The Honda Civic Type R has long been regarded as a superb car to drive – but its extroverted looks don’t necessarily have the same universal appeal.

So the conditions were right for an understated version of the R for those who enjoy a sporty drive but don’t want to go overboard on the boy racer vibe.

Enter the Civic Type R Sport Line, which retains the trademark performance but combines it with stealthier design and increased comfort.

Further expanding the Civic Type R line-up, this variant has more discreet aerodynamic styling and a more refined ride.

But don’t be fooled – it’s only ‘understated’ in the context of the Civic Type R. By any other measure, this is still a very bold design that catches the eye and turns heads.

Its sharply-angled bumpers and triple tail pipes are among the many confident design flourishes.

The Sport Line’s most significant departure from the regular Type R is a low-deck rear spoiler instead of the high-level wing, gives the car a less aggressive silhouette.

Salisbury Journal: The Honda Civic Type R on test in West Yorkshire

It still looks like it should be fun to drive – and it certainly is.

The handling is among the best you could wish for, while the acceleration through the gears is mighty impressive.

With a 0-62mph time of 5.8 seconds, the front-wheel drive car doesn’t quite match its four-wheel-drive rivals for off-the-line speed.

But it’s when you get up to speed that it really starts to do its thing, accelerating rapidly through the gears and offering plenty of grunt through the rev range. It really is a blistering and explosive engine once you’ve waited a moment for the turbo to kick in.

With 316bhp on tap and a super-slick gearbox offering quick access to that power, there’s plenty to put a smile on the face. Indeed, the weight and feel of the shift is just right.

The Type R’s agility and road-hugging abilities when cornering briskly are a joy to behold.

It feels beautifully-balanced, well-planted and grippy.

Aiding this feeling of stability is the car’s limited-slip differential, which distributes power to the wheel that’s best-positioned to cope with it.

Meanwhile, accurate and quick steering makes it a real driver’s car.

Salisbury Journal: The Honda Civic Type R on test in West Yorkshire

If a period of relaxed driving is needed, you have the option to click onto Comfort mode, which is really quite refined on the Sport Line version.

There are few hot hatchbacks that ride as well in this mode, with the suspension evening out the worst road imperfections.

Meanwhile, the Michelin Pilot Sports 4S tyres, wrapped around 19-inch alloy wheels, features softer sidewalls that enhance on-road comfort, with noise, vibration and harshness.

Additional soundproofing materials in the boot and tailgate also

In the cabin, the sporty theme is continued through the Alcantara steering wheel, which feels nice to hold, and the deep bucket seats, which give you a nice low-slung and well-secured driving position.

These’s a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and smartphone connectivity, which is perfectly functional but, in truth, nothing special when compared to some rivals.

Salisbury Journal: The Honda Civic Type R on test in West Yorkshire

The red detailing on the steering wheel and dash, combined with the red stitching on the seats and gear lever, give the cabin a bright appearance and a feeling of uniformity.

In conclusion, the Sport Line version of Honda’s hot hatch has opened up the Civic Type R to a new audience of potential buyers with its more reserved manners.

turns down the styling, but does it still deliver the thrill

However, while it turns down the styling, it’s still more than capable of delivering a few driving thrills.

Honda Civic Type R Sport Line

PRICE: £35,950 on the road

ENGINE: 2.0-litre petrol

ACCELERATION: 0-62 mph in 5.8 seconds

MAX SPEED: 169mph

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive

ECONOMY: 33.2mpg combined

EMISSIONS: 193g/km