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UK CAR Review: Honda Integra Type R


Road Test – Honda Integra Type R (1998).

The Honda Integra Type R is a driver’s car and no mistake. It doesn’t pander to the whims of the luxury saloon driver and even makes little in the way of compromises to the typical modern-day sports car driver. It’s as raw as they come but it’s one hell of a lot of fun.


Enough of the poetry, let’s have a look at the car.

It has a Japanese sports car look about it, which – since it is a Japanese sports car – is hardly surprising. There’s the large rear spoiler, the low front spoiler and the pleasing curves that are typical of the genre. Type R insignia adorns the boot and the side of the car but – if you excuse the rear spoiler – it’s not at all overstated. The look is, perhaps, spoiled slightly by the 15-inch rims and 195/55 tyres that look a little small for such a car. Think hard before changing them however, the Type R is much about balance and the wheels and tyres have been chosen to accurately match the characteristics of the chassis.

Inside we have hip-hugging red Recaros, titanium gear knob and Momo steering wheel but very little else! If you’re lucky you might find air conditioning, a sunroof and a stereo, but don’t expect such niceties as standard on this car. The dashboard is adorned with the basic instruments; it’s functional and attractive enough but it’s nothing special. You might fit two adults in the rear seats but they’d complain if they had to travel far.

It’s on the road that you know why you’ve bought the Honda Integra Type R. It purrs nicely in the low rev range but the astonishing VTEC engine really only gets into the swing of things above about 5,500 revs. It’s there that the VTEC switches its cam profile and begins to rocket, all the way up to a red line of 8,500 revs.

It is not for nothing that this car has been described as the best front-wheel drive car since the Lotus Elan. The handling is second to none. The helical limited slip differential completely cuts out under-steer and the stiff suspension and taut steering relay the feel of the road to the driver in explicit detail. The handling is easily adjustable too – small turns of the steering wheel and tiny amounts of throttle play can control the traction through difficult corners. It’s loud too. The car weighs in at 1100kg and, as part of the effort to reduce weight, all soundproofing has been removed and thinner glass has been used for the windscreen. When it’s screaming at 8000 revs you know about it!

The on-paper performance rates it in the mid sixes to sixty with a top speed of 145mph. It produces 187 bhp at 8000 rpm and 131 lbs/ft torque at 7300 rpm which equates at 173 bhp per ton or 106 bhp per litre – all from a naturally aspirated 1.8 litre engine. The on-paper performance does not do this car justice however. Drive this car like it’s meant to be driven – keeping the VTEC on boil – and it will point-to-point with the best of them. Put the Type R on a curvaceous B road and it’s lively engine and excellent handling will embarrass many cars with better on-paper figures. It can stop too – 282mm front discs and 260mm rear discs make sure of that.

So does this car have bad points? Well, yes - a car as uncompromising a racer as this one is bound too. It’s not a motorway car. It’s loud and the stiff ride can be wearing on a long motorway journey. Neither is it a four-seater. A small child would be OK in the back but that’s about all. Oh, and the thin-glassed windows have an annoying habit of steaming up on a regular basis.

In terms of reliability, the Honda reputation precedes it. The engines may rev to 8500 rpm on a regular basis but they take it all in their stride. You’d be very unlucky to have a serious problem with this car if it’s serviced regularly.

The Honda Integra Type R is mostly about fun - fun that is extracted from excellent performance, pinpoint driver feedback and remarkable handling. It simply does not to fail to disappoint in this department. Every drive produces a smile.


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