unthinkable in European terms, but American Honda managed to sell 35,452 Civics in September, which gave the car a lead of 1,873 units over the Camry. The numbers are 284,380 and 282,507. The next three months will be fascinating as Toyota Motor Sales USA starts to ramp up deliveries of its new-shape model, while Honda aims to keep the hugely popular Civic series on the boil.

Presuming American Honda manages to deliver somewhere between 360,000 and 380,000 units of the Civic sedan, coupe and hatchback, that will be great news for the English factory, with Honda noting that 23 per cent of US Civic sales during 1 January to 30 September were of the five-door.

Aside from the Chevy Cruze (+8.1 per cent), the Civic is also the only top-ten car which has seen its US market sales rise in 2017. The third placed Corolla (265,273) is down by 8.2 per cent, while the Accord in fourth position (250,802) has dropped by 3.0 per cent.

European sales: in need of some Type R zing

Honda Motor Europe must be hoping that some of the Type R magic and hype which is clearly working wonders across the Atlantic will help Civic sales in this region. Absolute numbers are never going to be great due to the niche nature of the car, its steep pricing and taxation regimes. Any C segment car powered by a 320PS turbocharged 2.0-litre engine - even when it's a Honda engine - has little chance of delivering a good CO2 average. Having said that, 176g/km isn't as high as it might have been.

The Type R will charge to 62mph in 5.6 seconds and has a top speed of 169mph.

The Combined fuel consumption, at 36.7mpg is good too, especially when you consider that we're talking about a car that will charge to 62mph in 5.6 seconds. Think that giant rear spoiler is just for show? Then consider how well the back end of this lightweight vehicle would be planted to the road at its top speed of 169mph without it. That's right, 272km/h. Phenomenal.

You will find less powerful versions of this engine in other Hondas, especially ones built and sold in North America, such as the CR-V and Accord as well as the Civic sedan. The fact that its 320PS is developed at a low-ish 6,500rpm hints at what Honda was aiming for with this engine: longevity and a car which is easy to live with. It's more than happy to quickly spin into the tachometer's red zone but this isn't one of those zingy units with minimal torque (400Nm from 2,500-4,000rpm) which needs to be hammered to deliver its best performance and aural delights. Yes, it also sounds terrific and crucially, the ride won't hammer your spine: you can't say that about every competitor's model.

Honda UK markets the Type R in two forms: standard and GT. Each has the same turbocharged VTEC engine and six-speed manual gearbox. More equipment on the GT accounts for an extra point one of a second on the zero to 62mph time. For your GBP32,995 you also gain LED front foglamps, a wireless phone charging pad, blind spot alerts, dual zone climate control, parking sensors, cross traffic alert, a premium infotainment system with Garmin navigation and, wait for it, a glove box light. All this gear, which also extends to key fob-operated mirrors and windows, is a packaged GBP2,000 hike over the standard Type R.

If you're not comfortable making a loud entrance in the visual sense, this really isn't your kind of car. Granted, the press test model wasn't in a shouty colour, but the three exhausts and the massive wing attached to the hatchback, the side skirts, 20-inch wheels with red pin stripes, large air intakes in the front valance and on the bonnet, plus red H badges front and back all yell "look at me!". Guaranteed to get you noticed? Absolutely. Beautiful? Absolutely not.

This has to be one of the grippiest front-wheel drive cars on sale in any market.

Fantastic dynamics?

There is an outstanding amount of grip from the front tyres. Even though at times it does pull from side to side for a nano-second before electronics tame the torque-steer, Honda has managed to somehow deliver steering feel which never writhes and jitters in your hands. Sure, hit a decently sized bump mid-corner and you'll get some tug but never a sickening sounding thump.

The damping is perfection and as for lean, what lean? This has to be one of the grippiest front-wheel drive cars on sale in any market. The fact that Renault has felt the need to equip the next R.S. Mégane with an electromagnetic actuator on the back axle says it all - the Civic Type R has set the bar so high that one of its major future competitors is being given standard rear-wheel steer in an attempt to match or maybe even improve upon the Honda's handling.

If life was totally fair, Honda UK and Honda Motor Europe would be selling truckload upon truckload of Civic Type Rs. Still, it is very early in this model's life cycle and once the word properly gets out about how good a car this is, the rising level of fame in the US and Japan may start to influence how people view Hondas in our part of the world too. And if not? Then Honda UK seems to at least have got itself an expanding export base and the chance to make Swindon a far more profitable operation than it might have otherwise been.

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