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Review: Honda Civic Type R pickup driven!

  • One-off pickup truck version of 320hp hot hatch
  • Sub-6.0sec 0-62mph, 165mph top speed (theoretically)
  • Enough space for couple of lawnmowers – and it really works

Honda has built itself a pickup truck version of the Civic Type R hot hatch. And we’ve driven it.

Honda Civic Type R pickup – what the…?

Codenamed Project P, the idea started life as an April Fools’ joke. But it seems that the engineers – who are largely based at Honda’s factory in Swindon – had a bit of free time after signing off the latest Type R proper (the FK8, if you’re into official model designations), and the press office saw an opportunity.

Honda Civic Type R pickup review - side view

Shortly after that, a pre-production Type R development hack found itself going under the knife. Although in this case the knife was actually a cutting torch and an angle grinder. Ouch.

Anyway. The result is a fully operational lightweight pickup with a 320hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, and a predicted top speed of 165mph.

Is the pickup exactly the same as the Type R hot hatch underneath?

Largely, yes. It uses the same engine and gearbox, and the same suspension – although we were told that some of the components are in slightly different places (which was throwing up a few warning lights during our drive; the thing had only been finished hours before, so a few non-essential issues were still to be resolved).

Honda Civic Type R pickup review - load area and rear wing

Generally speaking, though, the differences only start showing up from the B-pillar backwards.

Using experts from Honda’s bodywork department taking into account the important structural elements of the car, the rear of the roof has gone completely, and the back seats and boot area have been replaced with a flat load bed large enough for a couple of lanwmowers.

Honda ones, obviously.

Honda Civic Type R pickup review - load space with lawnmowers

Despite this, Honda has managed to keep the Type R’s trademark humongous rear wing, attached to the only remaining portion of the bootlid, which is cunningly hinged to allow access to the load space.

The conversion looks a bit… rudimentary?

The aluminium checker-plate bulkhead behind the remaining front seats is perhaps a little more rustic than we’re used to seeing from a carmaker. But don’t doubt for a minute that this was a fun project, rather than a serious endeavour. It took just four weeks to build the Type R pickup.

A similar project was done with the previous generation Civic Type R, which resulted in a unique Type R Tourer estate car (to the right of the picture below). That build took five weeks, just for context.

Honda Civic Type R pickup review - with Civic Type R Tourer estate

The main thing about this Type R truck is that it really works. Looking for the fastest-possible load hauler and haven’t got the drive space for the enormous Ford F-150 Raptor? Then you’ve probably come to the right place.

What’s the Honda Civic Type R pickup like to drive?

To be clear, we only got to drive it for about 15 minutes during an industry test day at the Millbrook Proving Ground – hardly the most extensive experience. We’re hoping to give it a longer test once it’s been properly road registered, but it will need to pass single vehicle type approval first.

Excuses made, your humble scribe has spent quite a lot of time behind the wheel of the equivalent Type R hatchback, and even a cursory drive is enough to demonstrate that there’s very little obvious difference between this and the way the pickup behaves – at least at the moderate speeds the test day marshals allow.

Honda Civic Type R pickup review - front view

As such, it’s the mega turbocharged engine and the utterly delightful six-speed manual gearbox that really defines the experience – no ordinary light commercial vehicle is ever going to accelerate like this, and with every gearshift a tactile delight, your sense of involvement is really something special.

The Civic Type R hatch is also one of the finest handling front-wheel drive cars you can buy right now. Whether this aspect has quite translated to the pickup we’d hesitate to fully confirm. Certainly, there’s not much bodyroll, and the front end has plenty of grip, but at this point we’re not quite convinced you could really push as hard as you can in the hatchback.

The subconscious sense that surely some of the original vehicle’s structural rigidity must have gone awry was difficult to separate from the rattling noises coming from either the bulkhead or the pair of lawnmowers that were physically demonstrating the practicality of the load area.

Honda Civic Type R pickup review - lawnmowers in the back

Even so, it’s hardly rocket science to suggest that no other pickup is going to see which way you went on a twisting road – just as you’d hardly expect this front-wheel drive platform to be happy hauling a tonne of sand back from the builder’s merchants.

Overall, it’s a hilarious experience – imagine the business you’d get if you had one of these as the work truck for your gardening service. As a promo tool and talking point it’s a brilliant concept. That Honda has had the balls to make the concept such an effective reality should definitely be applauded.

Can I buy a Honda Civic Type R pickup?

Safe to say there are no plans to put Project P into production – so if you really want one, we suggest you buy your own angle grinder and start checking eBay for insurance write offs… 

Also read:

>> Ford F-150 Raptor review: taking high-performance pickups to another level

>> VW Transporter 204hp TSI turbo petrol long-term review

>> New pickups coming soon - and recent launch round up