The Honda Civic Type R is arguably one of the most significant sport compact cars ever, as it has been tasked with setting the bar for the segment for almost 25 years. Every generation — and I am including the still mesmerizing DC2 Acura Integra Type R — has pushed driving performance boundaries to new heights. The previous-generation Civic Type R, known as the FK8, was undoubtedly a high point in the car’s history but now, there’s a new iteration landing at a Honda store near you.
Before diving headlong into what makes the new Type R the exceptional sport compact car we all know it is, do realize that it will be a rare sight. Rumour has it that no more than 550 will be offered for sale in Canada throughout its planned three-year run. If you want one, skip this review and take the next four minutes as a head start to call your dealership now.
The Civic Type R is significant because it’s a car that Honda engineers got to build with free rein to create, and when that happens, compromises are few and the results truly floor the competition. It’s been said — well, I said back in 2017 when I first drive the FK8 — that it was, and is, the Porsche 911 GT3 of front-wheel drive (FWD) cars. Improving upon this was an insurmountable task for Honda as proven by the all-new 2023 Civic Type R, also known as the FL5.
The new 2023 Honda Civic Type R is once again powered by the now legendary K20C1 turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine. Revisions include a new turbocharger and a little more boost resulting in an output jump to 315 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque from 2,600 rpm to 4,000 rpm, from 306 and 295, respectively, in the FK8. As generous as these numbers may seem, it’s a known fact that when dyno-tested, these numbers generally apply at the wheel versus at the crankshaft. In other words, the engine produces more power than what Honda promotes.
Evidentially, the new Type R is quick. The FWD car is notoriously difficult to launch without certain drama, but despite the FL5’s numbers, it doesn’t seem any quicker than the FK8. The new one is marginally heavier than the previous model, which may or may not negate the power gains. The bottom line here is that the Type R is a 5-second-to-100-km/h car, meaning that from a dead stop, it will be matched or bested by most of its high-brow sport compact competition.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
But none are as categorically devoted to the art of driving as the Type R, save for one. It begins with the revised manual transmission, which now encompasses a lighter flywheel, a high-rigidity lever, and an optimized shift gate pattern. As satisfying as the FK8 may be to shift, the new Civic Type R is not only smoother to use but the shifter’s operation is easier – one cannot miss a shift. As always, pedal placement is ideal for heel-and-toeing, though novices can always activate the automatic rev-matching function.
Part of the carried-over components includes the chassis configuration, with one notable software difference. The new 2023 Honda Civic Type R’s front suspension still features a dual-axis setup that enables a nearly complete separation of the suspension and steering parts. The rear continues with a multilink setup and both ends are dampened with adjustable and adaptive shock absorbers.
The latter can now be configured independently, as can steering and throttle, thanks to a new “individual” drive mode. It joins comfort, sport, and +R, fitted as standard in the FK8, but now that the dampers can be set in comfort and everything else in sport, the new Type R has grown a little more civil. Programmed this way, the car can effortlessly and painlessly be driven on the daily. However, Honda’s modified the sport setting by limiting wheel travel compared to the FK8’s default sport mode.
No matter the selected configuration, the new FL5 remains an exceptional-handling sport compact car. More accurately, the new 2023 Civic Type R is among the best-driving cars available for purchase this side of a Porsche. This was and is the case with the old Type R. The other main difference between the two cars, beyond the new individual mode, is steering. The previous Type R (I am lucky enough to own one) boasts steering response that is sharper and its assistance more effective. Assistance is lull-free and constant, whereas the new car displays a noticeable drop when returning on-centre and crossing it. The FL5’s feel is freer and lighter while the FK8 is heavier almost as though unassisted. I, for one, prefer the latter.
Working the middle pedal is another rewarding experience. On the street, pedal travel is short and power is immediate. Unfortunately, I was not able to track the new car, however, I have, on a few occasions, pushed the old model close to its limits and discovered that the standard brakes are not entirely capable of handling repeated intense use. Knowing that the front brakes are identical to the 2020 to 2021 FK8, the resulting braking performance should be similar given that the new Type R is about 25 kg heavier.
Fuel Economy: 8.5/10
Despite the immense amount of performance available, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R will consume an average of only 9.7 L/100 km. The city and highway ratings are as follows: 10.8 L/100 km and 8.3 L/100 km. If you’re like me, and enjoy, ahem, driving, you’ll not average below the city rating.
