The first Honda Civic came to America in 1972. The 1.2-liter engine powering the front-wheel drive subcompact hatchback was generously estimated to produce 54 horsepower, but Honda raised the bar on the competition with four-wheel independent suspension and front disc brakes as standard equipment.
The Civic was cheap, fuel efficient and reliable, so a generation of kids went to college driving Hondas, and many stuck with the brand and the Civic as young adults.
Now 50 years and 10 generations of the Civic have gone by, and Honda’s still producing a car that offers a bit more than other economy models. But hallelujah, they also make a hot rod version.
The 2023 Civic Type R is the flagship model of the 11th generation Civic. With 315 horsepower on tap, a 6-speed manual transmission, and a state-of-the-art FWD chassis, the 2023 Civic Type R puts Honda back in the sport compact race.
Beyond the muscle, the Civic Type R also delivers a classic “boy racer” cabin with more red splashed around than the latest Game of Thrones spinoff. The seats even come with the shoulder holes for a racing harness, so you don’t have to swap them out.
The Civic Type R is already arriving at dealers, and carries a starting MSRP of $43,990, including destination fee. However, you can expect most of them to carry a dealer markup — this car is a hot commodity.
Honda didn’t just turn up the wick on the turbo for this generation of Type R. The bodywork is substantially different from the base Civic, including fat flares over the tires. This is one of the best features of the car, because the designers clearly put in the hours to make the flares natural and flowing with the rest of the car.
The Type R also carries a different front end and hood, designed to be a good bit racier than the run of the factory. The grille badge is red (because of course it is) and the distinctive Type R logo is there as well. Honda also changed out the grille for a more see-through effect, giving a little peek at the front-mounted intercooler. Overall, there’s no doubt you’re driving the performance model when you get in the Type R.
If you don’t like red, just keep walking past the Type R. Honda’s not going to let you forget for a moment this car is meant for the racetrack. Yet for all the visual cues like the brushed aluminum shift knob and red stitching everywhere that isn’t already red, the Type R has a serious advantage over other performance editions: it’s comfortable.
The seats are as cozy and supportive as any track-oriented car, but they’re not designed for a 120-pound teenager, either. Larger adults will fit snugly, but they will fit. That’s key when you think about having a Type R as your daily car. Sexy seats are all well and good, but not if they’re giving you kidney damage.
The only pause we had looking at the Type R interior was the honeycomb design of the dash. It looks great, like someone decided to use the core of composite bodywork on the dash, but we wonder if it’s likely to accumulate crud over time in all those holes. Detailing that dash is going to be a project.
As mentioned, the 2023 Civic Type R offers 315 horsepower, and backs that up with 310 poun-feet of torque out of a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. That’s paired with a crisp 6-speed manual gearbox with a lightweight flywheel, limited slip differential, and automatic rev-matching on downshifts.
This drivetrain pulls like a big V-6, and it helps that the new Type R weighs in at just 3,188 pounds, which is pretty svelte by modern standards. Power delivery is even and predictable, which is another point in favor of the Type R as a daily driver.
Finally, the Type R gives you drive modes. You can choose among Comfort, Sport, +R and Individual modes. Those translate to just about exactly what you expect, changing the adaptive damping on the suspension, loosening up the stability control, quickening the throttle response, speeding up the rev-matching, dialing down the steering assist, and changing the dashboard display. In +R mode, you also get the ability to completely disable the stability and traction control.
If you care, the Type R is good for 22 mpg in town, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in the aggregate. It runs on regular unleaded, which is a pleasant surprise.
Safety and Technology
The Civic Type R is still a Honda, and that means you’re getting a long list of safety features. Honda pointed out that they’ve updated the airbags for the new model to offer even more protection in the event of a crash. The Honda Sensing safety and driver assistance suite is standard, and Honda has updated the adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor and lane keeping systems, as well as adding traffic sign recognition.
On the dashboard, Honda gives the Type R a 9-inch touchscreen, with a real volume knob. There’s also a 10.2-inch driver information screen. Audio comes courtesy of a 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint setup, which sounds great when you want tunes. Being a Honda system, it’s all intuitive to use.
Of course, the infotainment system does all the things — at the Type R price point navigation is included, along with smartphone integration, HondaLink, and a wireless charger that fits a new iPhone Pro Max in a protective case.
Dashboard tech and red seats are all well and good, but a performance car has to live up to its promise. The Type R delivers on speed, handling, braking and all points, and that’s key because we drove the new Civic at Sonoma Raceway, in the rain.
The Type R’s adaptive suspension really comes into play at the track, where you can feel the whole car tighten up when you select +R mode. On the wet track, we managed to push it hard enough (or we were just clumsy enough) to get the stability control to restrain the car in a slide or two, which it did admirably. Better drivers went much faster than we did with no drama, however.
On the public roadways, which is where the car will be most of the time, the Civic Type R is a delight. In the default Sport mode or even in Comfort mode, the driving experience is crisp, reliable, and nimble. All the power you can use is right there under your foot, and with the torque on tap, you won’t have to be grabbing gears to exit every curve.
That puts the exclamation point on the Type R; you give up nothing in terms of comfort and ordinary driving ability to have all that performance. It’s the touch of a console switch to change the car’s demeanor from fun sport compact to serious track weapon.
2023 Honda Civic Type R Specifications
|Dimension||L: 180.9 inches/W: 74.4 inches/H: 55.4 inches/Wheelbase: 107.7 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine; 6-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||22 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||315 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||As tested: $43,990 including $1,095 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The trim walk of the Type R is easy. There’s just one option package available, and that’s a protection film wrap for $150. That’s a no-brainer: buy it. The usual array of accessories is also available on an a la carte basis. If you can find a Type R without a crazy dealer markup, your purchase price should be about $44,140 with the protective film.
So, the bottom line is that the Civic Type R is well-priced for what you’re getting. In the same financial range, you could be looking at the BMW M235i xDrive, Toyota GR Corolla, Nissan Z or Subaru WRX. The Type R will be competitive with any of those.
2023 Honda Civic Type R — Frequently Asked Questions
Will the Civic Type R be available with an automatic transmission?
Not at this time. A 6-speed manual is the only available transmission.
Does the Civic Type R come with all-wheel drive?
No, the Civic uses front-wheel drive.
Can you drive the Civic Type R every day?
Yes, and that’s a great idea.