The next Honda Civic Type R has been previewed with a surprise concept car at the Paris motor show.
The concept is based on the 2017 Honda Civic and will influence a production model that is confirmed to go on sale in the second half of next year after a world debut at the 2017 Geneva motor show in March.
The future model will be the first Type R sold in the US market, and will be built to set a new benchmark for front-wheel-drive performance cars. A new Nürburgring lap record will be part of its target list, meaning the model will have to be faster than the current fastest front-driven car, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S, and forthcoming rival, the 2018 Renault Mégane RS.
Honda kept technical details close to its chest at Paris, but Autocar understands that the Type-R will remain front-drive in a class that’s increasingly dominated by all-wheel drive models.
Honda will rely on the new Civic’s wider chassis to improve grip and handling stability, along with a new aerodynamic package, including two rear spoilers and a front splitter.
‘We have a lot more downforce from the design and aero package,’ the Type-R’s chief designer Daisuke Tsutamori told Autocar at Paris. Tsutamori’s design features an unusual front-end design with airflow into the engine bay split between three vents – a conventional lower vent, a narrow central grille and slot-like upper grille.
The area of the central grille is reduced by the Honda badge, but also functions as part of the Type-R’s ped-pro crash impact hardware.
Tsutamori stressed that the car shown at Paris was a prototype, but also admitted that ‘it was as close to the production car as possible’.
With its snarling front end, high-set rear spoiler and huge wheels set at each corner, it certainly makes a statement.
‘The difference between the current Type-R and the new one is that the new one has been designed in from the start of the programme,’ said Honda’s UK managing director Phil Crossman.
As a result it can utilise the new Civic’s multi-link rear axle. The outgoing model had to be converted from the Civic’s standard twist-beam to a new multi-link, eating-up engineering time and resources.
Styling features on the concept include wider air vents than the regular Civic, smoked LED headlights and a new air intake on the bonnnet. New skirts made from carbon fibre help to gibe the car a more aggressive look, alongside 20in alloy wheels shod with performance tyres. The car’s wheel arches are also flared. At the back, there’s a new fixed spoiler, and three exhaust outlets.
Power is expected to rise, although the exact power output remains unclear. One source said that ‘306PS will be the minimum’. The current car features a two-litre petrol turbo that delivers most of its power at the top-end of the rev range, making for dramatic driving manners.
Honda, however, won’t discuss whether the power output of the new Type-R will move nearer 350bhp. The VW Golf R is also all-wheel drive, yet features a 300bhp output.
Honda says the new Type R will be made alongside the regular Civic at its Swindon factory. It will be exported to global markets including the US – marking the first time the Type R has been sold in North America.
Honda says the future model will slightly increase on the current Type R’s £30,000 starting price. It will be offered with a GT trim-level like the current car.
The current Civic Type R was launched only last year, and competes against the Ford Focus RS, Audi RS3 Sportback, VW Golf R and Mercedes-AMG A45. Giving the current model only two years of production will likely increase demand – and turn the car into a collector’s item – with just 2500 units due to be sold in Britian.
Keeping 350bhp under control in a front-wheel drive-only chassis will prove a tricky challenge, although the new Type-R is tipped to deploy a limited-slip differential once again. However, its design is also to be revealed later.
Honda UK reckons that it will sell around 1000 a year – about the same as today’s Type-R, which is destined to have a short model life of around three years by the end of 2017. The current Type R, a halo product for Honda alongside the NSX supercar, currently accounts for 4% of Civic sales.
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