It’s finally happened, I’ve crested the hill of life and taken the first tentative step down the other side. I was recently informed by an expert in the field that I am henceforth required to wear spectacles for reading. My two score and four year old eyes have decided they can no longer be relied upon to work properly without assistance. They’re not alone in their malfunction either. I’ve noticed aches where no ache has been before. I’ve started to make hitherto unknown noises every time I stand up. Without revealing too much detail, on the scale of rarities an unbroken nights sleep sits somewhere between Unicorns and Puff the Magic Dragon.
All of which made me realise what was upsetting me so much about the Honda Civic TypeR I tested recently. I distinctly recall been totally enthralled with this car when it was launched last year, I may even have suggested it was the ideal family car. Turns out I may have been a little bit wrong. I don’t want you to think that the Civic is any way to blame for this error though, I bear sole responsibility. I wanted to know what it was like to live with day to day but, having badgered Honda into lending me a test car for a week, it quickly became something of an uncomfortable revelation.
It started well enough when the nice man from Honda delivered it to my door on a sunny Monday morning. It still looked absolutely fantastic, to the point that I had to bite the inside of my cheeks simply to avoid grinning like an idiot. When it’s parked on your own drive and the keys are in your hand it’s hard not to regress to the age of 6, a point amply demonstrated when my 6 year old son saw it for the first time and proceeded to run around it shouting incoherently. Even my Father, a man in his 70’s, was reduced to circling it muttering something about vented brake discs and limited slip differentials. The TypeR definitely isn’t a shrinking violet.
Unfortunately things began to go wrong later that afternoon. It started with the simple observation that while there is loads of room in the back for adults, when you go around a corner there is nothing to stop them sliding against the seatbelt. Sitting in the sculpted racing seats up front you are blissfully unaware that your rear passengers are clutching tightly to the slightest handhold in an attempt to remain upright. Luckily the kids either didn’t care or didn’t notice and they spent a lot more time back there than any adult is likely to.
Dropping the kids off at school became something of an event too. On numerous occasions I had small groups of schoolboys (and the occasional parent) standing around clutching themselves with excitement, one child even approached me in school just to tell me how cool he thought the Honda was. I of course agreed, until a passing comment from a parent along the lines of, “that’s a bit lairy, isn’t it?”, made me look at the Type R with fresh eyes. It’s easy to see how apt this description is if you Google “lairy”. It’s defined as ostentatiously attractive or flashy but the killer blow comes when you read the example. I quote, “there’s some lairy details like the huge boot spoiler and the alloy wheels”. It may as well just have a picture of the TypeR!!
To restore my bruised ego I fled the school car park and headed in the direction of some twisty roads. Last time I let the Type R loose on some corners I found the performance and handling astonishing. They still are. There wasn’t a hint of trouble from the Honda, it attacked every inch of road with confidence, turning, slowing and taking off again exactly when instructed. As a driver’s car the Type R is one of my highlights of the last 12 months, it’s an exquisite example of how modern engineering can bend the rules of physics with seeming ease. It’s beautifully balanced, powerful and surprisingly easy to handle yet I couldn’t shake the little voice whispering in my ear.
The whisper became a shout a few days later when I dropped into the petrol station. My wife went inside while I sat in the car. I could see her chatting to the lady behind the counter and a few moments later she beckoned me to come in. I made the fatal mistake of doing as I was told. The only reason she asked me to come inside was because they had been talking about the car and wanted to take the opportunity to mercilessly abuse me. It seems I’m too old, too fat, too bald and too ugly to be seen publicly in such a vehicle. Obviously this was highly amusing to them but ever since I find myself cringing inwardly when I go to the garage because my visit in the TypeR is still fair game. On the plus side, at least the staff find it entertaining.
It turns out that my initial assessment of the TypeR may have been accurate but my claim that it could be the ideal family car is ruined by the middle aged man behind the wheel. It’s not the car’s fault I can’t compete with its youthful vigour. It certainly isn’t Honda’s fault that I have grown older without growing wiser. The TypeR is without doubt a brilliant car to drive, I just fear I’ve reached an age where it’s not a brilliant car to be seen driving. When I look in the rear view mirror I see the reflection of the teenager I used to be, everyone else sees the man whose just typed the first of many reviews whilst wearing glasses.