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2023 Honda Civic Type R review (video)

Honda's new kind of the 'Ring goes for a neater look, packs more power than ever

This is the quickest front-wheel drive production car to ever lap the Nurburgring. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the 2023 Honda Civic Type R. But let’s dig deeper to find out if that sole credential is good enough to win your business.

Type R models by Honda are a special breed. They aren’t just a sporty sticker pack with sparkly wheels and spiffy spoilers. Type Rs are serious business. It’s a unique, hardcore class of vehicle that Honda produces only on special occasions.

2023 Honda Civic Type R: Specifications

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 235kW@6500rpm / 420Nm@2600-4000rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 19×9.5, 265/30
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1406kg
Power-to-weight: 5.98:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 8.9L/100km
Our consumption: 9.3L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 47L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 26.40kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.58 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.86 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.82 seconds*
1/4 mile: 14.49 seconds at 167.3km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.133g*
100-0km/h braking: 35.01m in 2.68 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.306g*
Decibel at idle (/sport mode): 54/57*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 86*
Starting price: $72,600

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Honda Civic Type R: How much does it cost?

This is where the market might get a bit angsty. Honda Australia is selling the new Civic Type R with a manufacturer’s list price of $72,600 (excluding on-roads). That’s a lot, obviously. Why is it so much?

There are a number of factors, we think. The first is purely about industry trends. Everything is going up in price at the moment. A base Toyota Corolla hatch retailed from $23,895 only three years ago, in 2020. Now, a base model is $29,270. That’s a price hike of just over 20 per cent. The previous-gen Honda Civic Type R, in 2020, was $54,990. That’s a difference of about 30 per cent against today’s price.

The other main reason is because the latest-gen Civic has moved itself up a class. Officially it sits in the small premium car segment with the likes of the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class, according to VFACTS figures. Is it a more premium model? To some degree, yes.

2023 Honda Civic Type R: Interior & packaging

Open the front door and you’re welcomed by a surprisingly spacious interior. Particularly in the back. Legroom has got to be near the top of the class, and even though there is no middle seat in the Type R the very low driveline tunnel hump helps to increase the perception of space and airiness.

Up front, the trademark red-trimmed sports seats are splendid. They hug you in place with the support and warmth of your mum welcoming you home after a long time away. You also sit very low and hunkered down, with a perfect driving position thanks to a wide range of adjustment from the seat and steering column.

Honda’s latest 9.0-inch touch-screen offers wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, digital radio, in-built sat-nav with over-the-air map updates, and is connected to an eight-speaker sound system. The stereo is decent but not fantastic, and the touch-screen layout is very user-friendly.

The main apps are spread in a grid layout so it’s easy to find the program you’re after, even while driving, and there is a bit of colour splashed onto some folders to help separate the different sections. Look, it’s not the most advanced touch-screen out there but I really like it purely because it is so simple and quick to grasp; it’s better than having an overly complex system, in my opinion.

Much of the dash and console are constructed of hard plastic, which is normal, but it’s clear to see Honda has tried to push the envelope in terms of applying touches of sophistication and simplicity to the new model. The mesh grille that runs across the dash is mostly fake in terms of having anything behind it, however, it blends in to conceal the climate vents in a rather appealing way. The little joysticks for the vent direction are a nice addition as well.

Boot space is rated at 410 litres, or 1212L with the rear seats folded down. That’s down slightly from 414L in the previous Type R. A pull-across security blend comes in handy as it allows you to cover precious items yet it rolls up without a hassle. It’s also way less bulky and cumbersome than some conventional shutter blinds. There is no spare wheel under the floor, only a repair kit.

2023 Honda Civic Type R: Powertrain & handling

This is where the Civic Type R really shines. Honda’s latest-generation Civic is already a great driver’s hatch that offers excellent ride and compliance with engaging steering. So, for Type R engineers, this must have been a great head-start.

Drivers can select between various driving modes, including two suspension modes for the adaptive dampers. In the default Comfort mode the ride is firm, but forgivable mainly because it handles so darn well. Over very scrappy country roads the ride can get jittery, which causes some rattles arise from the cabin fixtures.

However, in all other conditions the ride quality is good. It feels sporty yet it can withstand impacts from minor potholes and other random imperfections in the road surface. An area that I think really stands out is the suspension’s ability to manage bumps during hard cornering.

You can come hot into a corner on a mountain road, hit a nasty mound in the surface, and the Type R catches it and absorbs the compression without upsetting the balance or vehicle trajectory. It’s incredible. And this is where you start understand how it achieved the Nurburgring record; a circuit that’s notorious for featuring bumps and jumps.

