I'm often that "weird guy" at the office in the sense that I don't share the same taste in cars or car opinions as most of The Drive's staff. I'm not really into old cars, I actually enjoy most SUVs, and I don't lose sleep over the manual transmission's gradual extinction. When it comes to the 2023 Honda Civic Type R, however, I not only agree with most of them, but I'm actively hunting down others who think otherwise just so I can try to convert them into a Civic cultist—or trip them from behind at the very least.
With that kind of introduction, you may be wondering why you should even bother reading any further. You might think this will be some cheesy review where I wax poetic about the red badge's significance in the JDM world or how the Type R is one of those cars that you can't help but turn around and look at after you park.
Not at all. As I previously said, I'm the odd one who focuses on practicality and other tangible aspects that impact a car's ownership experience. Yes, even in something as sporty as the Type R. So I'm going to tell you why my seven days, 600-plus miles, and track time in this pocket rocket solidified the newest Honda Civic Type R as one of the all-time greats.
|2023 Honda Civic Type R Specs
|Base Price (as tested)
|2.0-liter turbo-four | six-speed manual transmission | front-wheel drive
|315 @ 6,500 rpm
|310 lb-ft @ 2,600-4,000 rpm
|24.5 cubic feet
|EPA Fuel Economy
|22 mpg city | 28 highway | 24 combined
|It's everything a hot hatch should be, and then a lot more.
One of the best things about the Type R is that, at the end of the day, it's just a Civic Hatchback on steroids. Nothing more and nothing less. The Type R sits at the top of the Civic range, followed by the Civic Si in terms of performance—though the Si is a sedan and not a hatch—and then the vanilla Civics offered in both body styles.
Despite its likeness to the regular hatch, every single body panel from the A-Pillar to the rear end is exclusive to the Type R. This translates into a car that's 0.8 inches longer, 0.5 inches lower, and 0.6 inches wider thanks to its flared fenders, wider track, and 20-mm-wider 19-inch wheels. Even with its GT3-style rear wing, the result is an athletic and very mature-looking Type R that's an enormous departure from its boyish predecessor.
This carries over inside, as the cabin is more streamlined and pleasing to the eye, though it's all very red, so I hope you love red. A thin row of buttons controls all the HVAC functions, while everything else is relegated to the nine-inch touchscreen mounted atop the dash. A volume knob, home, and return hard buttons remain, making it easy to quickly navigate through system menus. There's a small cluster of buttons left of the shifter, which is dedicated to four driving modes: Comfort, Sport, +R, and my favorite, Individual (more on this later). Lastly, there's a wireless charging pad above the shifter, as well as two USB charging ports and one 12-volt outlet.
Onto the good stuff: Honda's K20C1 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 315 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque from 2,600 to 4,000 rpm. This translates into an amazing 157.8 hp per liter and represents an increase of 9 hp and 15 lb-ft from the previous Type R. The six-speed manual transmission remains one of the highlights of the car, providing endless enjoyment and a mechanical connection that I can only describe as lovely. (Not bad from the guy who doesn't care about the manual's demise, huh?)
Daily-Driving the Honda Civic Type R
First up, city driving. It's easy, it's chill, and you won't find yourself wishing for a softer suspension. Make no mistake, it's a firm ride and that's what you expect from a Type R, but it's not punishing. Steering is firm and communicative but it's not weighed too heavily or artificially, and the same goes for the pedals. Even in the sportiest +R mode, in which the car is stiffest and most reactive, you won't be snapping your passengers' necks every time you accelerate or step on the brakes. The clutch is light and friendly, and you won't curse it during stop-and-go traffic. In the customizable Individual driving mode, I set the suspension and steering to Comfort, but the engine to +R mode, giving me a good balance of comfort and performance.
