The Honda Civic Type R is the 2019 Auto Express Hot Hatch of the Year, with the Cupra Ateca and Ford Fiesta ST commended
Many new contenders have arrived onto the scene to challenge the Honda Civic Type R for its crown, but none has managed to topple this Japanese giant of the performance world.
For the third year in a row the Civic Type R is our Hot hatch of the year, and the reasons why haven’t been corrupted by the passage of time. In fact, the longer the Civic is on sale and the harder its rivals push, the more the Type R’s talents shine through.
Let’s start with that engine. And what an engine. With 316bhp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder, it has huge punch low down but loves to be revved hard, and it’s mated to one of the best manual transmissions on sale at any price. The slick, mechanical feel of the six-speed unit is refreshingly interactive in an increasingly digital age.
With driving modes that don’t overcomplicate things, the settings for this Type R address the issues with its predecessor. Now, in comfort mode the chassis feels more fluent, less fidgety and more comfortable, and easier to live with as a result. But ramp things up to +R mode and the Civic has lost none of its hardcore focus.
The grip that’s on offer outshines every other rival in its class, with a limited-slip differential that makes the most of this to find superb traction; the Civic will sprint from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, and it feels this ferocious.
But despite the looks (which might split opinion), it’s superbly usable. Alongside the relatively refined ride, the Civic’s big, 420-litre boot and relatively roomy rear seats mean that there’s plenty of practicality. The front seats are superbly supportive, despite the low-slung driving position, and the result is that they’re relatively comfortable.
There’s good tech, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both fitted as standard, and with affordable PCP finance available we’d go for GT trim, which also adds sat-nav to the eight-inch touchscreen, as well as more safety kit.
The Civic won’t cost the Earth to run because you can even expect more than 30mpg if you drive it carefully – but given the level of ability on offer, you probably won’t want to.
Our choiceHonda Civic Type R GT (£33,550)
GT trim adds to the standard Type R’s already impressive list of kit with wireless charging, all-round parking sensors, blind spot info and cross-traffic alert on top of AEB – but this doesn’t detract from the Civic’s blinding pace and incredible handling. It costs a little bit more but it adds a lot to the ownership experience.
This increasingly popular niche has grown to the point where it’s now approaching mainstream. It might be SUV-based, but the first standalone model from SEAT spin-off Cupra – the Ateca – is definitely hot and the hatchback body means that it qualifies for inclusion in this category, thanks to its strong performance, fine practicality and decent (for an SUV) dynamics.
Ford Fiesta ST
Ford has elevated the ability of its humble Fiesta to the point where this hot ST supermini can outshine much more powerful and considerably more expensive hot hatchbacks. The 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine has massive character and prodigious performance, but what really delights is the chassis that serves up incredible fun and agility.
Previous: Coupe of the Year Next: Performance Car of the Year