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Honda Civic Type-S

Date: 19 October 2006   |   Author: Tristan Young

Category: Lower medium
Prices: £15,250-£18,950
Key rival: VW Golf

Choosing a three-door car makes a statement. It says I'm still young, fun-loving and don't have kids.

Picking a five-door car says the opposite. That's why Honda and other carmakers have recently designed their five-door small family hatches to look like three-door cars.

Civic Type-S

However, this subterfuge isn't enough for Honda. Its marketing gurus have shown there is a group of user-choosers that won't be fooled by this, and so the Japanese firm is building a three-door version of the car.

In the main, this is because the hot Type-R version is a big seller and will account for most three-door Civics when it goes on sale at the start of next year (Honda estimates 5000 registrations), but within the business car market the diesel will be the biggest seller, with Honda expecting to shift 2500 units in a full year.

Honda is aiming to steal sales from those who would otherwise buy a diesel three-door VW Golf.

To achieve this, Honda has given the three-door car a stiffer, lower suspension set-up, and a body kit that's not available on the five-door car.

Aside from these changes, what you get is regular Civic - although regular is not how you'd describe any Civic next to its rivals. The three-door Type-S has same futuristic instruments with digital speedo, wrap-around dash and the same great boot space (485 litres) with clever folding rear seats.

The suspension changes make a marked improvement on how the Civic drives. As well as the car feeling more secure on twisty roads, the stiffer suspension also has the effect of improving the car's steering response, meaning it seems more eager to turn into a corner.

However, as with the five-door, the steering still lacks the feel you'd get with a Ford Focus. And the gearbox is also unchanged, so shifting gears is still overly notchy.

What is also likely to remain unchanged from the five-door is the rivals-beating costs. Although official figures aren't out yet, Honda has a reputation for beating the competition. The fuel figures, which are official, back this up: the 2.2 diesel Civic comes in at 54.3mpg - 5mpg ahead of its rivals.

But the question remains: why doesn't Honda make the suspension changes for the 3-door available on the five-door, given the five-door looks nearly identical? A sportier drive would attract even more business sales than in the Type-S.