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A hot hatch can't possibly be a contender as a company car, right?
However, the world of fleet is changing and never have drivers had more of an influence over the cars that make up fleets then they do today - and when you look at the monthly tax costs of the new Honda Civic Type R, they're not as far away as you'd think.
For £182 a month (20% payer) the Type R is on the same level as a mid-range diesel Audi Q5 and the Volvo XC60, and around £24 a month more than the long-term BMW 5 Series. It's also cheaper than some versions of the new Volkswagen Arteon we reviewed irecently, although these costs are yet to be officially announced.
Yes, these cars sit at the premium end of the scale and are larger, more practical and more economical than the Honda here, but if it's outright pace and driving fun the employee is after, the Type R creates an argument of its own.
It seems like only yesterday we were talking about the 'new' Honda Civic Type R, and in car terms we actually were, since the current generation was only launched two years ago. Regardless, a new model is here and there are a lot of changes this time around.
Over the top looks?
Ok, let's get the elephant out of the room. Depending on whom you're talking to, the new Type R is either pig ugly or a thing of beauty - but one thing it's not is a shrinking violet.
Its extravagant design is one that will be loved or loathed, and the changes over the outgoing model are very clear to see - Honda has gone even more bulky and brash, and you certainly won't miss this car in your local multi-storey.
It's not just the car's appearance that has been radically transformed either - this new model hosts a whole raft of changes. In fact, the braking system, gearbox and engine are the only major parts carried over from the previous Type R, and even those have been tweaked for this latest version.
Is it all show and no go?
Where we could criticise the previous model for being a little wayward and erratic to drive at times, this new car is a far more polished and well-rounded machine. The Type R, with its 2.0-litre 320hp petrol engine under the bonnet, can now reach a top speed of 169mph and will manage 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds (actually a tenth slower than the previous model).
Statistics are less important, though, because the Type R feels very quick indeed when you're sat behind the wheel, quicker than the figures would suggest.
The car's handling is impressively neat on track, where you can really appreciate how much control and grip it offers. The steering is quick and direct, while the lower seating position enables the driver to feel more engaged behind the wheel.
There are three driving modes that can be deployed: Comfort, Sport and R+. The middle Sport is the default setting and all modes make changes to the adaptive dampers, throttle response and steering set-up to suit. Comfort mode is new for this latest model and is the one to pick when you're driving on the motorway, picking the kids up from school or simply fancy driving a 'normal' car to work for a change.
Unlike most of its rivals, the Type R comes with front-wheel drive and is only available with a six-speed manual; neither is a hardship, though, especially the slick manual, which is a joy to use and perfectly matched.
Engine noise is slightly subdued and lacks the characterful gurgles and burps of the Focus RS, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Type R feels and sounds like a far more grown up hot hatch than the Ford or Volkswagen Golf R.
A platform change means the new car is 37% stiffer than the old model; however, comfort levels are surprisingly good. The ride is still very firm, of course (this is a hot hatch after all), but it's a distinct improvement over the previous car and proved comfortable over long stretches of motorway. Even on the cobbled streets around Dresden the car wasn't terrible, despite its larger 20in alloys.
What's it like as a family car?
I think the most surprising thing about the new Type R is just how versatile it is. One minute it's a hot hatch that will tear around corners, the next it's a comfortable(ish) cruiser and practical family hatchback.
Based on the standard Civic, there's an array of storage options around the cabin, including a very useful large central storage compartment, and the boot is a decent 414 litres, too. Leg and headroom will be adequate at a push for adults in the rear, but upfront there's lots of space to stretch out over long distances.
The new sports seats are very comfortable and although interior quality doesn't quite match up to the Golf R, it's a marked improvement and feels built to last. The infotainment system doesn't offer the greatest of quality or ease of use, though, and there are still a few cheaper plastics lurking around the cabin.
That said, the additional styling touches and red inserts for Type R models add some pizzazz to the interior and overall it's a pleasant and characterful place to be.
Does it make sense as a company car?
In a word? No.
However, there are plenty of cars in the company arena that make little sense and yet are allocated a spot on the user chooser list because driver satisfaction is sometimes a paramount priority. Those 176g/km CO2 emissions will be a big issue, though, and insurance costs may also be a stumbling block.
It's not the most polished performer or the best quality inside, and those looks are almost certainly going to divide opinion. However, the new Type R is light-years ahead of the car it replaced and you'll struggle to find a hot hatch more well-rounded than this one. It'll also never fail to produce a smile every time you hit the open road, or if you're lucky enough, the race track.