As the car skipped over a hump mid corner – front wheels excitedly scrabbling for grip in the process – I confidently mashed my right foot into the floor, feeling the mechanical limited-slip diff put the demands of an angry turbo engine into action. The new Civic Type R’s shift light flashed red, telling me I needed to slide into the next gear using the oh-so sweet six-speed manual gearbox.

Not far behind is my colleague Darren, who’s driving the old EP3 Type R. And this is no accident, because we’ve deliberately got these two cars together on the same bit of road for a very particular purpose. The EP3 isn’t the first Civic Type R – that’s the EK9 – nor is it the 2015 car’s direct predecessor – you need to be looking at the FN2.

So why have we put these cars together? It’s simple: with the FN2 being not particularly well received, the EP3 is probably the last celebrated Civic Type R. Plus, as it’s two generations behind the new car, we were curious to see just how much the game has moved on in the 10 years since EP3 production wound up. So to start with, let’s look at what’s changed:

The first thing we noticed when getting these two together was the sheer size difference. The 2015 car is 183mm wider, 250mm longer, and 26mm taller. This is part of the reason it’s also a lot heavier: the EP3 tips the scales at just 1204kg, compared to 1382kg for the FK2. But, it’s worth bearing in mind that a bigger body gives you a hell of a lot more interior space, plus 200 litres more boot room. The EP3 feels cramped in comparison.

“In terms of straight line performance, the 2015 car well and truly trumps the old one, despite the hefty weight disadvantage”

The new car is also – as you’d expect – a lot more sophisticated. Its aero kit – consisting of a front splitter, a front bumper specifically shaped to cut turbulence around the front wheels, a flat underfloor plus a rear diffuser and socking great rear wing – makes the Civic the only car in its class to generate negative lift.

In terms of straight line performance, the 2015 car also well and truly trumps the old one, despite the hefty weight disadvantage. It’ll crack 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, while the EP3 takes almost another second to do the same (6.6 seconds). Top speed is a lot higher, with the new car topping out at 167mph, compared with 146mph for the older version.

The aero kit – which reduces drag as well as lift – plays a part, but it’s mostly down to a substantial increase in power. Over 100bhp more, in fact, and double the torque thanks to the shift from a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre to a turbocharged unit of the same size. The FK2 kicks out 306bhp and 295lb ft, compared to 197bhp and 145lb ft for the older machine. And don’t forget, the FN2 produced around about the same as its predecessor, so that’s a huge bump in poke from one generation to the next.

The EP3 doesn’t have a limited-slip differential, which his something the FK2 can’t really do without. As such, it has a mechanical LSD, plus a ‘dual axis strut’ suspension system which separates the steering and suspension forces in order to quell torque steer. On the subject of the suspension, the older car has an independent rear suspension set-up, while the newer one has a torsion beam arrangement. It’s made from crushed pipes rather than a solid block, upping the rigidity by 177 per cent, and negating the need for a rear anti-roll bar.

All that technical stuff is nice to know, but what about how the cars feel? Happily, after extensively driving the pair on the same bits of road, we have our answer….

The drive


Holy bejesusing bloody hell, the new Civic Type R is quick. Oh sure, I’ve been in faster cars that are even more inappropriate for the road, but there’s something particularly brutal about the way the R puts out its power.

Turbocharged engines these days seem to want to hide their forced induction, but not this car: the mid-range is extremely boosty, the whistling of the solitary single-scroll blower (no fancy twin-turbo or twin-scroll setups here) are clearly audible even with the windows up, and the electronically-controlled waste gate never stops chattering away.

Yes, there’s still VTEC, but here it’s all about boosting the low end torque rather than making the last few thousand RPM on the clock more exciting. I can’t help but wonder what the car would be like without that, because as it is, it feels like the engine’s doing precious little before 3000rpm, before the turbo cries havoc and unleashes the boost of war.

Despite all that grunt going through the front tyres, there’s a remarkable absence of extreme torque steer. Sure, there’s the odd tug or two, but it’s really remarkable how the diff and dual axis strut combo copes with the demands of 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque.

The chassis continues to work amazingly well during demanding cornering. Dramatic changes in camber, tight corners, crappy road surfaces… it copes with the lot of them without so much as a shrug.

Body roll is barely achievable unless you’re really trying/driving like a tool. It’s a relentless battering ram for the road that’ll stop at nothing in the quest for going mind-bendingly quickly.


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Photos/Article by: Matt Robinson


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