The Type R sits low to the ground, it’s hard to imagine any wheel travel at all. But, somehow, there is. The wheels compress right up into the arches. In fact, it seems to manage the bigger and more sudden bumps better than the smaller, initial jolts.

Flick it into +R mode and the car becomes almost undriveable on poorly-maintained roads. It bounces its way along such surfaces. Although the suspension doesn’t ‘crash’ or bang on sudden bumps, it does throw you about a fair bit (see our POV video below).

Hit up some smooth surfaces though, such as a race track, and it all makes sense. Because this thing absolutely flies around corners, with utter stability and focus, like it’s nailed to the road. There is essentially no body roll or lean. You point it and it darts straight to where you want to go.

Part of that exceptional handling is down to the fat tyres. The Type R comes with 265/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 4Ss, front and back. These are the widest tyres we’ve ever seen on a front-wheel drive hot hatch. And they grip up extremely well around corners.

In terms of acceleration, we weren’t able to match Honda’s 0-100km/h claim of 5.4 seconds. On a private road with our Vbox, the best we could manage was 5.86 seconds. On a properly-prepared surface we think it could achieve much quicker results. The Type R does feature a launch control system, however, we found quicker times without it.

Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbo VTEC four-cylinder that roars out 235kW at 6500rpm, and an impressive 420Nm between 2600-4000rpm. It’s not a peaky engine, as you can see, but it can be revved high – not as high as some of the early Civic Type Rs that could scream to 9000rpm.

The torque is what really comes in handy, because it means you can enjoy a fast, spirited mountain road drive without absolutely thrashing it. Instead, leave it in third gear and use that low-end pull for sling-shot corner exits.

The gearshift is wonderful, too. It feels mechanical and smooth, with a firm hydraulic-like engagement for each gear. Likewise, the clutch grab-point is well communicated, with a nice weight to the pedal force that’s not too light or too heavy and tiring. This is a manual you’ll want to drive all day long.

Honda has finally equipped the Type R with an exhaust system that produces a note. It is only a faint bass undertone but there is a note there. Higher up in the revs, that low-end bass is soon overpowered by a Honda-like roar.

From inside, unfortunately, there is fake sound coming through in Sport and +R modes. This is a shame as it really doesn’t need artificial enhancement. Just leave it, Honda. Or have a separate button so we can switch it off.

2023 Honda Civic Type R: Key attractions/reasons to buy

Track performance. That’s the main reason. It is an astonishingly capable hatchback. I wouldn’t be surprised if it could post quicker lap times than some quite serious sports cars around any circuit. The handling and steering is so accomplished and perfected, it’s difficult to criticise.

The engine produces class-leading power for a front-wheel drive, which is an attractive attribute on its own, and the gear shift is to die for. It’s also great to hear a decent exhaust note.

The other main attraction in our view is the interior. It’s made up of trademark Type R characteristics – such as those awesome red sports seats – blended with quality touches and a neat yet premium design. It’s also one of the most spacious cabins in its class.

2023 Honda Civic Type R: Key considerations before you buy

The ride can be unforgiving. If you leave it in Comfort mode and if you’re used to sports cars and hot hatches, then this is a non-issue. But +R mode is best left for the track or really nice mountain passes or coastal routes.

Obviously the price is going to be a concern for anyone looking to buy a hot hatch in the typical $50-60,000 price regioin. You do get a lot of car for your money here, but $72,600 is still very high nonetheless. For example, an Audi S3 Sportback starts from $71,800, and that offers a more traditional luxury experience yet offers great all-weather, all-conditions performance. Likewise, the new Toyota GR Corolla offers superb driving dynamics and fun, and all-wheel drive, yet it’s about 10 grand cheaper.

In the end, this is a car for serious driving enthusiasts. You can take this to track days and even compete in club motorsport – and probably win – but it can also be driven on the road while offering good comfort and amenities.

2023 Honda Civic Type R: Video

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Handling
  • X factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

This is a special occasion car. It’s designed for driving, particularly sporty or track driving, and it is utterly brilliant at it. But it’s not for everyone; the ride is firm and the price is out of reach for traditional hot hatch buyers.

Brett Davis

Brett started out as a motor mechanic, but eventually became frustrated working on cars that weren't his. He then earned a degree in journalism and scored a job at Top Gear Australia back in 2008, and then worked at Zoom/Extreme Performance magazines, CarAdvice, and started PerformanceDrive/PDriveTV in 2011 with Josh Bennis, and ran it for 12 years. He's now the owner and managing editor here at Driving Enthusiast.

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