Honda Civic Type R

If a high-revving hot hatch is your thing, look no further. David Wilkins and our panel try out a rather uncivilised Civic

Model: Honda Civic Type R
Price: £18,000
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Power: 198bhp at 7,800rpm
Torque: 142lb/ft at 5,600rpm
Performance: 146mph, 0-60mph in 6.6 seconds, 31.0mpg; CO2: 215g/km
Worth considering: Ford Focus ST, Vauxhall Astra VXR, Volkswagen Golf GTI

If you've already read anything at all about Honda's latest Type R, one thing will probably have stuck in your mind about it – while it has generally been well received, the consensus is that this, the sportiest version of the Civic, isn't quite as hard-edged a machine as its predecessor.

This view seems to have become so firmly established that I don't suppose that anything that I our any of our panel of readers say is going to change it. But it's still worth trying to put things into some sort of perspective, because by any standard other than that set by its forerunner, the latest R is still pretty zingy.

A Golf GTI, to take one rival as an example, is a bit more expensive than the Type R, but has an engine that's about the same size and delivers an almost identical power output. The two cars, though, are completely different in character; the GTI provides far more maximum torque, and this is available over a wide range, starting at just 1,800rpm compared with the 5,600rpm required in the Type R. Maximum power is delivered at 5,100rpm in the GTI, but at a giddy 7,800rpm in the Type R.

The reason for this is that the GTI uses a turbocharger to get these results, while the Type R's engine relies on clever valve-gear and, above all, revs; its red line is at 8,000rpm and it gets to about 8,300rpm before the rev limiter kicks in – numbers almost no other affordable car on sale today can match.

This means that the Type R, when you are in the right sort of mood on the right sort of road, can be exhilarating; when those conditions don't apply, the need to work it hard in order to make progress can become a little bit wearing. Still, Honda is to be warmly commended for giving us something different, a comment that applies not just to the engine, but to the car as a whole, which is packed with unusual detailing, from its brightly lit instrument panel, which wouldn't look out of place on the Starship Enterprise, to the funky triangular cut-outs in the rear for the exhaust tail-pipes.

Liam Bresitz, 36

Head of sales, Catworth, Cambridgeshire

Usual car: BMW Z4

The Honda Civic, a "pensioner's" car? Not the Type R, with its sporty styling, flash wheels and huge spoiler. Inside, the theme continues with bucket seats, chrome effect flashes, and no fewer than three dashboard displays to confuse. Driving requires a keen approach to get the best out of the free-revving engine, as acceleration is sluggish at town speeds. Open it up on a country road and there is fun to be had, with great agility on the bends, but at the cost of a firm, unforgiving ride that will be tiresome on long journeys. It's a Honda, so it should be reliable, but some of the finish details, like the plastic fuel filler cap, are poor. It's all a bit of Type R design style over substance.

Richard Vincent-Jones, 31

Police officer, Bedford

Usual car: Renault Megane Sport

I had five test drives of the old Type R but didn't get one. Would this be better? Not really. The car doesn't have any spirit; it's flat through the rev range until you get to the red line, by when the engine is screaming for a gear-change. It has no sense of urgency. The suspension is permanently hard; good for rallying, but for a family trip it's a bit harsh. The seats are designed so that only a certain-sized person can fit in, and there's no space in the boot. The steering wheel is a strange design where your fingers get caught in the rear of the wheel when you turn it. I can't see why they built this car. Maybe they should have called it the Civic almost-a-Type R.

Roman Wyniawskyj, 46, Eugene, 15, Nina, 13

IT test analyst, Bedford

Usual car: BMW 3 series

Exterior styling is discreet, but the rear with its triangular exhaust, grille and spoiler grew on me. The dashboard was a bit wacky; buttons everywhere. I struggled to read some of the dials below the digital speedo. No Bluetooth or MP3 connection as standard; the latter is a must for teenagers. The front seats offered good support; rears offered good legroom but restricted headroom. The boot was spacious. The ride is a little jiggly at low speed, but it holds the road well. Pulling power was strong and the gear-change effortless. The engine was a little noisy, although my son and daughter liked that. Not really a practical family car, but worth a look as a funky offbeat hot hatch.

If you would like to take part in The Verdict, email or write to The Verdict, Save & Spend, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.