- Absolutely stunning to drive
- Punchy yet reasonable economy engine
- Full of typical Type R clues to make it feel special
- Noticeable price increase over the previous model
- Only four seatbelts and a sparse rear seat
- Long wait times
Honda’s Type R badge is much-revered in the automotive industry. Only used on a handful of models since 1992 with the first NSX Type R, the most common Type R globally has been the Civic thanks to multiple generations of the Civic Type R, even since the ‘EK’ Civic earned the badge in 1997. Ever since then, Civic Type Rs have gotten larger, more feature-packed and more powerful in moving with the new car industry. The superseded ‘FK8’ Type R was a great car, though unusually for Honda, quite extroverted. Earlier this year, Honda released the latest ‘FL5’ Civic Type R, which is more subtle to look at but has mechanical and aerodynamic improvements to make it even quicker. Is the 2023 Honda Civic Type R the ultimate hot hatch? Let’s find out.
Sub-$100,000 performance cars are unfortunately not as plentiful as they have been in the past, largely thanks to the Australian car industry shutting down, but the Type R proves that the market is still there. It’s more expensive than before – its predecessor was priced from under $60,000 drive away in its final year – but the new model is also more powerful, more modern, more feature packed and a lot better looking.
Price & Equipment: 8/10
While there are three different Civic models on offer in Australia, the Type R is comfortably the most expensive of the range at $72,600 drive away nationally.
2023 Honda Civic Type R standard equipment:
- 19-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S 265/30ZR19 tyres
- Adaptive dampers
- Four selectable drive modes (comfort, sport, +R and individual)
- 19-inch matte black alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S 265/30ZR19 tyres
- Helical mechanical limited-slip differential
- Dusk- and rain-sensing LED exterior lighting
- Automatic wipers with integrated washer jets
- Rear fog light
- Keyless entry and push button start
- Rear privacy glass
- Heated and auto-folding mirrors
- Dual-zone climate control
- Suede seat and steering wheel upholstery
- Alloy gearknob and pedals
- 10.2-inch digital driver’s display
- 9.0-inch touchscreen
- Live services with over-the-air updates
- ‘LogR’ performance monitor
- AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Apple CarPlay
- Satellite navigation
- 10-speaker sound system
- Wireless phone charger
- 2x USB-A ports
The Civic range is yet to be tested by ANCAP, but was rated at five stars by Euro NCAP in 2022 with scores of 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 82 per cent in vulnerable road user protection and 83 per cent for safety assist. Safety equipment includes:
- Eight airbags (including twin front knee units)
- Auto emergency braking (AEB)
- Lane departure warning with lane keep assist
- Lane trace assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Traffic sign recognition
- Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Matrix adaptive high beam
- Intelligent speed limiter
- Driver attention monitoring
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera with three available angles
2023 Honda Civic Type R colour options (all no cost):
- Championship White
- Rally Red
- Sonic Grey
- Crystal Black (on our test car)
For competition, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R will no doubt be cross-shopped against a plethora of hot hatchbacks and sedans, including the Volkswagen Golf R, Hyundai i30 N, Subaru WRX, Cupra Leon, Toyota GR Yaris and GR Corolla, Mercedes-AMG A35 and A45 S, BMW M135i, Audi S3 and RS3 and maybe even the new MG 4 XPower, if straight line performance is what you’re after. In this company, the Type R – despite being priced at over $70,000 drive away – presents good value for money because while it isn’t as cheap as the i30 N, it offers driver feel and point-to-point quickness to rival cars costing significantly more money (and not just hot hatch rivals either but cars like Porsches and Lotuses).
On paper, we think that the closest match to the Type R is the Volkswagen Golf R, which is priced from around $77,500 drive away or just under $5,000 more than the Civic. Like the Civic, it’s a five-door hatchback with a big turbocharged petrol engine, though it does feature a lightning-fast dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive versus the Honda’s manual gearbox and front-drive layout. The Golf R is better equipped than the Type R with a more luxurious vibe, adding leather upholstery, a larger touchscreen and driver’s display, an electric driver’s seat with memory, a premium sound system, heated front seats and tri-zone climate control with rear vents.
