This is the 2023 Civic Type R, the most powerful R-branded Honda road car ever built, and arguably the most important enthusiasts’ machine of the year.
The sixth Civic Type R since the series was launched in 1997 is based on the latest 11th generation Civic hatch, but it closely follows the template established by the previous R model that was launched in 2017. And that means, unlike the Civic Si, which comes only as a sedan, that the hottest Civic is very definitely a hatch.
There had been some wild speculation during the new model’s early development that it might switch to all-wheel drive, along with some slightly more believable predictions that the 2023 machine would adopt a hybrid setup, or offer a dual-clutch transmission. But the car as delivered is simpler, more familiar, and probably all the better for it from a driver’s perspective.
More Power But Same Philosophy
Honda has stuck with the existing K20 2.0-litre turbo engine and six-speed manual transmission, making only detail improvements to both, though those changes mean the 2023 R generates even more power. Exactly how much of an advance it makes on the outgoing U.S.-spec FK8’s 306 hp (310 PS) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque (Japanese and European versions were rated at 316 hp/320 PS) Honda isn’t saying just yet. But whatever it kicks out it once again sends to the front wheels through a mechanical limited slip differential.
No performance figures are available, and Honda hasn’t released a weight figure to help us accurately estimate them, but the 2023 car is likely to shortcut the crazy (for a FWD car) 4.9 seconds the old Type R required to reach 60 mph (96 km/h) in Car & Driver’s hands, and guaranteed to be quicker on any track you care to name. It has already set a new production-car record for a front-wheel drive car at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan, though recovering its Nürburgring crown by beating the smokin’ 7 min 20 seconds time set by the Lynk & Co 03 Cyan Concept in 2019 might be too much to ask.
If you fancy having a go yourself you’ll be able to track your progress using the Honda LogR data logger that displays real-time information on the car’s behavior and is backed by a digital stopwatch. You can even share your driving videos from the comfort of your all-red Type R bucket seats, which are upholstered in a suede-style fabric to prevent you sliding around during high-G maneuvers.
Premium Materials, Full Digital Gauge Pack
The polished metal gear shifter looks like a carryover from the old car, but almost everything else is new. The 11th generation Civic’s horizontal dashboard design and 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen gives the 2023 Type R a distinctly premium look, and is enhanced with a simple leather-wrapped steering wheel and a digital instrument cluster that can show two conventional engine- and road-speed dials in normal driving, or switch to a horizontal supercar-like tach-dominated layout when you engage the R+ driving mode. The finishing touch is the numbered Type R plaque, which moves from behind the gear shifter to a more prominent home on the honeycomb-pattern trim panel above the glovebox.
Smaller Wheels, Wider Tires
Honda hasn’t yet detailed the chassis upgrades that turn the regular 11th-gen Civic into a Type R, or how this 2023 car improves on its predecessor, but it does describe the body as “lightweight and highly rigid”, claiming that the driving feel is increased by “enhanced suspension and steering performance.”
Which doesn’t really mean anything, but the pictures show reveals some key changes. The image above shows four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers at the front end of the car gripping floating steel rotors that are neither drilled or grooved, which is what you’d find on the outgoing car. But look at the wheels. The old car rolled on 20-inch rims, but these are nineteens, which should mean they’re lighter and have less rotational mass, and therefore improve handling. But to retain a decent footprint the rubber (in this case, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S) moves from 245/30 ZR20 to 265/30 ZR19. If you want to geek out on how downsizing wheels and tires can affect handling, there’s a great article on that subject and how it relates to the old FK8 Type R over at Road & Track.
Muscular Styling, But More Muted
Despite losing an inch of diameter, the 2023 car’s rims fill the new fat fender flares just fine, and Honda also flared the doors to make sure the wide arches don’t look like crude add-ons. It’s great to see that Honda has ditched the nasty fake mesh bumper inserts that spoiled the last version’s credibility, we welcome the return of the triple-tailpipe exhaust, and the new motorsport-inspired spoiler gets a big thumbs up.
But this Type R definitely has a more subtle vibe than its predecessors, and we can’t help wondering if some Type R fans might wish it was a little more visually arresting, particularly given the reception given to Toyota’s aggressive new GR Corolla. Picking the right paint might help out here: the 2023 Type R is available in Rallye Red, Racing Blue Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl, Sonic Grey Pearl and, of course, Championship White.
Exact prices and details of any available options and packs will be dished out closer to the fall-2022 on-sale date, but we expect the 2023 Civic Type R to come with an MSRP of around $40,000, making it slightly more affordable than the $44k Volkswagen Golf R.
Do you think Honda has hit the spot with the 2023 Civic Type R? Does it look aggressive enough and would you pick it over a GR Corolla or Golf R? Leave a comment and let us know.