Today I spent the best part of it out and about on the road. To do this I had to borrow a company car, which was OK as I first thought. It turned out I was getting a nice 04 Honda Civic, not bad.
I’ve always admired the new shape Civic since it’s debut in the BTCC, in particular the TypeR version, in fact I’ve often thought about getting one. But after spending a few hours behind the wheel I’m not so sure.
Ok I’ll start off there is nothing wrong with the car, in fact it was quite a good car to drive. Given the size it was very spacious inside, even with 4,000 vacuum pouches in the boot and backseat (the real reason for my trip) and the handling was nice and controlled but my real problem was with the gearbox; an automatic!
I’ve never really driven an automatic car for any distance, I’ve never owned one and to be honest I’ve never seen the appeal for them. Since my early ‘boy racer’ days I’ve always liked the ability to drop a cog and nail the machine, hey it’s the kid inside me. But today I had to change tack and learn a new way to drive.
First off where the hell do I put my leg, just starting the car felt weird. I always press the clutch before starting the engine, but now I’ve no where to put it other than a nice foot rest on the left hand side which I spent most of the day trying to push through the floorboard. After a few miles down a country road I was getting used to this strange feeling of driving with one foot; I still went for the gear stick to change down at corners. But soon I was in for my first shock, the road I was on joined a major road and it was one of those really harsh slip roads where you just have to put your foot down and join the flow of traffic and get up to speed as quickly as possible. Not with this car, you sink the pedal, you get a lurch, then you just sit and wait for the traffic to rear end you as the car is still deciding what gear is best, being a Honda I’m sure it had some environment saving decisions to make in the process, all the time that lorry behind is getting bigger and bigger. Eventually it decided on a gear and were off, for a bit then it changes again. Whoops there is a slight incline so it steps down a gear, no wait too much revs, so we change up. By this time I’m feeling quite sea sick from the journey and I’m sure it is wasting more fuel and time than a manual.
I can see distinct advantages to a automatic gearbox; motorway driving is a breeze you just sit there and not worry about anything. Hill starts are great; I never stalled the car once. Of course oral sex whilst driving is a reason in itself is a must but I thought it best not to try that one out today. But when you get into a urban environment I was back on the kangaroo motion. Pull away two quick changes and the car was still not sure what gear we should be in. Every traffic light, roundabout and junction was an adventure that just left me feeling crushed by the seatbelt. With all of this in mind it really put me off trying to overtake anything on the road, I had visions of getting half way past that lorry and the car having a another quick think about what gear was best then changing leaving me with no acceleration or not enough power to get past.
In the poor Honda’s defence it was only the 1.6litre version and I’m sure bigger engines would have no problem, look at the Merc SLR, automatic and unbelievable performance.
Gearbox aside I did enjoy the car, it was a funky little thing to drive around, the idea of the
hatestick gearstick in the centre of the dash is pretty cool, giving you a lot more room between the seats. The dash board itself was great and the dials are a glowing testiment to Japanese motoring but there was just a bit too much funk and plastic bolt on bits to make it feel secure.
All in a good car, not a good gearbox but it has helped me decide one thing, I’m not swapping in my Audi for a TypeR.