The Voice will be back on our screens early next year, and a favourite judge on the popular find-a-singer show this year has been the Kaiser Chiefs’ front man Ricky Wilson. Ever wondered what he drives? I can tell you. It’s British-built, very sporty, and produced at a factory in Swindon, Wiltshire. You may have guessed it already: it’s a Honda Type R.
The lairy Type R is Honda’s top performance car. Ricky drove one for the first time at the Goodwood Festival of Speed back in June, and now he drives one as his own daily transport as an ambassador for Honda. He has even been taught how to get the best out of it in training sessions with British Touring Car Championship star driver Gordon ‘Flash’ Shedden, who races a Honda Yuasa Racing Civic.
Ricky went to collect his car off the end of the production line in Swindon, and took a tour of the factory while he was there. What was his impression of the car plant? “It was like a movie –I could hear the ‘Terminator’ theme music in my head as I walked around. The technology and scale of the operation is out of this world,” he said afterwards.
Living with it
The Type R is some car. I have just spent a few days driving the latest one, new out this summer. Ricky’s car is bright blue. ‘Mine’ was white, with a dramatic red and black cabin that shrieks ‘I’m a sporty car!’ at you. The instrument dials glow softly on the dash, until you press the ‘R’ button that is the Type R’s secret weapon.
Then the dials instantly switch from white to a vivid scarlet around the edges, and the car’s performance is sharpened into full-on sports mode. Pressing the button instantly increases the responses of the chassis and engine, to unleash the full effect of the Type R’s lavish sportiness. The steering firms up, the suspension dampers become 30 per cent tauter and the throttle response is sharper. Don’t try it on the road, but it’s capable of 167 mph and can do a 0-62 mph sprint in 5.7 seconds.
It’s an exhilarating car to drive, and it really looks the part too. That big rear spoiler, quad exhaust pipes, flared wheel arches, black detailing and bright red brake discs all shriek ‘I’m racy!’ at you. The cabin is petrolhead heaven, with its extrovert, in-yer-face décor and body-hugging, high-back sports seats.
Keep an eye on your licence
The engine is a twin-turbocharged two-litre teamed with a six-speed gearbox. Find a favourite twisty back road, and the Type R comes alive. It’s an exhilarating drive, hugely responsive and grippy, with brilliant body control and a fizzily tactile quality to the driving experience. You need a constant eye on the speedo, because there’s an eager exuberance about this car that could easily get you into points-totting trouble. It’s also quite raucous with a bass burble from those pairs of exhaust pipes under either side of the tail.
The Type R is priced at a whisker below £30k, rising to £32,295 for the GT version. Standard kit on both includes keyless entry, climate control and cruise control, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and a parking camera. The GT has lots of extra kit including traffic sign recognition, which could be a vital dashboard nanny for keeping your licence clean if you drove one of these!