A long stint on the highway is usually enough to reveal flaws about a car that you wouldn't otherwise notice. In this case, I learned that the Type R is a better long-distance cruiser than I would've given it credit for. During a quick 500-mile round trip from Indy to Detroit, I learned to appreciate the well-damped suspension, quiet cabin, and excellent adaptive cruise control. Again, this is a sporty, economy-ish hatch, so don't expect Mercedes levels of refinement, but it's really good for what it is. Also, as a Big & Tall kind of guy, I expected to arrive pummeled to my destination because of the heavily-bolstered sport seats, but that wasn't the case. The left bottom bolster did dig into my thigh more than I would like, but it wasn't too bad. Despite their hardcore and very red looks, they aren't uncomfortable. But you know what? Shame on Honda for not making them heated.
After several days of running errands, running my teenager to high school (where the car developed a bit of a following from car-loving kids), finding excuses to go on random drives throughout the day, and even the trip up north, I can say that the Type R is civilized and easy to live with. The cabin is a nice place to be, visibility is excellent, ergonomics are great, and it's certainly better around town than the previous-gen CTR. The 19-inch wheels (instead of the old 20s) and bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires play a big role in that.
Tracking the Honda Civic Type R
Earlier this year I went down to Putnam Park Road Course south of Indy to throw down a few laps in the new Type R and experience its built-in data logger/driving coach app called "LogR." It was a lead-follow session, but with Honda factory driver Ryan Eversley in front of me, it was a speedy one. It only took a few laps around the 10-corner, 1.8-mile track to understand what makes the Type R tick. It loves to just get in there hard and be feisty and get thrown around in the tighter corners, but it's also just as happy hanging onto its tail through the really fast, sweeping ones. Of course, 315 ponies won't shove you back against the seat on the straightaways, but this car is all about the corners. The way the power steering cuts the slack out and the wheel becomes extremely precise, how balanced the suspension feels through the corners, and the way the front axle makes torque-steer nearly disappear altogether are admirable.
It's a rev-happy hatch that makes you feel like Scott Dixon at the track, even though you're nowhere close to squeezing 100% out of the car. And then there's the sound. The sound! Close your eyes as you waltz through corners and shift through the gears (please don't actually do this), and you'd really think you're in a big boy race car making big boy race car sounds.
The Highs and Lows
The Civic Type R can be as civil as you want it to be, or it can be a tiny race car. Either way, it's going to make you smile.
Sadly, it only seats four, and I'm not sure why. I know the previous-gen car was also this way, but I wish Honda would've changed that for the second-gen. Also, as I mentioned, no heated seats in a $45,000 car is just awful. Forget about a heated steering wheel. Those two details would make the car a thousand times more livable, especially for those of us in the north.
Honda Civic Type R Features, Options, and Competition
The Type R is offered as a single package priced at $44,890. However, in the case of my tester, it was equipped with the $455 Championship White color, bringing it up to $45,345. It also comes with a Bose 12-speaker sound system, a nine-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless phone charger, dual-zone climate control, auto high beams, suede sports seats, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and road departure mitigation.
The Type R's archnemesis, the 300-hp Toyota GR Corolla, is offered in three variants: Core, Premium, and Circuit Edition, though it's the latter that mirrors the single-trim Type R best. In base Core trim, the Toyota undercuts the Civic by quite a lot, starting at just $36,995, but in the more comparable Circuit guise, that car costs $45,835.
The EPA rates the Type R at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. That's roughly what I observed during my test, especially during the long highway trip which returned 27.6 mpg.
Value and Verdict
It's easy for an automaker to hype up a car. Give it a big wing, some extra horsepower, and take tons of photos and videos of it at race tracks across the world making lots of noise. What's not easy, however, is to give a car a soul. That takes time, knowledge, and lots and lots of patience. It takes not rushing a car out the door to meet some product cycle, but keeping it under wraps until it's *chef's kiss*. That's what Honda has done here.
See, I'm a practical guy, which is why the Civic part of this equation speaks to me. It's a hatchback, it's got a big trunk, it's practical, and it's comfortable. But I'm also a car enthusiast and a former kart racer, which is why the Type R of the equation speaks my love language. I love the manual, the exhaust sound, the grip, and yes, even that wing. I can confidently say that the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is truly all that and a bag of chips.
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