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2023 Honda Civic Type R Road Test and Review

Brady Holt
by Brady Holt
December 3, 2023
2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

If you went to your Honda dealer and saw a Civic hatchback with a price tag of $43,795, you might think you’re looking at another perverse example of inflation and supply crunches. Actually, you’re looking at the newly redesigned 2023 Honda Civic Type R. 

The Civic Type R enters its second generation (for the U.S. market) with a mix of familiarity and radical change. It remains a high-priced, super-high-performance version of Honda’s entry-level economy car – bringing an upgraded sport suspension, more than 300 horsepower, and a six-speed manual transmission. For this review, we just spent a week testing the redesigned Civic Type R. Keep reading as we discuss the pros and cons of this high-powered Honda so you can see if it’s the right hot hatchback for you. 

Quieter Style

When the Civic Type R first arrived in the U.S. back in 2017, it arrived at a time when even the standard Civic looked pretty wild. Elaborately sculpted, heavily blacked-out front and rear bumpers made the Civic hatchback look angry even with its base 174-horsepower engine. 

Today, the standard Civic (last redesigned for the 2022 model year) wears a quieter design scheme. The details are simpler, with straight lines and fewer swooshes and bulges. And this carries over to a subtler Civic Type R than before. There’s still a big wing spoiler, a trio of big exhaust pipes in the center of the rear bumper, blacked-out wheels, red Honda logos, and a hood scoop. And a larger grille opening helps cool the engine when you’re working it to a boil. But the new Type R looks more like a pleasantly ordinary small car than before, not a small car with a chip on its shoulder. To some folks, its styling has grown too dull; to others, it’s a welcome step toward maturity that broadens the Civic Type R’s appeal. 

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Loud Performance

Don’t let any talk of the Civic Type R’s quieter styling fool you. This hot hatch is still raucously speedy. After skipping the 2022 model year, the 2023 Type R has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque – up from 306 hp and 295 lb-ft in 2021. Every Civic Type R has front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. 

This combination results in a 0-60 sprint of less than 5.5 seconds, with a few reviewers even managing less than 5 seconds flat. The slick-shifting manual is a treat to use, and selectable driving modes customize the throttle responses for either easy acceleration or quicker revs. In addition to Comfort, Sport, and the max-sport +R modes, an Individual Mode lets you customize everything from the suspension to the throttle to the exhaust note. Honda reports 486 total possible combinations, and you can quickly summon your saved favorite. Some folks will wish Honda offered some form of an automatic transmission, either for quicker shifts or for everyday ease of use. But plenty of drivers will be glad for the old-school charms of a well-executed manual. Overall, this is a fast car that’s fun to drive fast.

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Incredible Handling Limits

The Civic Type R’s driving fun continues with its handling. Every Civic has crisp steering and engaging handling, but the Type R goes further. The adaptive suspension has a selectable comfort mode, but even this setting is sports-car firm. There are incredible handling limits on a racetrack without the car feeling too sterile in everyday conditions, though we had more fun hustling a Toyota GR Corolla. The heavily bolstered sports seats aren't for show.

Honda also worked hard to ensure that the Type R’s front-wheel drive wouldn’t be a drawback. A limited-slip differential helps keep the front wheels from spinning fruitlessly, even adjusting for steering inputs. And a dual-axis front suspension not only improves responsiveness and stability, but also helps the Type R avoid torque steer. You’ll also appreciate that when you’re going fast, your brakes are getting more air cooling through functional vents in the front bumper. That’s a relief on a racetrack, where your brakes might otherwise start to overheat and lose performance over time. In a nod to drivers who will go on the track, a function called LogR records your driving data and lets you download it to your phone. 

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Civilized Ride, Too

It’s easy to make a car with great handling if you accept a stiff ride that’s uncomfortable or fragile on anything but the carefully smoothed tarmac of a closed-course track. That’s not the case with the Civic. 

True, this isn’t the car you’d choose for maximum smoothness. In every suspension setting, the Civic Type R has a taut, controlled ride that can slam over larger bumps but handles smaller imperfections well. For most people who’d want a 315-hp Civic, we don’t think the ride will be a deal-breaker. There’s always the standard Civic hatchback or the performance-lite Civic Si sedan in those cases. Some more folks might mind the engine note in certain conditions. The turbo four sounds good most of the time, but you might find a tiresome drone if you’re holding a low gear at a steady speed. The Civic Type R gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined, and speedy driving understandably keeps you on the low end. We averaged 28 mpg while commuting swiftly but safely among civilians, and the trip computer reported as high as 35 mpg on the open highway. 

