Hot Hatch Perfection. The Civic EP3 Type R

We all love a hot hatch. There’s just something about putting a big engine in a small everyday car that  gets you all excited. If you’re after a hot hatch there are so many choices to suit all types of budgets but pound for pound you wont get much better than this. This is the EP3 Honda Civic Type R.

If you’re trawling through the local classifieds looking for your next set of wheels there are plenty of manufactures that will assuage your thirst for hot hatch hooliganism but there are few that can match the pleasure that an EP3 will provide you with. Yes there are faster cars and better equipped cars (The Civic doesn’t even come with air conditioning unless you get a premier edition) but for the money you are paying you don’t really care about any of that. Ranging from anywhere between £2000-£5000 you can get a solid example with around about 130,000 miles on the clock. But don’t let the mileage fool you because you’re buying a Honda and at 100,000 miles the car hasn’t even broken itself in yet. So lets break down why this is such a great little car.

The EP3 is the second generation of Civic type R after the now highly sought after EK9 model, and is equipped with the K20A 2.0 litre i-VTEC engine pumping out 197bhp but only 145 foot pounds of torque at 5900rpm. In order to get the performance out of the engine you need to be in the upper rev limits where the VTEC is. The car is just asking for you to punish it and push it to the limit. VTEC doesn’t kick in until the 6000 mark and you still have another 2100rpm to play with after that. As soon as you hit the magic 6000 the car punches on and screams at you in delightful happy tones. VTEC is like having a turbo but in the sense that you always know when and where the power will be available and if you’re not flirting with the high end of the rev range then the car does have a habit of feeling lethargic. You might just be left feeling embarrassed if you are not in the right gear when you decide to put your foot down. 0-60 will take you 6.8 seconds which wont be winning any awards but is by no means slow and you’ll bouncing off of the 8100 rev limiter in top gear doing 148mph.

When you slip on to a nice British B road the car really comes alive. The light weight chassis and fully independent rear suspension means the car is an absolute joy in the bends. Throw it in and the rear end will cock its leg like an overexcited dog. Its like being in an oversized go-kart so just be aware that should you be a little overeager then the rear does have a habit of trying to overtake the front. But its not unmanageable and with the right amount of opposite lock and a boot of the loud peddle it all comes back under control again. The seating position does feel high, a bit higher than it ought to be but the seats feel nice and snug and will hold you in should things get a little spicy. The steering wheel feels  comfortable and connected to the car and you can really feel the car through your hands and know exactly what it’s going to do at all times. The gear lever has been mounted up on the dash which you would say is a rather strange place to put it, it reminds you of being in a transit van, but it means that you can punt it in to the next gear and have your hand back on the wheel in a much shorter time. The suspension, although it is rather firm, never felt too hard or uncomfortable. It was never going to be like driving a Rolls Royce over a blanket of freshly fallen snow but even on a long run I never arrived at my destination feeling washed out.

Its even practical. With a nice big boot you have no problem getting the monthly shop in and passengers in the back have plenty of leg room and wont feel cramped. Parts are readily available and its cheap to run and maintain. The MPG isn’t anything to write home about however. Many a time I’ve had the orange glow on my dash letting me know I’d hooned all the petrol out of the tank but you don’t buy a type R because it’s economic now do you. The only minor things I could grumble about is the fact that if you want to get in to the back you have to go in via the passenger side as the drivers seat doesn’t fold forward. The guys and girls at Honda just didn’t make it so and when you put the seat back up it reverts back to being beyond bolt upright and all the way forward. This means the passenger in the front always has to readjust their seat so they’re no longer trying to mount the dashboard. A minor detail I know but it does get tiresome.

So should you go and get yourself an EP3? Well I did so I can’t really be unbiased here. It may look like a Jazz on steroids but there’s something quite appealing about its thuggish looks. Its certainly not the prettiest car out there and in no way is it the quietest as my neighbours will tell you. If you can deal with the stereotypes of being a Honda owner then there’s nothing from stopping you from getting one. You will be hard pushed to find one for sale that’s not been tinkered with. Even mine has an induction kit which mean VTEC really does hit like a truck, but prices are on the increase and a well looked after example could become a sound financial investment as well as heaps of childish motoring fun. It’s not the best hot hatch you can buy. It’s not even technically the best Civic type R you can buy, but at the same time it just is the best.

Be a hooligan. Give in to the driver in you. Get an EP3.


Images are all my own and therefore are property of Dale Layer and Torque Press