Performance & Economy: 9/10
Under the bonnet of the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which was used in the previous shape model but has been improved with features like direct injection and revised induction. Those massages have resulted in improvements of 7kW of power and 20Nm of torque to totals of 235kW (at 6,500rpm) and 420Nm (between 2,600rpm and 4,000rpm) – though, Japanese and European models make 243kW of power, annoyingly. As you’d expect for a Type R, only a six-speed manual is available and power is sent to the front wheels only. Honda claims a 5.4 second 0-100km/h sprint and a top speed of 275km/h – not slow, and only slightly behind the Golf R’s 4.8 second claim to 100km/h as well (and 25km/h faster at the top end).
Codenamed ‘K20C1’, the engine used in the Civic Type R is one of the better turbocharged 2.0-litre units on the market. The actual engine noise isn’t as characterful as the ‘EA888’ used in Volkswagen Group products like the Golf R – it sounds a bit flat in comparison – and the exhaust note is nowhere near as fruity as the i30 N, but noise aside, it’s great. Peak torque lasts from 2,600rpm to 4,000rpm, while peak power hits at 6,500rpm – not far off the Type R’s 7,000rpm redline. While it doesn’t rev as high as the early 2000s legends that the company used to make – the S2000 and ‘DC2’ Integra Type R, for example – it’s noticeably happier to rev to the redline than a lot of rivals. As the numbers suggest, the Type R is bloody quick too, especially at the top end.
The six-speed manual gearbox in the Civic is one of the world’s best ever manual gearboxes, just as you’d expect from a company like Honda. Its shift action is precise and feelsome, yet easy to operate and the alloy gearknob is lovely to use. For those who don’t like throttle blipping when downshift, the Type R will comfortably do it for you and – like most other aspects – it’s excellent at it. We also love the shift lights when in +R mode, which make you feel like you’re behind the wheel of a racing car – and considering the car’s pace and handling ability, you almost are.
Honda claims a combined fuel consumption rating of 8.9L/100km – with CO2 emissions rated at 203g/km – and in our purely urban testing (and not trying to be economical), we achieved 10.6L/100km – the claim for the Golf R is 7.8L/100km, while the i30 N’s claim is 8.5L/100km. The Type R must run on minimum 95RON premium unleaded and features a relatively small 47-litre fuel tank.
Ride & Handling: 9.5/10
While the 2023 Honda Civic Type R’s performance is excellent, its real excellence is its ability to put its power down, how well it strings corners together, how well it involves its driver and yet, how comfortable it is in every day driving. It’s a real testament to Honda’s engineering ability as a company and a great reminder that while much of the new car industry has become all about electric SUVs, sublime driver’s cars like the Civic Type R still exist and still have a market. Overall, the Golf R offers similar cross-country ability – especially with its plethora of driving mode customisation – and an i30 N is ultimately more fun, but the Type R offers more driver involvement than either and it feels like a Porsche or Lotus hot hatch.
Compared to something like the all-wheel drive Golf R, the Type R remains front-wheel drive – which Honda’s non-NSX Type R models have traditionally been since the badge’s inception. This would likely concern some buyers given its strong outputs, but thankfully, you needn’t worry because the Civic Type R is absolutely sublime at putting its power down. Torque steer – a traditional high-power front-wheel drive problem – is seemingly non-existent in this car. Thanks to its combination of grippy PS4S tyres, limited-slip differential and wider tracks than the previous Type R – which was, like the current model, wonderful to drive – the new model is simply unfazed in delivering performance to the pavement.
Its handling ability is simply awesome as well. There’s a good level of steering feel, as well as a lovely quick steering rack, while the chassis balance is great as well – there’s no front-heavy feel that can be shown in some front-drive hot hatchbacks here. Also impressively is its mid-corner punching power that makes it feel like a slingshot when powering out – while we also love just how much feel there is to the driver while doing so. It’s definitely not as playful as an i30 N – the rear stepping out is just not a thing – but for cross-country speed, it’s hard to think of something that would be quicker. Braking power is also sharp thanks to its solid 350mm ventilated front discs with Brembo four-piston callipers.
But equally as impressive as its performance, is the Type R’s excellent comfort on a day-to-day basis. Thanks to its standard adaptive dampers and that its wheels are actually an inch smaller than before (19s versus 20s on the old car), the Type R can easily be used on an every day basis. Its urban ride quality is sublime for something with its sporting prowess, while we also really like ‘Honda Sensing’ suite of active safety kit as well. The lane keeping assistance is nicely tuned, while having adaptive cruise control in a manual is great – looking at you, Hyundai and Subaru!