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Upscale New Dashboard

Even if you loved the previous-generation Civic, you might have hated its dashboard. While nicely finished, its infotainment system had fussy controls and sluggish responses. That can sound like a nitpick in a performance car, but it was enough to distract from the enjoyment of driving the car.

The 2023 Honda Civic Type R instead has a simple, well-executed infotainment system. The upscale dashboard has a simple yet modern design and a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen perched on the top. The gauges are also a reconfigurable digital display. Everything is easy to use, and it doesn’t overwhelm you with technological pizzazz. The controls move with polished precision that exceeds even some luxury-branded cars, helping justify the Civic Type R’s price tag. But while the dash itself is conservative and upscale, the Civic’s front seats and carpeting are a racy bright red. This color scheme, the only one available, doesn’t let you confuse it for a premium sports sedan; it continues the previous generation’s retina-searing “look at me” vibe. While that can be a matter of taste, we don’t think anyone will love the clash between the backseat’s black upholstery and red carpeting. And while the metal shift knob looks and feels nice in mild temperatures, we don’t expect it to be fun to handle in the hot or cold. 

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Outstanding Functionality

Like the old Civic Type R, the new model has the bones of a Civic hatchback – the most functional small car on the market. The backseat has room for adults to spread out or for rear-facing child safety seats to fit with ease. And its cargo capacity beats that of many small SUVs: 24.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat and (while Honda doesn’t publish this spec) likely more than 50 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. 

There are some quirks. Despite its price, you can’t get the Civic Type R with power-adjustable seats; we’d like some extra adjustability on these racing-style chairs. Heated seats are also unavailable. (You can get both on the Acura Integra Type S, a luxury version of the Civic Type R.) And as with the previous generation, Honda replaces the standard Civic’s center-rear seating position with a fixed plastic console that limits the Type R’s capacity to four instead of five. It’s a curious choice in the rare small car that could actually fit a fifth passenger without much squeezing. Overall, though, you won’t find a better mix of speed and spaciousness at this price. 

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

$44,000 for a Civic

As we mentioned, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R costs $43,795. That’s a lot of money for a Civic, and a big $5,000 jump from the 2021 model. At least every available feature is standard except for dealer-installed accesories. That includes all the performance features we mentioned, the red suede seats, the 9-inch touchscreen, a 12-speaker Bose stereo, a wireless smartphone charger, automatic climate control, and a suite of advanced driver aids that include adaptive cruise control, automatic steering assistance, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. 

You don’t get leather upholstery, seat heaters, or power-adjustable front seats; those are saved for the Acura Integra. And neither has a sunroof, prioritizing a low weight and center of gravity over some extra breeze and sunlight. What’s more, many dealerships charge steep markups on the Civic Type R. 

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt

A Rich Field of Competitors

Today’s world is unexpectedly kind to the lovers of small, fast cars with manual transmissions. In addition to the Civic Type R, you get to choose among the Toyota GR Corolla, Volkswagen Golf R, and Hyundai Elantra N. 

The newly introduced GR Corolla is the rowdiest fun among these options. This all-wheel-drive hatchback is feisty while the Civic R executes its performance with calmer excellence. It also has a lower starting price, though also a less-upscale (though less red) interior and a lot less room. The Golf R goes the other way: Another all-wheel-drive hatchback, this VW shows its Audi roots by exhibiting more composure than glee, and it has the longest list of available luxury features. It splits the difference between the Honda and Toyota in roominess. Lastly, the Hyundai Elantra N is a sedan instead of a hatchback, and it’s the most crudely finished inside (pending a 2024-model update), but it still delivers lots of speed for the money. Also, unlike the Civic or Corolla, the Golf and Elantra have optional dual-clutch automatic transmissions. You could also shop the Civic against its luxury-brand cousin, the Acura Integra Type S, which adds more upscale styling and features to a similar performance package. 

2023 Toyota GR Corolla ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Toyota GR Corolla ・ Photo by Brady Holt

What’s In a Name?

We get it. A $44,000 Honda Civic is a tough idea to accept. But pretend the Type R had any other name. 

Now you get to combine 315 horsepower, a six-speed manual transmission, and an adaptive sport-tuned suspension with a richly finished interior, an adult-friendly backseat, and an SUV-like cargo hold. Wouldn’t you pay a premium for that? The 2023 Honda Civic Type R is a sports car that can also be a family car, yet you don't have to need a roomy backseat to love it. It won’t be for everyone, or even every driving enthusiast. But if you like the red seats, don’t mind skipping a few amenities, are happy to shift your own gears, and are willing to spend this much for a phenomenal performance car, the Civic Type R is better than ever. 

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Civic Type R ・ Photo by Brady Holt


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