The judgment: The 2023 Honda Civic Type R takes advantage of the Civic’s new-for-2022 mainstream platform, retaining everything that made the previous-generation Type R great while stripping back its aggressive exterior design.
Against the competition: The new Type R debuts with closer rivals than its predecessor. The Hyundai Elantra N, Toyota GR Corolla and Volkswagen Golf R are key contenders, track-focused compacts that offer manual transmissions and horsepower levels on par with the Civic Type R – and all of them are equally exciting to drive.
American enthusiasts rejoiced when Honda saw fit to bring its high-performance Civic Type R to the United States for the 2017 model year. Before that, the Civic Type R was a forbidden fruit, offered in select foreign markets beginning in 1997, but was never available in North America. When the ’17 Civic Type R finally made its way here, however, its hyper-aggressive exterior styling made many buyers pause.
Related: The price of the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is $43,990
Though it may have looked like a vehicle extra from the first three Fast and Furious movies, the 2017-21 Civic Type R’s outlandish boy racer look capped it off as a finely honed race machine with a smartly tuned chassis and sleek strong Four-cylinder turbocharged cylinder engine. The Type R offered track-ready performance with a livable character in everyday driving, and even came with some upscale interior appointments that gave it a more refined vibe than your everyday Civic.
The Type R took a year-long breather as the Civic was redesigned for the 2022 model year, and returns for 2023 on the car’s new platform. The basic concept remains the same: front-wheel drive, a four-door hatchback body and lots of powerful hardware. At Honda’s invitation, I drove the new Civic Type R on the road in California’s Napa Valley and briefly at Sonoma Raceway. (In accordance with our ethics policy, Cars.com pays for its own airfare and accommodation when participating in such manufacturer-sponsored events.)
Upgrades under the hood
Like the previous generation Civic Type R, the new one is powered by Honda’s K20C1 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, but the engine gets some notable upgrades. The turbocharger is new, the air intake flow has been increased and a new exhaust system with active valves increases exhaust flow by 13% over the previous generation Type R. The result is 315 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 310 pound-feet of torque from 2,600 to 4,000 rpm (improvements of 9 horsepower and 15 pound-feet over the previous Type R). Engine cooling has also been improved with a larger front bumper opening, larger radiator and larger diameter cooling fan.
As before, the engine is coupled exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission – an automatic is not offered. According to Honda, the flywheel is 18% lighter than before, which reduces rotational inertia, improves engine response and allows for quicker engine speed adjustments through the automatic speed adjustment system.
The basic Civic body structure receives some stiffness-enhancing measures for Type-R use. Honda says it has used 3.8 times more structural adhesives in critical areas and implemented structural improvements in various components of the body and chassis architecture.
The car’s track is 1 inch wider at the front and 0.75 inch wider at the rear than the previous Type R, and the wheels and tires are also slightly wider: lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels with unique Michelin Pilot Sport 4S P265/30R19 tyres. (Honda Performance 19-inch forged alloy wheels and trail-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are available as accessories.) Brakes were upgraded to 13.8-inch Brembo two-piece rotors with four-piston calipers up front and 12-inch rotors at the rear. Honda says brake cooling has been improved with increased airflow through the front end.
Handling-focused revisions to the suspension include stiffer spring rates and larger, stiffer anti-roll bars front and rear. An adaptive suspension system automatically adjusts damping based on driving conditions and driving mode selection.
On track and road
The unseasonably rainy weather in California on the day of the press event meant we couldn’t push the Type R to its limits at Sonoma Raceway, but we still got a decent taste of its capabilities. Though the wet pavement occasionally revealed the traction limitations of shoving 315 horsepower through the front wheels, the Type R is a supremely capable cornerer and a tenacious performer that remains livable on the road despite its track-focused improvements.
The Type R features four driver-selectable modes (Comfort, Sport, Plus R and an adjustable Personal Setting) that change engine response, steering assist, suspension damping, engine sound, rev adjust and the digital instrument cluster. In Comfort mode, the suspension is acceptably compliant over rough pavement and most bumps. Plus R mode is best reserved for racetracks and untouched roads; It significantly stiffens the suspension and adds to the car’s snappy character. In any riding mode, the brakes deliver impressive, confidence-inspiring stopping power.
High-performance turbocharged fours aren’t usually low-torque monsters – they need a higher engine rpm for the turbocharger to ramp up and deliver boost for really strong acceleration. By these standards, the Type R performs exceptionally well: it pulls smoothly and strongly from relatively low revs, and the boost from the turbo arrives in a steady, predictable but still exciting manner, accompanied by a raspy growl from the exhaust to which music belongs enthusiastic ears.
The manual transmission is also a treat. It’s pleasant and easy to use thanks to a smooth, progressive clutch pedal and an excellent short-travel shifter with precise mechanical action. I wasn’t keen on the egg-shaped gear knob, though – the previous Type R’s more traditional spherical knob felt more natural in my hand and was easier to grip. Honda offers a leather-wrapped shift knob as an accessory; I might choose to do that instead.
Selecting the Plus R driving mode switches the digital instrument cluster from traditional analogue speedometer and speedometer dials to a race car-style display with a horizontal tachometer and prominent gear position indicator. There are also separate shift indicator lights above the instrument cluster that illuminate progressively as the engine approaches its red line. When it’s time to downshift, the Rev-Matching system automatically applies the throttle for smooth gear changes. (You can turn this feature off if you’re better at heel and toe flipping than me.)
Speaking of performance gauges, the Type R’s updated LogR performance datalogger system is likely to wow the track-rat crowd. It’s now a standalone app (no smartphone required) and features a variety of digital gauges, including a G-meter readout, engine oil temperature and pressure, intake air temperature, turbo boost pressure, steering angle, and throttle opening angle, to name a few. Also included is a stopwatch for recording lap times, built-in track maps for notable circuits across the country, and even an “Auto Score” feature that generates a driver’s score based on the smoothness of their acceleration, braking, and steering.
see red inside
The interior of the Type R receives several performance-related trim elements, such as B. Red carpeting, contrasting stitching and seat belts; Faux suede upholstery on front seats, door panel inserts and center console armrest; aluminum pedals; and a Type-R badge with serial number on the dashboard. The key upgrades are the aforementioned short throw shifter and a pair of sport front seats with pronounced bolsters and dual belt loops (for aftermarket racing belts). The front seats of the previous generation Type R struck a near-ideal balance between coziness and support for aggressive track driving and residential comfort for everyday use and longer journeys. The new seats offer a similar blend of comfort and support, although they’re a bit tighter on my back than I remember the previous Type R’s seats were.
These pronounced seat pads make getting in and out a bit more difficult, as you cannot easily slide over them. The Civic also has a fairly low driving position for a mainstream compact car. This adds to the Type R’s high-performance feel, but requires a deeper dive into the seats and a higher climb than you might expect. The seats offer no lumbar adjustment or heating, and the integrated headrests are not adjustable.