The new 2023 Civic Type R has matured considerably over the outgoing model. For most, this will be the decisive factor in attempting to purchase a new one over a pre-owned example. In a word, it’s gorgeous. That the new 11th-generation Civic happens to be extremely attractive helps.
Unlike the FK8, the FL5 suffers not from a bad angle. From every point of view, the curves and lines blend seamlessly into each other. Points are awarded for the front end, which is not without reminding true enthusiasts of the JDM Integra Type R’s fascia – those who know will know. The rear is perhaps the best-sorted section now that it holds one-piece rear quarter panels. Visually, the slimmer spoiler and mounts add to the new car’s clean looks. And Championship White is the only colour that’s right for this Type R. Finally, the 19-inch matte-black wheels are a better fit over the gloss-black units from the old car.
From a mostly unbiased point of view, the new Type R’s tamer styling takes away from the Type R experience. On test day, the FK8, despite being older, got considerably more attention whereas the new car flew completely under the radar. With all due respect to the car and designers, it could be mistaken for an Accord sedan with a big rear spoiler. Some will say that the old Type R is ugly, and I can’t entirely disagree.
Onboard, the new car is leagues beyond the one it replaces. Here, there’s no arguing the fact that once more the new 11th-generation Civic’s influence makes all the difference. Save for the front sport seats, drive mode buttons, and the red Honda badge, it’s all Civic. One notable change between the two generations is that the 2023 car sports a leather-wrapped steering while the old one featured a suede-covered one.
The new Type R is loaded with numerous active safety features including a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and traffic sign recognition among many others.
Out of the box, the Type R gets all the best bits from the donor Civic. Aboard, it comes with a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9.0-inch touchscreen, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, SiriusXM satellite radio, and more.
Sliding into the Civic Type R’s sport seats is akin to slipping one of your favourite pair of trainers – the driver immediately feels like they are in the right place. Finding the perfect driving position is easy and quickly completed. Visibility is excellent in general. The forward view is ideal thanks to the slim A-pillars.
Honda’s infotainment system is simple to operate thanks to a sufficient but not overwhelming number of menu options.
The trunk has lost a few litres volume-wise over the outgoing Type R, however remains very generous. And nothing beats the practicality of a hatchback except perhaps a station wagon, of course.
Comfort-wise, the front seats are extremely supportive. They are in fact cushier than the ones in the previous-generation Type R. The new car’s wheelbase is a considerable 35 mm longer than the previous one, which improves ingress and egress. As well, there’s a serious amount of legroom reserved for the rear occupants.
Fit and finish are excellent, almost luxurious when compared to the old car. When it comes to styling, inside and out, and interior refinement, the new Type R will be very difficult to resist.
Priced at $50,050, the new 2023 Honda Civic Type R is nearly $4,000 more than the last 2021 model-year Type R. The new platform, improved tech and styling, and expected strong demand for the car explain the price jump.
The other car that's as devoted to the art of driving is the all-new 2023 Toyota GR Corolla. Priced from $45,490, it gives the new Type R a serious run for its money. Both will be exclusive and a rare sight, and, frankly, it’s difficult to argue in favour of the extra $4,500 required for the Type R. As well, the $39,998 2023 Hyundai Elantra N and the $46,498 2023 Nissan Z both are ultra-viable alternatives for less money.
I would not have imagined a summary on the all-new 2023 Honda Civic Type R to include the following line: The car is great but the competition matches it in many respects. As a 2021 Type R owner, I briefly considered trading mine for the 2023 model based on looks. But, as a driving fanatic, my car is marginally more punishing and involving to drive, be it through the steering wheel or for the perceived superior agility possibly due to the shorter wheelbase. And so, I prefer it over the new.
The Type R’s real threat no longer comes from the monumentally good (and less expensive) Volkswagen Golf R, which it has never resembled more in on-road behaviour, but from the new GR Corolla. It blends the R’s AWD all-season traction with the Type R’s momentum capabilities.
If I was to trade my Type R, it would not be for a new one but for a Toyota Corolla.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||315 hp @ 6,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||310 lb-ft @ 2,600–4,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||10.8 / 8.3 / 9.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||695.6 L / 1 204 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2023 Honda Civic Type R|
|Price as Tested||$51,930|