First Drive New Honda Civic Type R


  • New, more mature-looking design
  • Excellent handling
  • Faster and more responsive acceleration


  • Exhaust note could have been more sporty
  • The cabin is very red
  • LogR data logger only works on certain tracks


This Type R is seriously fast, light, throwable and feels like the leader of its genre. He just goes about his job of driving as fast as the pilot wants, but in the process makes that driver feel like a production car series hero.

It may be only the second Civic Type R model to arrive in the US, but it’s the best-looking and most epic handling R model we’ve ever seen. And Honda tells us they will ‘soon’ take their new road-going scud missiles to Germany’s famed Nurburgring circuit, retaking the record for “the fastest front-wheel drive car in the world” – the record they lost to Renault’s Megane RS Trophy-R in 2019.

Entering Turn 3 at 100 mph on the Autopolis Circuit in southern Japan, the new Type R encouraged me to push even harder. This 2023 Type R has higher cornering speeds than its predecessor and is much easier to drive in the grip limits.

The weight balance is so finely tuned that you don’t have to force it to oversteer to get out of a corner quickly. Steering response is pinpoint accuracy and super weight, and 4-piston Brembo brakes smash speed tremendously and with little reduction.

6th gen is by far the best looking

But before we get into the interesting details, let’s take a look at the brand’s history. This is the sixth generation of the high-performance brand Civic Type R, normally at least a year after the base Civic was launched. And this time is no different. Honda introduced the eleventh generation Civic in 2021 and followed it up with a hybrid version and Type R in 2022 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Civic. This year is also the 30th anniversary of the first “Type R” road car, the NSX Type R, which went on sale in 1992.

The first ‘EK9’ Civic Type R of 1997 was a tame-looking 3-door hatchback based on the 6th generation Civic. It was very simple with some nice wheels, a rear spoiler and a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter producing 182 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque. It was the same story for the ‘EP3’ 2nd generation Type R released in 2001. It had new sports wheels, thicker side skirts, a rear spoiler, and a 212-hp 2.0-liter VTEC engine, but it’s still a bread delivery car. The next ‘FN2’ Type R followed the same formula, although it looked a bit more futuristic.

Fortunately, things started to heat up in 2015 when Honda announced the emergence of the more extreme ‘FK2’ model. This car looked more race car inspired, with splitters, wings, vents and a high performance 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 306 hp and 295 lb. -ft of torque.

Apparently inspired by the old model, Honda’s stylists were distracted with the all-over 5th generation ‘FK8’ Type R released in 2017. with splitters, flaps, vents and hood scoops larger than the 2.0 liter before it.

Can Honda reclaim the Nürburgring lap record?

But it was the 5th generation model that put the Type R name on the map in 2017, delivering a lap time of 7 minutes 43 seconds on the Nürburgring, making it ‘the fastest front-wheel drive car on the planet’. However, that record was smashed in 2019 when the Megane RS Trophy-R improved Honda’s time by an astonishing 7 minutes 40 seconds.

To put salt in the wound, Renault brought its Megane to Honda’s home racetrack at Suzuka Circuit in central Japan in late 2019 and began rewriting the Civic Type R’s lap record of 2 minutes 25 seconds at three seconds. So, right after Honda recaptured the Nürburgring lap record, it is certain that he will return to Suzuka to reclaim the spiritual home record. This must be something to see.

So what about the brand new car? When we say “best looking ever”, we don’t have much to compare it to, given that its predecessor used such a dense style that it oddly resembled something from Transformers. Of course, if you go back to previous models that did not reach the US, then we can see the evolution of the series. Even if we compare the new model to the previous five generations with the original version that first appeared in 1997, we can still say that the latest version looks the best.

One look at the brand new model and you can see that it is completely more mature and less flashy. The edgy, male racer-style design inspired by Fast and Furious is gone, replaced by thinner edges and a less angry face. A colleague even suggested that it looked too much like a Settlement, and I had to nod in agreement. One reason is that there’s no longer a 3D protruding hood scoop, a sure sign Honda is trying to tone down its male racer image.

The new Type R is more mature but still has a lot of attitude

Mind you, Type R still has attitude, and a lot of it. From its improved aero-body and triple exhaust pipes to its brake-cooled front air intakes, massive rear wing and rear diffuser, the Type R screams high performance. That’s right, this time all the vents are real and functional, increasing the car’s performance and helping to take precious seconds out of lap times. The rear spoiler is larger than anything you’d find on an Audi S3 or Mercedes-AMG A35, but this time the R’s wing sits on shorter, more aerodynamic vertical struts instead of large vertical metal plates like its predecessor.