Interior & Practicality: 8.5/10
We’re big fans of the regular Civic’s interior thanks to its spaciousness, sound ergonomics, good quality and nicely integrated technology and the Type R takes all of that and adds a healthy dose of Type R goodness. Just look at the red suede seats, red carpets, the lovely metal gearknob and the suede steering wheel: this is a cabin that’s set up for the business of driving. The mesh cover for the air vent strip looks great, and the numbered Type R plaque further proves that you’re sitting in something special.
Centre of the Civic’s dashboard is a 9.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, satellite navigation and digital radio. It’s the same unit that’s used in the ZR-V, and it’s very easy to use, quick to respond to touch and its screen quality is reasonable as well, though a Golf R’s screen is much nicer to look at. The 10-speaker sound system is reasonably punchy, though we’d like to see the punchy 12-speaker Bose unit in lower-end Civic models fitted to the Type R.
The 10.2-inch digital driver’s display is good quality and offers a good range of menu options. The standard screen shows up with a Tesla-style lane view with other cars when the cruise control is activated, while putting the car into +R mode adds cool shift lights as well. The Type R’s sports bucket seats are wonderfully supportive too, though don’t offer the adjustment of the Golf R.
The Civic’s cabin is quite practical as well. There’s plenty of space for your trinkets, like big door bins, a large glove box, a big centre box underneath the centre arm rest and big cup holders, while the wireless phone charger underneath the dashboard is large as well, and very handy.
Like the previous-generation Civic, the rear seat is quite roomy for the segment – though, beware, the Type R only has four seatbelts (like its predecessor). Even taller people will fit fine with ample leg- and headroom, while the large windows give good outward visibility as well. There are cupholders where the central seat in the regular Civic would be and some small door pockets, but that’s it for features – the air vents, arm rest, USB ports and map pockets from the Civic hybrid have been shelved in the name of weight saving and speed.
The boot of the Civic Type R measures a healthy 410-litres with the seats up, and 1,212L with the rear seats folded (which exposes an annoying step in the boot floor) – larger than both the Golf R (374L) and i30 N (381L) with the seats up, though not down (Golf: 1,230L, i30 N: 1,287L). The Type R offers the ability to lift the boot floor up and secure a spare tyre, while the parcel shelf is a sliding cover that can be removed – but that’s it for clever features and there’s also no spare wheel.
Service & Warranty: 9/10
Like other new Honda products, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is covered by a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years of roadside assistance. Like the rest of the range, the Type R requires servicing every 10,000km or 12 months (whichever comes first) and five years of servicing costs a very low $995 – though that’s only to 50,000km.
Both Volkswagen and Hyundai cover their cars with the same five-year/unlimited km warranty as Honda, both with 12 months of roadside assistance that’s extended a further 12 months with each dealer service. Like the Honda, the i30 N’s service intervals are once-yearly/every 10,000km, while the Golf R’s intervals are 5,000km longer at 15,000km. Five years of servicing the Golf R costs $3,853 or $770 per service (a pre-paid service plan is available for $3,100 or $620 per service) and the same for the i30 N manual costs $1,675 ($335 per service). Either way, the Civic’s servicing is far less expensive.
The 2023 Honda Civic Type R DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.8/10
There’s no questioning that the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is not a cheap car, especially when its $10,000+ less expensive predecessor used the same mechanicals and is only slightly slower. But after a week with it, we think that there’s also no questioning that this is one of the world’s best performance cars and in that regard, the Civic Type R feels like a bargain. It covers ground at a fearsome pace, yet it’s also quite comfortable, spacious, refined and packed full of features. It’s a true dual personality car with wonderful performance and handling, yet it’s more than comfortable and easy enough to drive every day.
Some rivals offer more – more power, more performance, more differentials for all-wheel drive, more features and more value for money. But precisely none of them are able to offer the combination of pace, space, feedback and a feeling of just automotive engineering at its best. Yep, there’s still a big wait list – what a shock, given its ability – but we think that its ability is worth every second. It’s not cheap, but the Type R is very much worth its pricetag, in our opinion, as it’s just wonderful. Reasonably attainable new cars just don’t get better.