The 2023 Honda Civic Type R is all-new, has a new chassis code (FL5) and is based on the 11th generation Honda Civic hatchback, a car that I like quite a lot. Mind you, it’s not like I hated the old Type R neither. I loved that damn thing, even if it looked like ass and didn’t allow you to customize its drive modes. That car gave me new faith in front-wheel drive cars and proved that it could indeed hold its own against a new crop of all-wheel drive machines. So how’s the new one? Did Honda fix the issues without ruining what’s good? Oh hell yes it did. This thing is fantastic.
Finally Some Good Looks
Perhaps the biggest news for the sixth-generation Civic Type R is that it finally gets rid of its boy-racer looks. I mean, it still looks racy and not everyone will appreciate the massive wing that’s sticking out of its hatch, but this is much more toned down and, well, better looking car than the one it replaces.It also looks properly mean now because it’s considerably wider than before. This mad Civic also has a massive mouth where an equally large intercooler can be spotted, a clear sign that something important is hiding underneath its hood. Honda considerably reworked the car’s entire suspension geometry. The adaptive dampers were retuned, the car’s front end was reworked, the chassis is stiffer at key areas and the front and rear tracks grow 25.4 mm and 20.3 mm respectively. This is basically the widest Honda Civic in history.But Honda didn’t stop there. Being the engineer-driven company that it is means it fiddled a lot with the Type R to improve it a key areas. For instance, it may still be powered by the same K20C1 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with VTEC technology, but it now makes a bit more power (315 hp vs 306) and torque (310 lb-ft vs 295). That’s all thanks to a reworked intake manifold, an all-new turbocharger and a revised exhaust system. These tweaks, according to Honda, improve the engine’s response speed as well.And of course, this fabulous engine is still mated to a six-speed manual transmission – read the best manual transmission in the business -, one that Honda also tweaked. Its entire shift mechanism was apparently overhauled for improved precision and feel.There’s also a new, slimmer, S2000-style machined aluminum knob, which looks and feels sublime when you grab it. Honda also shortened the final gear ratio to 3.842 from 4.111 to increase the car’s top speed. And yes, the Civic Type R is still front-wheel drive only. Deal with it.Pricing, to nobody’s surprise, has gone up a bit. The new car now costs $3,815 more than before, kicking off at $51,830 here in Canada including freight. That’s…not cheap.
Urgent, Responsive And Seriously Fast
On paper then, Honda’s tweaks are cool, but I honestly didn’t think I would feel them from the driver’s seat. Honda has a tendency of fiddling with cars, but in the end, the model feels about the same as before. It was the case with all of the Acura NSX‘ revisions over time and the AP2 Honda S2000. They just felt a bit better, but not considerably better.It’s not exactly the case with the new Type R. It feels much better, faster and, more importantly, more alive than before. What I mean by this is that Honda really put in the work to make this a serious driver’s car. In other words, you feel every increment of power being shoved through the front wheels. It all increases the car’s sense of event when driving it fast through a winding road.The 2023 Honda Civic Type R is still very much an act of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Set it to its tamer Comfort setting, and you’d never know it’s hiding more than 315 horsepower behind the firewall. In this mode, the suspension damping is fabulous and the overall feeling of refinement is impressive, albeit the loud tire roll at high speed.Then there’s +R mode and that’s really where the Type R flexes its best muscles. Like before, the entire car stiffens up, hardens its steering wheel, increases the pumped in audio (I personally hate the way it sounds so I turn it off) and basically cranks everything up to 11. And boy does it deliver, even more so than the old car.In +R mode, this thing is so goddamn stiff that if you’re not holding on well to the steering wheel when hitting a bump, you’ll fly straight to the ceiling. The Type R is stiff, but also rock-solid in the sense that you never hear any cracks, squeaks or cabin rattles as you’re plowing down a bumpy road.But by far the greatest upgrade for this new Type R is new Individual mode which finally allows you to individually adjust your settings. Finally! This was a welcome touch considering how bad roads are here in Quebec. I therefore put everything in +R except for the suspension, which I left in Comfort.The Type R is stupid fast around corners, but also massive fun. It simply hooks up to the tarmac, all the time. Hit the accelerator while that steering wheel is turned and, no, it won’t plow forward. It’ll turn, like a rear-wheel drive car. That’s the magic of the Type R, it never feels like it’s front-wheel drive.That is, until you push that gem of an engine to its redline. Then you’ll feel its furious might through the steering wheel from so much going on up front. But man, that engine is relentless. It makes power in ever gear and at any RPM. Stomp it and, yes, there’s a bit of turbo lag, but it doesn’t last long. Once everything starts boiling, the Type R flies! And none of it would be this good if it wasn’t for the absolutely exquisite manual transmission. Clearly, Honda still masters this.Inside, Honda continues the Type R tradition by injecting the Civic’s cabin with a lot of red: on the alcantara seats, which look and feel even better than before, on the carpets, around the dashboard and door cards, on the Honda logo and inside the instrument cluster.It all looks good and when mated to the new Civic’s clean and uncluttered interior design, it feels a lot more grown up than before. Honda goes a bit further by adding an extra gauge layout in the instrument cluster for +R mode. It basically turns into a horizontal tachometer, like in the S2000, with shift lights to tell you when it’s time to grab another gear.The infotainment system is a lot quicker to react now, more pleasing to the eye and quickly connects to wireless Android Auto (in my case). Honda also added a new menu called LogR which lets you record a whole bunch of neat telemetry, like lap times and G-forces. You can then sync it to an app on your phone, and share it with your friends. Neat.I mean, look, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is better in every way, which clearly makes it the best hot hatchback money can currently buy. Ok, fine, there’s that all-new Toyota GR Corolla, which I’m sure is fantastic. And yes, I’m well aware that the Volkswagen Golf R exists and that the Hyundai Elantra N is a darn good car too, even if it’s not a hatch.But here’s my take on it tall: the Elantra N is great, but not Type R great. The Golf R is no longer well put together and its entire ergonomics are shit. And the GR Corolla? Well, it’s tiny, whereas this Civic’s trunk will swallow 700 liters of your gear (versus 510 in the Toyota). Any more questions? That’s why the Type R is the segment queen.
Review of the 2023 Honda Civic Type R by William Clavey
- Extra potent drivetrain
- Handles like there’s no tomorrow
- Does daily driving rather well
- Annoying pumped in audio
- High-speed tire roll
- Not cheap
9.5 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Honda Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]