Automotive Review: 2023 Honda Civic Type R is sporty and fun to drive

An appraisal of the all new Honda reveals it is a perfectly practical hot hatch

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Thu 28 Sep 2023, 11:58 PM

The Type R is one of automotive’s most hallowed nameplates. It started as a performance-enhancing project on the NSX supercar in 1990. Then it went on to become a sub-brand of sorts that included affordable, mass-market and in some cases sporty models like the Accord, Civic and Integra. Honda achieved this by raising the ‘fun factor’ of these vehicles exponentially by shaving off weight, stiffening the chassis and squeezing more power out of their motors, thus bringing racecar sensations into road cars at an affordable MSRP. Type R vehicles eventually gained a cult following and the rest is history.

The original Civic Type R came out in 1997. It was a JDM-only (Japanese Domestic Market) vehicle based on the sixth generation Civic. Some 25 years later, we have the 2023 Honda Civic Type R which is in its sixth generation, based on the latest 11th-gen Civic. I know it is all a bit confusing; that is why I am here to help you get to speed about the all-new Type R.

Design and aesthetics

The current Civic is a wholesomely styled family sedan. It is all about that sportback silhouette, balanced proportions and clean lines that seamlessly incorporate details like the LED luminaries, front and rear. The Type R, although similar to the sedan, is actually based on the hatchback, with plenty of mods to make your artistic side salivate.

If you haven’t spotted the changes over the Sport model, know that it has gained a hood vent but lost its fog lamps in the transformation. The front grille gets a honeycomb treatment instead of slats while at the rear, the asymmetrical three-pipe central exhausts nestled under the functional diffuser, replace the dual tailpipes. And let us not forget the massive carbon spoiler. For the kind of visual restraint the new Civic shows, the giant wing is that necessary dash of mischief the Type R demands. The red badging all around is yet another differentiator. Overall, it’s a tamer, more mild-mannered iteration of the outgoing Type R (even down a wheel size from 20 inches to 19 inches), but it is a tasteful one and possibly, everything you want in a boy racer toy.

The race-inspired aesthetics are carried into the interiors as well, which are dominated by distinct sections of black and red. The utilitarian bits from the regular Civic remain black, yet it offers more design touches than the commuter cars thanks to the 3D honeycomb trim that runs across the dash and satin metallic trims. Honda has also added bucket loads of visual excitement in the form of bright red racing seats finished in suede, red seat belts, red floor mats etc.

Although my 6ft 220lb frame found the front racing seats (with six-way manual adjustment) a touch compact, many have professed their love for the comfort and support they provide. I presume you too will. The driving position is near-perfect with good visibility all around and great tactility offered by the alcantara wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, and optimally located shift lever and pedals. They come to your hands and feet easily. The metallic shifter though, as intriguing as it looks, is a tad small and gets piping hot in the summer, which made me scream under my breath every time I shifted gears.

Centred on the dash is a sizable nine-inch infotainment screen which renders colourful graphics and digital menus that are easy to navigate. I am also happy to report that physical volume and a/c controls have been retained and both have a ritzy knurled texture, almost like a Bentley.

At a little over 4.5 metres long, it is larger than the first three generations of Accords, far from the compact it once was and hence, accommodating without being palatial. Curiously though, the rear bench has fixed cupholders on the middle seat, making it a four-seater, not a five-seater.

Powertrain & performance

The original Civic Type R started out with a high-revving 1.6-litre engine, which was upgraded to a 2.0-litre displacement in later generations and finally, due to the weight increase associated with growing dimensions and safety requisites, the Type R went from being naturally aspirated to turbocharged. This forced induction motor was further refined with every subsequent model. Now, in the 2023 YM, the revised 2.0L i-VTEC Turbo engine makes as much as 315PS of peak power and 420Nm of torque. And the 157.5 PS/litre specific output it generates is simply remarkable for a road car.

All that oomph is channelled through a six-speed manual transmission, one of the slickest in the business and a rarity these days, which is transferred onto the front wheels. But worry not, the new steering mechanism along with the LSD on the front axle helps balance the power delivery with great efficiency. This means that in a straight line or around a curve, you can smash your right foot without being swayed by torque steer i.e., the biggest handicap for FWD vehicles.

On the road, in everyday chock-a-block traffic, having to use a stick shift and clutch pedal isn’t my idea of fun, but the light shift action and relatively compact dimensions made it a breeze to drive. The real joy of driving this Type R, however, reveals itself when you rush it. This four-pot beckons to be thrashed. It perpetually asks you to lean heavily on the gas pedal, redline the tach needle and run through the gears as quickly as possible. Also, as you drive more, you will notice the power reserves are found high in the rev range in proper VTEC fashion. So, keep the pot boiling.

From a standstill with little wheel spin, it will complete the 100 km/h dash in a claimed 5.4 seconds. And even in non-ideal test conditions and haphazard shifts and throttle application, it can easily get there in a few tenths post six seconds. We didn’t have the real estate test its top speed, but the Porsche Cayman-matching 275 km/h top speed is no joking matter.

Then comes the curves and the Type R offers a completely different experience from AWD vehicles that seem to run on rails. The chassis is light and playful, and you must act on the sensations that come through the EPS-assisted steering wheel, seats, shifter and pedals which convey what the front wheels, rear end and motor are doing. As you swing out of a corner, if you are able to get the four-pot in its power band and the power down on those Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, there is no feeling like it. This, my friends, is what the Type R offers, a glimpse of driving perfection. But perfection, as with everything in life, is elusive and requires immense concentration and a deft touch. Luckily, this is achievable here through practice.

Helping you with the act of frenzied driving are ‘LED shift lights’ on the instrument panel which glow when a gear change is needed and a powerful set of disc brakes (350mm dia. front discs and 305mm dia. rear discs) that offer generous bite and precision at all legal speeds. Additionally, it has a Honda Log R which monitors performance-related data in real time.

Features and functionality

The Type R is as raw as sportscars get, yet besides the exception of a roll cage, it gets everything you need to be safe from danger in your speedy ventures. It has 10 airbags, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, parking sensors and the Honda Sensing Suite that includes features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, emergency stop system, hill start assist, and a TPMS to manage tyre pressures. It also has convenience features like a walk-away lock and push start button.

You can expect plenty of space for your belongings in the 410-litre trunk which can be expanded to 1212 litres to accommodate larger or longer items by folding the rear seats.

Infotainment-wise, it comes equipped with wireless Apple Car Play, but Android Auto requires a wired connection, which is an indication of Honda’s priorities. It also has a wireless charger, thankfully. Besides those raspy vocals that emanate from the tailpipes, you can also revel in the high-fidelity 12-speaker Bose audio system that can play music via the two USB ports or Bluetooth.


The 2023 Honda Civic Type R, like the ones before it, is a perfectly practical hot hatch that has been purposefully built to look sportier, drive quicker, steer sharper, and even sound more enthralling than the car it is based on. And with the added advantage of a slick-shifting six-speed manual, a playful FWD setup, and plenty of torque to pin you to your seat, it gets you reacquainted with the lost pleasure of driving like few others. It is the kind of sports car you lusted after as a teenager but is also capable of satisfying adulting duties. If anything is holding it back, it is the slightly inflated price and a swarm of other riveting rivals.

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