The Type R won't have any issues finding keen drivers.
It took decades for Honda to finally bring its legendary Type R badge to the US market, and now we get our second taste of it with the 2023 Honda Civic Type R. This latest version is based on the 11th-generation Civic that we loved in both base and Si configurations. As with the previous model, the Type R is only available on the hatchback body style, pitting it against some fierce new competitors that weren't around when the 10th generation launched, including the Toyota GR Corolla, VW Golf R, and the sedan-shaped Hyundai Elantra N.
Honda means business with this new Civic Type R, so the car gets an updated K20C1 engine under the hood producing 315 horsepower; that makes it the most powerful car Honda has ever sold in the US (the NSX was badged as an Acura). With so much power on tap, the Type R looks in a good position to challenge the aforementioned rivals, on paper at least. But what it needs to do is more than boast bigger numbers - it needs to drive like a hot hatch king. To find out if it lives up to this requirement, CarBuzz traveled to Sonoma, California, to get acquainted.
The 11th-generation Civic dials back the wacky styling of the 10th-generation, a car that gave the US a sampling of the Honda's bolder European design. Enthusiasts who wear their hats sideways may not enjoy this more "adult-like" Type R, but we think it looks great in person. This new model is 0.8 inches longer, 0.5 inches lower, and 0.6 inches wider than the one it replaces. Visually, this creates the impression of aggression without resorting to unnecessary vents and wings that make it look more like a Gundam than a hot hatch.
Color choices are limited to five, but only Crystal Black Pearl and Rallye Red cost you nothing extra. Boost Blue Pearl, Championship White (a Type R exclusive), and Sonic Gray Pearl all add $395.
Though the exterior is more mature, there are still plenty of outrageous go-fast bits, including a vented hood, 19-inch matte black wheels, and a large rear wing. Buyers can also opt for a few dealer-installed accessories like a carbon fiber wing for $2,250 and forged grey wheels for $3,100. We happen to prefer the forged units to the stock wheels, and they are 5.3 pounds lighter per corner. The carbon also looks great, but is expensive, and something not many people will notice.
This is the most powerful Type R yet, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder shelling out 315 hp and 310 lb-ft. Those metrics are up by nine and 15, respectively. Honda achieved this increase courtesy of a larger turbocharger. Meanwhile, a larger air opening keeps the engine cool even after an intense track day. Honda hasn't quoted a 0-60 mph time but says the top speed is a blistering 170 mph. The Type R has also set a front-wheel-drive lap record at Suzuka and may soon do the same at the Nurburgring.
All that boosted grunt goes out to the front wheels via a six-speed manual with the single best shifter available on the market. Rowing through the gears is a pure delight thanks to crisp engagement, a short throw, and flawless rev-matching that's 10% quicker than the outgoing Type R thanks in part to a lighter flywheel. While making this new Type R more powerful, Honda also listened to complaints about the previous model and added a new active valve in the exhaust. Some sound is pumped in via the speakers, but the result is a more audible engine note.
Our first day in the Type R was split between rainy back roads and a soaked Sonoma Raceway. We could tell from the street time that the Type R remains the most livable car in its segment, with the standard adaptive suspension that eats up bumps in Comfort mode. Power is prodigious, meaning it's easy to spin the front wheels when the pavement is wet. Honda still delivers the sharpest, most precise steering of any front-drive car with a playful chassis that communicates back to the driver.
We attempted to brave the wet track to discover how well the car could handle such an environment, but the only limits we found were our own as the car pushed wide and lost grip on the slick track. In conditions like these, we'd rather have the GR Corolla with its trick all-wheel-drive system. The Type R's deficit in the number of driven wheels, plus the fact that the standard Michelin PS4S tires disagreed with the cold and wet weather; we'd love to test them in full summer conditions for a clearer picture.
Fortunately, California was sunnier on day two, resulting in a far more informative track drive on the optional Cup 2R track tires. Most people won't opt for the track rubber when they cost $450 per tire, but they pay dividends when equipped.
With the Cup 2s installed, we felt no fear chucking the Type R into corners. The mechanical limited-slip differential does an excellent job of allowing you to put the power down early without torquesteer and the Brembo brakes deliver plenty of stopping power even after an all-day track stint. We particularly love the rev-matching, which eliminates the need for heel-toe downshifts, but for drivers that want that layer of engagement, it can be configured via the Individual driving mode, which also lets you tailor the engine, steering, suspension, and exhaust to your liking.
That's joined by Comfort, Sport, and +R. +R creates the most aggressive experience with the sharpest engine response, lowest steering assist, loudest engine sound, and fastest rev match.
The Type R's cabin shares an overall layout with the regular Civic but with some clear differences, including the most obvious change: the seats. Honda says the Iconic Red Recaro buckets sit lower than the ones in the previous Type R and are 7% lighter. These seats hug the front occupants perfectly on a track but are still comfortable for a long trip.
Strangely, the Type R doesn't get the red vents from the Civic Si, but it does receive matching red carpets, seatbelts, trim, and a metal shift knob. As for the back seats, they are finished in black and offer 1.2 inches more legroom than the previous model. Sadly, there are only two sets of seatbelts back there, limiting the car to four occupants.
Honda only sells the Type R in one configuration with all the technology as standard. This includes a nine-inch touchscreen with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, a wireless charging pad, and a digital gauge cluster with +R mode. The Type R also includes Honda Sensing as standard with safety tech such as adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.
Honda only offers the Civic Type R one way: well-equipped. It starts at $42,895 (plus a $1,095 destination charge), placing it right alongside the comparably-equipped GR Corolla Circuit Edition ($42,900). But Toyota also offers a cheaper Core model for $35,900, which can be specced with much of the same equipment at just $38,350.
Though neither is technically a hot hatch, the Hyundai Elantra N and Kona N provide similar driving enjoyment starting at just $32,650 and $34,700, respectively. Meanwhile, the AWD Volkswagen Golf R is the most expensive, with a $44,290 starting price.
In today's market, these prices are merely suggestions (that's what the S in MSRP means), so exact pricing will be subject to availability and how well you know your Honda dealership. The Type R will be in hot demand and supply not abundant, so we imagine the dealer markups will be steep.
The 2023 Civic Type R is a stupendous driver's car and Honda deserves to be commended for building such an enthusiast-focused machine. Unfortunately, we could say the very same about Hyundai and Toyota with their N and GR vehicles. Choosing between these brands will be a tough decision for car enthusiasts, as the Civic Type R, GR Corolla, and Elantra N each offer something unique that sets them apart from the others.
The Civic is the most comfortable, the most powerful, and the most practical of the bunch with the best manual shifter of any car on the market. Hyundai delivers the lowest base price, a sedan or SUV body style, and an exhaust note that can rival a supercar, while Toyota is the only option to offer an AWD system that can send 70% of the power to the rear wheels, giving it a completely different character than its core rivals.
If everyday use is of the utmost concern, we'd lean heavily towards the Type R, but we can honestly say that there are no wrong choices in this segment. The new Type R is better than ever.