To say the Honda Civic Type R burst onto the local scene is an understatement. During its reveal during this year's Manila International Auto Show, it drew masses of onlookers on to its Championship White sheetmetal. Upon announcement of its availability in the local market, all 100 units were snapped up within 48 hours. What a way to make an entrance.
Then again, who wouldn't be tempted to go for the iconic high-performance hatchback? With a little over 300 PS, motorsports heritage and sports car humbling performance figures, it got us thinking. How exactly does the Civic Type R square up against its rivals? Of course, the Subaru STI comes to mind but upon closer inspection, it appears that the Honda is actually punching above its weight.
Aside from the aforementioned Subaru, it looks like most of the Type R's competition hails from Europe. A fair amount of German offerings fit the C-segment, 300 PS class and these cars are pretty heavy hitters too.
From Bavaria, we have the BMW M135i and, on paper, it matches the Type R spec-per-spec, plus, it's a hatchback too. From Ingolstadt meanwhile is the Audi S3. While it is a sedan (and more of a leather-lined STI fighter), we can't help but notice how close its statistics are the the Honda. And then there's the entry from Affalterbach in the form of the Mercedes-AMG A45. Now, its specs go beyond the BMW, Audi and Honda but the hatchback body, and philosophy, stick close to the Type R: a relatively light chassis with a whole lot of power.
When it comes to the classic hot hatch fundamentals, the Civic Type R is a lot closer to the Peugeot 308 GTI. While the lone French entry doesn't quite reach the 300 PS mark, it has proven to be a potent hatchback when we reviewed it last year. Besides, 270 PS is nothing to sneeze at and it is the wild card of this spec check.
Under the hood
There is a common theme among most of the cars here. Five of the six cars here have turbocharged, four cylinder engines. So who is the odd man out here? That would the BMW, being the only one with a six-cylinder engine. All the C-segment cars here are close to, or go beyond the 300 PS mark but each have different, and interesting ways of achieving that magic figure.
With its 3.0-liter, turbocharged inline-six engine, the BMW M135i relies on twin-scroll turbochargers to achieve 326 PS and 450 Nm of torque. Three cars here have 2.0-liter, turbo-fours and that's the Audi S3, Honda Civic Type R and Mercedes-AMG A45. Among the three 2.0-liter cars, the Audi produces the least power with 300 PS and 380 Nm of torque. The Honda meanwhile puts out 310 PS and 400 Nm torque while the Mercedes-AMG makes the most out of its 2.0-liter powertrain with 360 PS and 450 Nm of torque.
And then there's the Subaru WRX STI with its 2.5-liter, flat-four engine. Output is on par with the Audi at 300 PS although it trumps the S3 in torque with 407 Nm. As for the Peugeot, it uses the smallest engine in the group with a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. While it brings up the rear with 272 PS and 330 Nm of torque, it's still an impressive figure given the size of its engine. But that's not where this story ends.
Laying down the power
These six pocket rockets represent different types of drivetrain with rear wheel drive, front wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
From the all-wheel drive camp, there's the Audi S3, Mercedes-AMG A45 and the Subaru WRX STI. All three have different ways of sending power to all four wheels too. In the Audi, it uses a Haldex type all-wheel drive system which means its predominantly front wheel drive until slip is detected. The AMG adapts a similar system but is engaged almost permanently and can send up to 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels if needed. As for the Subaru, it comes with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive which not only sends power to the front and rear, but can also split it from side to side.
Despite not having power to the rear wheels, the front wheel drive offerings have pretty clever differentials that can give the all-wheel drive cars a good scare. In the Peugeot 308 GTI, it uses a mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential which allows the car to send more power to one wheel when necessary. In the Type R meanwhile, it uses a helical limited-slip differential, also a purely mechanical system. Like in the Peugeot, it aids the car in turning in corners. While the set up sounds more basic than in the GTI, the helical LSD in the Type R helped it set the record-breaking laptime in the Nurburgring.
Again, the BMW is the odd man out but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's the lone rear wheel drive option here which means you can pitch the car sideways (on the racetrack) at will. However, it doesn't come with a limited-slip differential. Still, it offers old school tail out thrills when you give it some gas in the middle of a bend, providing of course, you're in a proper venue to do so.
Paddle shift or row your own
There's also an interesting mix of transmissions among the six cars here. Three are automatics and, much to the delight of enthusiasts, three are manuals.
Representing the self shifters are the Audi S3, BMW M135i, and Mercedes-AMG A45. The BMW makes do with a conventional torque converter but you get eight speeds to play with. Both the Audi and the Mercedes use dual clutch transmissions with seven forward gears. All three do benefit from paddle shifters, giving you some form of manual control.
Meanwhile, the Honda Civic Type R, Peugeot 308 GTI and Subaru WRX STI will make you row your own. These cars come with honest to goodness six-speed manual transmissions.
Handling goes hand and hand with performance and with that, each of these cars have been given more aggressive suspension tuning to match the capabilities of their respective engines.
Sticking to tradition, the new Civic Type R has a suspension unique to this model. While it still employs a strut, the folks at Honda developed what's called a dual-axis system. Honda says this set up separates steering and suspension forces. In lay man's terms, the front end won't be upset by mid-corner bumps plus it reduces torque steer. Torque steer is when the engine overpowers the steering with enough force to turn the wheel by itself. As for the rear suspension of the Civic Type R, a uniquely set up double-wishbone system is used.
The Peugeot meanwhile gets retweaked suspension, employing stiffer dampers and bushings from the standard 308. Along with that, the track is slightly wider than the more humble variants plus ride height has been lowered by 11 mm. The 308 uses struts at the front while the rear is a different take on the torsion beam. It pivots at the center, which effectively gives the car passive rear wheel steering.
As for the BMW, the M135i comes with a more aggressive tuning of the standard 1 Series suspension. Audi did the same with the S3 and so does the Mercedes-AMG A45. The three Germans both use struts at the front and multi-links at the back, and all three benefit from unique damping and set up. Also using this setup is the Subaru WRX STI. The STI aside, it's worth mentioning the most of the cars here come with electronic adjustable dampers.