Driving the Honda Civic Type R is like reliving the thrill of your first kiss. A ride in this dashing rogue dusts us with the dewy optimism of youth.
The Type R presents itself with no filters. Compared to other junior racers such as the Subaru WRX Sti, the VW Golf R, and the Ford Focus RS, the Type R is positively feral. Visually it offers no apologies. The crazy back wing looks like it could tow a water-ski team, various grilles, and air intakes front and back look like misshapen furnace filters, and the Satanic red infused interior is 100 percent carnival midway. But sit behind the chunky wheel, gearshift in hand and all design crimes are forgiven.
After driving it for an all too brief 30 minute test drive at Canadian Car of the Year testing, I got the Civic R for a glorious week of disruptive driving.
The true personality of the Type R is of a frenzied racehorse in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. It’s surprising to learn that the same animal can relax around town, prancing over speed bumps, negotiating pitted and potholed roads, without roughing up occupants. Plunk it into drive mode Comfort and it does its best to buffer dodgy roads.
But the R deserved a road trip. I blew out of Hamilton on Highway 6 toward Guelph, stopping first at the roadside landmark called Grasshopper Imports (www.grasshopperimports.com) where psychedelia lives in this DayGlo painted pottery and gift shop. I posed the Civic in front the rainbow coloured building and thought again how the Type R with all its angles and shadows and fins-looks like a half opened carton of milk.
Next up, get off Highway 6 as fast as possible. I turned on Concession Road 1 headed toward Cambridge, via Puslinch and the tiny hamlet of Crieff.
Along this section of Concession 1 are rolling hills, horses nibbling at pasture grass, and lovely farms with names like Juniper Hill.
Here with few cars, lovely roads and good visibility the Type R could be set loose in full entertainment mode. The six-speed manual is smooth, precise and ready to be slammed, and how quickly you come to love the rev-match control feature. Steering is honed to a knife’s edge, without being twitchy. This car is about immediate gratification and unfiltered fun. The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is unique to the Type R, and proves that 306 horsepower packaged correctly is as thrilling as most humans need. An engineering triumph produced a car that does not drive like a front-wheel drive car.
In Crieff I punched down on those tenacious Brembo brakes and peeled into The Danish Place Restaurant at Sunset Villa-home of the Danish Canadian Club of Southern Ontario. This place is the best-kept secret in Ontario. On Sunday at 11 a.m. the big buffet was already laid out with smoked salmon, chicken stuffed with feta, rye breads, rich cheeses, egg and shrimp open face sandwiches. meatballs and rouladens. Tuborg Beer was being delivered to big tables filled with families, and a fire was crackling in the fireplace. It’s a wonderful experience and if you’re lucky the open-once-a-month Danish bakery will be operating-where you can load up on Danish breads and pastries. In the winter the hours vary so check online at www.sunsetvilla.org.
After a walk around the little lake at Sunset Villa, and taking a few more snaps of the Type R, I carried on toward Cambridge.
For $40,990 the Type R comes pretty well stocked. There are safety features like lane departure and blind spot display, connected features like navigation and wireless charging, and chassis tuning refinements that are so complex it’s easier to enjoy them than to understand them.
Ultimately the R is so engaging to drive you will forget there is a radio, navigation and Siri Eyes Free and just swim in the delights of a car so frisky to drive. That joy will make you forget that the touch screen infotainment system is slow and frustrating to use.
I loved the shapely seats, so supportive and bolstered they support all your body parts, like
props put in place by a yoga teacher.
In Cambridge one can take in the cafes, art galleries, admire the many historic stone buildings, but my first stop is always Phidon Pens (www.phidonpens.com). They carry wonderful fountain pens, exotic pencils, paper goods and journals. The vibe is elegant and refined.
So, well fed, and well equipped with writing materials, I headed back to Hamilton in the Type R, instruments glowing red in Race mode, and engine revving unrestricted in this barely civilized of Civics. It was a bubble of fun I didn’t want to burst.