However, to keep the high-performance nuance to the maximum, Honda retained the Ferrari-inspired triple aluminum exhaust design feature and inherited the rear diffuser from the old model. Also, the fake rear vents on the outgoing version have been replaced with a much smoother and more mature looking rear bumper. The new model also gets a set of black side skirts like its predecessor, but thankfully the snagged fender extensions are gone. Instead, you now get flared fender arches that are neatly flattened to sit flush with the bodywork. Additionally, the cool-looking vent behind the front wheel is functional in that it cleans the airflow out of the wheel arch to reduce drag on the side of the car.

All these upgrades combine to make the new car not only more aerodynamic and erect, but also make it look much more mature. Sure it still stands out, but you won’t be shy to show it off to your car buddies.

In it, the Type R gives strong clues as to what it’s made for. With its bright red seats and carpets, red stitching on the black Alcantara-covered steering wheel (to help absorb sweat!!), and an aluminum accented dashboard, the R pumps up the adrenaline level before you even start the engine. But maybe the stylists used a little too much red. He is everywhere. The compact aluminum shift knob that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand is classic Honda and puts a smile on your face every time you switch gears. I’d argue that its mechanical precision and nice short throws are almost as good as the 6-speed manual shift in the NSX, or at least as good as in the now-non-production S2000.

on the hot seat

Speaking of this engine, there’s also some good news about it. The new Civic not only benefits from weight savings and more robust rigidity, but also uses the most powerful Type R engine ever, thanks to its upgraded 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This unit gets revised turbo geometry, improved cooling and more exhaust backpressure to sharpen responsiveness. It’s married to the excellent 6-speed manual transmission and pumps out 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, a 9 hp and 15 lb-ft increase over the older Type R.

Start your right boot generously and the tacho and digital rev bar quickly climb up to the 7000rpm red line with flashing F1-style red shift lights. The power comes in a steady, linear ascent and is almost naturally absorbed in the climbing form. Keep spinning the turbo between 3000 and 7000 and you’ll have an enormous amount of power ready to take. But thanks to chassis and suspension revisions, you can transfer that power to asphalt better than ever before; this is an improvement that allows for faster lap times.

The Type R continues to use Honda’s automatic rev-matching technology, which is now 10% faster than Honda’s. Of course, you can turn it off if you really prefer the heel and toe, but it works perfectly when left open. Also, rev matching helps make everyday driving smoother and is a helpful feature for those new to manuals.

The Autopolis circuit was the ideal place to test this R. As I quickly depressed the brake pedal and took 3rd place at the entrance of a 70mph right-hand drive car, the R bent with the tremendous grip of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and then dashed out of the exit with almost overconfidence. ?”

This car is seriously fast, light, throwable and feels like a leader of its kind. He just goes about his job of driving as fast as the pilot wants, but in the process makes that driver feel like a production car series hero.
It is very clearly in the element on a race track. But it feels harsh. We drove an hour on public roads as well, and while the car can handle bumps, tram lines and potholes, the Type R is definitely on the solid side.

Driving at full throttle on a track like this, you’d think the “world’s fastest front-wheel drive car” (as Honda calls it!) was made possible thanks to the efforts of the development team. -Adjustment of Type R input in Japan’s Super Endurance Series. The difference in acceleration and handling between the previous generation and the new model was eye-opening and grin.
The front suspension has been modified to provide improved traction and cornering, while the rear suspensions squat nicely thanks to their reinforced rear stiffness, providing better handling and faster exits from corners.

To raise the excitement level on the track, Honda installed a data logger aptly named “LogR”. This device will time your laps but more importantly it will determine how good your driving technique is and then give you a score. During my test drive session, Akihiko Nakaya, former Japan Touring Car and F3000 champion racer, scored 96 for the day’s best score. My rating was a bit low, or at least that’s my excuse for not being as familiar with the piece as he was.

The only downside is that, despite the new model’s improved exhaust flow and active valve design, the Type R’s sound isn’t quite as sporty as it should have been. I wish they had added aggression in the sound department as well as in the aerodynamics and interior design departments, should we say designers or engineers. It won’t bark, pop or crack like the Toyota GR Corolla, Ford Focus RS or Hyundai Elantra N, and the synthetic exhaust note pumped through the speakers needs fine tuning.

Expectations are high for the new model, as the previous generation became a hit, selling 47,200 units worldwide. The thought that this will be the last petrol version of the Type R I can test drive on the racetrack makes me a little sad. Still, I’m a little excited to see what the electric version of the Type R might look like.

Pricing and Options

Rivals from Toyota, Hyundai, and Renault, for example, will be the Type R’s strongest competitors, especially since they’ve significantly lowered Honda’s $43,990 base price. When it comes to options, the Type R comes pretty much right out of the box. You can choose between two Michelin brand tires, including the more road-friendly Michelin Pilot Sport 4S we use in Japan.

Standing up to its rivals, the Type R might be a bit more expensive, but still, if Honda can reclaim the R’s ‘fastest front-wheel drive car’ title at the Nürburgring, then the extra status could be a deal maker.

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