The verdict: The 2023 Honda Civic Type R capitalizes on the benefits of the mainstream Civic’s new-for-2022 platform and retains all of what made the previous-generation Type R great, while dialing back its aggressive exterior styling.

Versus the competition: The new Type R debuts with more close competitors than its predecessor had. The Hyundai Elantra N, Toyota GR Corolla and Volkswagen Golf R are key rivals, track-focused compact cars that offer manual transmissions and horsepower ratings in the ballpark of the Civic Type R — and all of them are similarly exciting to drive.

American enthusiasts rejoiced when Honda saw fit to bring its top-performance Civic Type R model to the U.S. for the 2017 model year. Prior to that, the Civic Type R was forbidden fruit, offered in select foreign markets from 1997 but never available in North America. When the ‘17 Civic Type R finally launched here, however, its hyper-aggressive exterior styling gave many shoppers pause.

Related: 2023 Honda Civic Type R Price Clocks in at $43,990

Though it might have looked like a vehicular extra from the first three “Fast and Furious” movies, the 2017-21 Civic Type R’s outlandish, boy-racer looks covered a finely honed track machine with an astutely tuned chassis and smooth, strong turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Type R offered racetrack-ready performance with a livable character in everyday driving, and even came with a few upscale interior touches that gave it a classier vibe than your everyday Civic.

The Type R took a one-year breather when the Civic was redesigned for the 2022 model year, and it returns on the car’s new platform for 2023. The basic concept stays the same: front-wheel drive, a four-door hatchback body style and lots of high-performance hardware. At Honda’s invitation, I drove the new Civic Type R on the road in California’s Napa Valley area and briefly on the track at Sonoma Raceway. (Per our ethics policy, pays for its own airfare and lodging when attending such manufacturer-sponsored events.)

Upgrades Under the Hood

Like the previous-gen Civic Type R, the new one is powered by Honda’s K20C1 turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but the engine gets a few noteworthy upgrades. The turbocharger is new, the air intake flow rate has been increased, and a new active-valve exhaust system increases exhaust flow by 13% over the previous-gen Type R. The result is 315 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 310 pounds-feet of torque from 2,600-4,000 rpm (improvements of 9 hp and 15 pounds-feet over the previous Type R). Engine cooling has also been improved via a larger front bumper opening, larger radiator and larger-diameter cooling fan.

As before, the engine is paired exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission — an automatic is not offered. Honda says the flywheel is 18% lighter than before, reducing rotational inertia, sharpening engine response and enabling quicker engine rev matching from the automatic rev-matching system.

Girded Loins

The basic Civic body structure receives a few rigidity-improving measures for Type R duty. Honda says it used 3.8 times more structural adhesives in critical areas and implemented structural enhancements in various components of the body and chassis architecture.

The car’s track is 1 inch wider in front and 0.75 inch wider in back than the previous Type R, and the wheels and tires are a bit wider, as well: lightweight 19-inch alloys fitted with unique Michelin Pilot Sport 4S P265/30R19 tires. (Honda Performance 19-inch forged-alloy wheels and track-focused Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are available accessories.) The brakes have been upgraded to Brembo 13.8-inch two-piece rotors with four-piston calipers up front and 12-inch rotors in back. Honda says brake cooling has been improved through increased airflow through the front end.

Handling-focused suspension revisions include stiffer spring rates and larger, stiffer stabilizer bars front and rear. An adaptive suspension system automatically adjusts damping based on driving conditions and drive-mode selection.

On Track and Street

Uncharacteristically rainy weather in California on the day of the press event meant we were unable to push the Type R close to its limits at Sonoma Raceway, but we nonetheless got a decent sampling of its capabilities. Though wet pavement occasionally showcased the traction limitations of pushing 315 hp through the front wheels, the Type R is a ferociously capable cornerer and tenacious performer all around that remains livable in street driving despite its track-focused enhancements.

The Type R has four driver-selectable modes (Comfort, Sport, Plus R and a customizable Individual setting) that alter engine response, steering assist, suspension damping, engine sound, rev-match speed and the digital gauge cluster. In Comfort mode, the suspension is acceptably compliant over rough pavement and most bumps. The Plus R mode is best reserved for racetracks and pristine roads; it significantly stiffens the suspension and amplifies the car’s snarky character. In any driving mode, the brakes supply impressive, confidence-inspiring stopping power.

High-performance turbocharged four-cylinders aren’t typically low-end torque monsters — they need higher engine rpm for the turbocharger to spool up and provide boost for truly strong acceleration. By these standards, the Type R does exceptionally well: It pulls smoothly and strongly from relatively low rpm, and the turbo’s boost arrives in a steady, predictable-but-still-exciting fashion, accompanied by a raspy snarl from the exhaust that’s music to enthusiast ears.

The manual transmission is also a delight. It’s agreeable and easy to use thanks to a smooth, progressive clutch pedal and an excellent short-throw shifter with a precise, mechanical action. However, I wasn’t thrilled with the egg-shaped shift knob — the more traditional ball-shaped knob of the previous Type R felt more natural in my hand and easier to grip firmly. Honda offers an accessory leather-wrapped shift knob; I might opt for that instead.

Selecting the Plus R drive mode switches the digital gauge panel from traditional analog-style tachometer and speedometer dials to a racecar-style display with a horizontal tach and a prominent gear-position readout. There are also separate shift-indicator lights above the gauge cluster that illuminate progressively as the engine nears its redline. When it’s time to downshift, the rev-matching system automatically blips the throttle for smooth gear changes. (You can turn this feature off if you’re better at heel-and-toe shifting than I am.)

Speaking of performance displays, the Type R’s updated LogR Performance Datalogger system should delight the track-rat crowd. It’s now a stand-alone app (no smartphone is required) and boasts a plethora of digital gauges, including a G-meter display, engine oil temperature and pressure, intake air temperature, turbo boost pressure, steering angle and accelerator opening angle, to name a few. Also included are a stopwatch for recording lap times, integrated track maps for notable race courses across the country and even an “Auto Score” function that generates a driver score based on the smoothness of their acceleration, braking and steering.

Seeing Red Inside

The Type R’s interior gets several performance-themed trim touches, such as red carpeting, contrast stitching and seat belts; faux suede upholstery on the front seats, door panel inserts and center console armrest; aluminum pedals; and a serial-numbered Type R badge on the dash. The main upgrades are the aforementioned short-throw shifter and a pair of sport front seats with pronounced bolsters and dual belt pass-throughs (for aftermarket racing-style harnesses). The previous-gen Type R’s front seats struck a near-ideal balance between snugness and support for aggressive driving on a racetrack and livable comfort for everyday driving and longer trips. The new seats offer a similar mix of comfort and support, though they’re a bit tighter on my backside than I remember the previous Type R’s seats being.

Those pronounced seat bolsters complicate entry and exit a bit since you can’t slide over them easily. The Civic also has a fairly low driving position for a mainstream compact car. This enhances the high-performance feel of the Type R but necessitates a deeper drop into the seats and a higher climb out than you might expect. The seats don’t offer any lumbar adjustments or heating, and the integrated head restraints aren’t adjustable.


By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *