Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Honda Civic 2007 Malaysian Review

Discuss in Singapore Drift Forum

FOR the casual motorists, the four-door Honda Civic comes as a civilised family cum executive car that gets you from point A to B and back with some excitement sans much drama.

That is until you meet its steroid-pumped sibling called quite simply, the Type R. And you begin to realise how uncivic-minded this car can turn the person behind its steering wheel into.

The shiny metal accelerator pedal has a little to do with that transformation process too, especially when it's wired to a 2.0-litre high revving normal aspirated engine that squeezes out a staggering 225bhp.

The faster one: The Type R can easily outpace the stock Civic 2.0S.
In simple terms, it means breathtaking acceleration.

Honda did not release any top speed figures but we figured any car with such muscles could zoom past 220kph.

With that amount of power on your right foot and with a clear track, it's easy to understand that how raw power can have a strange effect on most people.

On the invitation to Honda Malaysia's Discover Civic media test drive last month at the Sepang International Circuit, we got to sample the company's two latest Civic variants - Type R and the petrol/electric Hybrid.

The interior of the Type R is strictly a red and black affair.
Cut from the same sheet metal as the regular Civic, the Type R has been strengthened structurally, given track car-like suspension and kept as lean as possible.

It retains the usual creature comforts like air conditioning, a radio/CD player, decent sound insulation and enough seating for five persons.

On the outside, the Type R gets large 18-inch wheels, a lower stance, more aggressive front bumper and an oversized rear wing spoiler that reduces lift at high speeds.

Inside, it's mostly a two-tone black and red affair, even on instrument gauges and dials, tuned to excite hardcore motorheads.

A small diameter steering wheel and two front bucket seats to keep you planted in your boy racer madness.

To give an indication of the Type R's power, we were first given a couple of laps in a stock 2.0-litre Civic.

The stock Civic with 155bhp is fast, but pit it against the Type R and it gets left behind.

At idle, the Type R's engine gives a low rumble but floor the throttle and it gets louder with throaty roar, a little like those from large V8 blocks.

Blink when you power up and the rev needle will appear at the redline zone of 8,400rpm when you open your eyes.

Since the Type R's engine is the happiest at the 8,000rpm plus zone, a six-speed close ratio manual transmission used optimises this engine power band for spirited driving.

With so much power, the Type R gets large Brembo callipers which work excellently for fade-free and linear braking.

The manual clutch pedal was astonishingly light, and coupled with smooth gear shifter mechanism, makes lightning quick gear changes easy.

Steering is sharp and communicative without much hint of torque steering even when you are seriously powering up the front wheel-drive Type R in mid-corners.

A typical front wheel-drive car becomes rather difficult to steer if too much power is feed to the driving wheels.

The Hybrid display with indicators for the hybrid system on the left side. The Hybrid car is shown below.
Honda has fixed this in the Type R with clever front suspension geometry set-up and a torque sensitive limited slip differential.

With hard suspension setting and thick stabiliser bars, body roll is very much controlled, making fast runs at the twisty SIC track child's play.

Mild understeer creeps in accompanied by screeching from Bridgestone Potenza RE070 tyres if you dive into a corner too fast.

Driving on billiard table smooth SIC track did not allow us to assess how the Type R's suspension would cope on our pothole-riddled roads, something that we would like to try out for ourselves.

After the high-speed fun with the Type R, we moved to a neighbouring pit to begin the open road test drive in the Civic Hybrid.

Its 1.3-litre i-VTEC engine produces 95bhp, but gets an extra 20bhp from its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system for a total of 115bhp.

Although it was being compared with another regular Civic, this time a 1.8-litre variant with 140bhp, we were already visualising before hand how the Hybrid would be struggling to keep pace.

But to our surprise, the Hybrid did put up a close fight with the Civic 1.8, especially at start-up acceleration when the IMA kicks in to boost its petrol engine with high torque.

We could hardly feel the electric motor cutting in, and as such, the sensation is just like driving any ordinary car.

Flooring the accelerator pedal, our Hybrid running on full petrol and electric power could still keep up with the Civic 1.8 driven by another group of journalists ahead.

It was only at higher speeds that the Civic 1.8 began to slowly pull away from us.

On the instrument panel were indicators to show if the Hybrid was running on electric power, the remaining battery charge and whether the battery is being recharged from regenerative braking.

No loss of performance was felt during a slope climb on the SIC's outer ring road as the IMA indicator showed full assist from the electric motor.

As a daily ride with comfortable suspension setting, look forward to fewer trips to petrol stations.

The Hybrid may have performance close to the Civic 1.8's but its fuel consumption is a measly 4.6 litre per 100km, something like a compact car's.

Another fuel saving trick is that the Hybrid's petrol engine switches off when the car comes to a full halt and re-ignites after the brake pedal is released.

It also cuts off the petrol engine and goes on fully electric when cruising at 40kph.

By the way, Hybrid looks pretty much like the standard Civic except for the Hybrid badging and four specially designed “aerodynamic” wheels.

Despite the Type R coming with on-the-road with insurance price of RM199,800 and the Hybrid at RM162,800, these Japan-assembled cars still have their orders fully booked.

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