The Honda Civic Type R remains my favourite of the current crop of hot hatches. I loved going through its 6-speed manual gearbox, styling that makes it stand out from the crowd, and its brilliant performance and handling. It’s a very likeable car and a worthy alternative to the typically restrained and sombre styled rivals. If the Type R version of the 10th generation Civic was this good, I was curious to see just how good the regular one could be.
We’ve already done a full road test review of the Civic Hatch on New Zealand roads, you find more detailed info on the Civic Hatch there, but I noticed one crucial thing; Honda New Zealand don’t offer the Civic Hatch with a manual gearbox. In fact, they don’t offer any sub-Type R Civic with a three-pedal box.
It’s a growing trend in the segment where manual transmission options were once plentiful, now only the Mazda3, Holden Astra, and Volkswagen Golf offer manual choices in New Zealand. Which is a shame because the 6-speed manual Civic available in Japan is a sweet, sweet car to drive. The manual is very damn nearly as good as the gearbox in the Type R’s, though obviously not quite as tight and satisfying to use. It’s a bit like Diet Coke vs the Coke, the differences are minute but it’s just not quite as good as the real deal.
What’s the difference?
The manual Civic hatch comes with a slightly more powerful version of the 1.5-litre EarthDreams four-cylinder turbo petrol developing 134kW and 240NM in this guise. Honda claims a 0-100 km/h in 7 seconds and will return a frugal 5.7L/100km, not bad for a mild-hatch. Think of this as a ‘Son of Type R’, a normal family hatch with a slight sporty flavour lingering in the background. If the driving experience doesn’t convince you then the similar anime-styling of the Type R should. It literally looks the same as the 228kW hot hatch, minus a few sporty aero bits.
There’s still a lot of fake plastic vents, which I’m sure are meant to make it look sporty and aggressive, but just ended up annoying me. Either put a real vent behind or don’t bother at all. I did like the twin central exhaust. There’s no need for it other than it just looks special and cool. In this Rallye Red paint it looks extra sporty too. It carries over the same LED headlights for a more modern look as well as doing a good job of illuminating what’s in front of you in the dark.
Does it drive any better?
I’m not going to lie, I had a decent amount of fun driving this Civic around. There’s something so pure and joyous about driving a normal modern car with a manual gearbox, especially if it’s in a package as good as that of the current Civic. It can accomodate five people, it’s got all the modern bells and whistles you could need, and a boot big enough for a dog or two. Yet, the 134kW and the ability to physically drop down a gear or two when needed, can put a smile on my face is all you could need for a potential daily commuter.
Honda has always been great at making ordinary cars drivel well, and especially with their manual gearboxes. While everyone harps on about the distinctive mechanical feel you get with a Type R box, it truly does feel like cocking a rifle, the gearbox in this mild flavour Civic is nearly as good. It’s a foolproof manual, the shifts are short and the clutch is light. It even has hill hold assist to make sure even hill starts are easy.
Even if it’s easy to drive, I fear this will fall on deaf ears. No one wants manual cars anymore, or so sales figures suggest. In Japan, on average, there’s a 90%/10% split in sales with automatics and manuals. The fact Honda still even offers the Civic with a manual in Japan is incredible in of itself, so I understand why they’d hold back on a smaller market like New Zealand. Unfortunately I don’t think even if enough people made enough noise, it’d still be unlikely this manual Civic Hatch would end up on New Zealand shores. It’s a shame because there could be some people wanting a mild-hatchback like this 134kW 6-speed manual Civic which isn’t as hardcore as the Type R, and most importantly, not as expensive.
Prices in Japan start from the equivalent of $37,700, or $22,200 less than the Civic Type R in New Zealand. There used to be a time when manuals where abundant in cars of this type but now the market is overrun with CVTs and dual-clutch setups. It’s a damn shame really and we should celebrate manuals, in whatever cars they’re in, while we still can.