Can the Civic Type R steal the 'hot hatch' crown from the Focus RS?The Ford Focus RS has held the hot-hatch crown since it launched, but can the new Honda Civic Type R usurp the throne?
[MUSIC] Hot hatches represent some of the most exciting and accessible cars in the performance world, and right now we're in the golden age, with some of the best examples of these beasts since they first started appearing in the 80s. Top of that list for the last year or so has arguably been this, the third generation Ford Focus RS. It's a 2.3 liter 345 brake horsepower all wheel drive rocket with the performance of a car three times its cost and all the sartorial elegance of a nylon shell suit. But the he only guarantee when you're king of the hill is that everyone's going to be after that crown and before too long, you have a serious challenger turn up and well, Here it is. It's only a Civic Type R. And here you get a two liter V Tech with 315 horsepower and the forward traditional front wheel drive set up. And if you though the Focus RS was a boy racer's wet dream, then this thing is gonna make you want to start buying shares in rubber sheets. Both of these cars are amazing, bundles of fun, costs pretty much the same, track ready, and for the very first time you can actually buy this Civic Type R in America. Our American cousins can finally get out of their JDM dreams and into this car. Now comparing these two cars is largely redundant from a practical point of view. I mean, if you're actually going to buy one, you'll have your allegiance already and you'll know which one you're going to go for. In fact, you might be one of those people who have read the title of this video and has already left their comment Before you got to this part of the video. And to you I say, that's fine, your opinion is valid. There's a million reasons to pick one over the other, even if the fastest thing you've ever driven is your dad's Camry. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that you're not an energy fuelled Internet troll and you actually have the readies lying around to buy one of these for real world driving. And you don't have a prebuilt allegiance to either player. How would you go about selecting your ride? For me, it comes down to three things. How cool is it to be in around when it's not moving? How much fun is it to drive they way you would every day? And how quickly can you put a huge smile on your face when no one's looking? Let's start with that first point, how it makes you feel when it's not even moving. Now, call me shallow, but how a car looks is still very important to me, and in hot hatch, if you're spending money, it is to show off. We can be honest about that. And with the Focus RS is a great looking package. But, the people who admire it are those people who know what it is, what it can do. Just in it's own right, it's very restrained. This, on the other hand, screams aggression. Even if you'd never seen a car in your entire life, you'd know that this means business. Aliens could land down on this planet for the very first time, and know that this was quick. Now I like the idea of buying a car that scares the bejeebus out of people before the engine even turns over. So on the looks front, I have to give it to the Japanese on this one. So normal daytime driving in the CTR, how does that fair? We know it's a beast on the track. We know you can have a lot of fun and set a decent lap time at the Nordschleife. But really How is it out here on the road? Well one thing that Honda has changed in this car is the suspension. And it's been made softer across the board in all of the driving modes. And what that gives you is great stability for really high speed driving and under breaking, but out on the road it actually gives a nicely comfortable drive. You add that to things like these seats which look incredibly sporty but are actually quite comfortable. And you end up with a ride that is quite compliant. In fact you would never really guess from the inside that this could lap the [UNKNOWN] ring in a blisteringly quick time. It just feels like ...comfortable hatchback. Things like Android Auto and Apple Car Play are onboard. And, although I always struggle with all car's Infotainment systems, once you skip over that to Apple Car Play, you got everything you need at your fingertips. I'm not a big fan of the switch gear though, everything to change your volume to change your input source are either finicky little touch buttons here or really cheap plastic nodules on the steering wheel. Not a pleasant way to make any kind of alterations to the control. Interior bug barriers don't just end at the switch gear as well. On getting in there, I really love the look of the gear stick. Unfortunately, once or twice when my hands have gotten sweaty and I've gone for a quick shift from third into fourth, my hand has shot clear off the knob. Occupational hazard that your hand slipping off the knob, but still an unpleasant experience. So, the Ford Focus RS then, it is also incredibly fun out on the track, but how is it in day to day driving? Well, on the interior, I've always found the seating position in this couch a little bit too high to give it that really sporty kind of feel and bar the RS logo and the fancy blue stitching in the steering wheel, there isn't anything Nothing really that shouts fancy. But at 30,000 pounds, what can you expect? In terms of the actual drive itself, even in its most pedestrian of driving modes, not sport, the normal driving modes, this thing is incredibly firm. It wants to remind you that this is a performance car. At every turn. And if you make the mistake of actually engaging a firmer sport suspension, every bump becomes slightly painful and your voice gets slightly bumpy. Let's turn that back off again. It still has all the practicality Over hatchback, huge boot, plenty of room in the back for two kids and I should know cuz I've had both my kids in the backseat, while still retaining the ability to absolutely destroy almost anything else out on the road. It is a nice balance between a sporty feel Slightly aggressive but still completely manageable. Both cars are practical enough to suit your day to day driving, and although they can both go like stink they are pretty sedate when they need to be. But in terms of comfort, the lower driving position and more comfortable seats in the civic Just clench it. So again, we have to give this one to the Type R. Okay, the final and most important test for the RS. Check no one's around, select a lower gear, sport mode, and [SOUND] [SOUND] [LAUGH] [SOUND] [LAUGH] Even for all wheel drive, when you nail it on the throttle, there's quite a bit of torque steer that comes through on this thing. And that makes that first fraction of a second a little bit terrifying. And that's what you want from a hot You up for this? Ten or 12 seconds where you have some open road to play with, the chance to really open her up and get a thrill in as quick a time as possible, to get back on the breaks and return to being a responsible citizen as soon as you see the first car around the corner. right, how does the Civic Ti Par feel when you put your foot down? [NOISE] When you get a minute. or in this case, ten seconds to just quickly put your foot down. The Civic type par gets you to a high speed, it gets you where you want to go in a straight line safely. It doesn't spark that thing, it doesn't spark that smile, it doesn't- something's missing! And I can't put my finger on what it is, it could be a lack of danger A lack of risk, a lack of surprise. This thing is so competent, that when you put your foot down in those small moments, the speed just comes, and it propels you forward. And it's brilliant, but something is missing. Really, this is the real measure of a hot hatch. It's what you buy it for, not to take it on track days, not for massive cross-country drives It's a practical day where every now and then you're going to want to put your foot to the floor and feel a thrill. The civic typar is fast. Really amazingly fast and stable. No wobble of of tarps here can be felt and even the under steer under pressure has been almost completely dialed out and its a better car for it But the Focus, it makes a song and dance about it. You feel like you're driving a hot house, something slightly unhinged and lively. On paper the Civic Type R should have it. It took the points in the first two challenges, but when it comes to cars, logic doesn't always hold out. You can't express the true thrill of driving in stats and graphs. The Focus just knows what it is and lets you experience it, warts and all. And although the Civic Type R is a phenomenal ride, accomplished in everything it has set out to do. For me, in the real world, if it was my money, it would have to be on the Ford Focus RS. [MUSIC]