Hot hatches are, sadly, a scarcity in the USA. Where slight-sized spicy hatchbacks are popular the world over for their agility, feel-good factor, and sheer driver engagement, Americans seem to prefer more traditional sports cars, along with SUVs and trucks. Fortunately, the few hot hatches we do get stateside are particularly good, with the Honda Civic Type R having set the standard for what these cars are supposed to be. Traditionally, the Volkswagen Golf GTI has been one of a few rivals vying for that honor, but the playing field has recently gotten even hotter. Toyota's GR Corolla is one of the main competitors to the Honda Civic Type R, and the two Japanese marques are likely to provide quite a showdown. The latest Type R brings a more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged VTEC engine to the fray, making 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Naturally, it has a six-speed manual - enthusiasts wouldn't have it any other way. But is the most powerful production Honda in the US still the one to get in the segment?
The all-new Honda Civic Type R hatchback is entirely updated for 2023, with improvements made to power, performance, and aesthetics. Touted as the most powerful Honda production vehicle to be sold here, the Type R gets updated looks which include a new vented aluminum hood, larger grille opening, new bumper designs, a revised rear spoiler with aluminum stanchions, and a fresh diffuser. It's also lower, longer, and wider than before.
Gearheads will be focused on the changes under the metal, though, where a more powerful version of the K20C1 engine lies waiting. Outputs are improved, there's a redesigned turbocharger, better airflow, a more efficient exhaust system, a larger radiator, and an enhanced six-speed manual transmission. The whole body structure is more rigid for improved dynamics and a more refined ride, aided by a longer wheelbase. Retuned suspension and enhanced brake cooling hint at the intentions behind the Type R.
Interior changes include a lower driver's position, new lightweight sport seats, a new digital instrument cluster, a larger-than-ever nine-inch color touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an updated version of the Honda LogR Performance Datalogger with a built-in vehicle app.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The whole point of the Civic Type R is the drive, so we'll happily wax lyrical about its inherent brilliance in this department. While other hot hatches claim sleeker looks or fancier interiors, the Type R aims for one thing: to be a car that drivers enjoy driving. There's a reason it's been hailed as the class leader for so long, and the all-new version comes with greater body rigidity, enhanced suspension, and upgrades to the braking system to ensure it remains in the top spot. A helical limited-slip differential works to lay down the power effectively, and the longer wheelbase smooths out the ride nicely. Despite directing all its power to the front wheels alone, the dual-axis strut front suspension does a fantastic job of reducing understeer, while stability is superb. The steering is responsive at only 2.11 turns lock-to-lock, and the hatch expertly keeps understeer at bay.
The 315-hp turbo-four provides exciting acceleration, and the car's involving nature is buoyed by the six-speed manual that rewards you with a positive shift action, even when used in anger.
What this all translates to is a wild and exciting car when you want it to be that handles corners with utter confidence, and a comfortable cruiser when you're dealing with the daily commute.
The Type R has a storied past and carries the weight of the expectations of a whole generation of gearheads who believe it's an icon of pure driving pleasure. And it meets those expectations without a fuss. With the engine tweaked for more power and the suspension tuned for even better handling, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is not a car that will let you down. Sure, it's purposed to provide fun and an engaging drive, but it also excels at being 'just' a car. The Honda Civic Type R gets a good safety review, is reliable, packed with safety features, and boasts updated infotainment for user-friendliness; there's also ample space in the trunk, and while you can only seat two in the rear, it'll do the school run just as brilliantly as it will thrill you on track. It's worth the price asked of it, despite some rivals costing substantially less.