2023 Honda Civic Type R First Drive: Maturity Has Its Perks

If the old Honda Civic Type R had a fault, it’s that it was perhaps too outwardly a hooligan. All pumped up and aggro, the Type R looked like an anime character being cast into battle. And while that’s cool for paddock cred at a weekend track day, it definitely puts your maturity into question when you roll up to the office on Monday morning. Business casual? Yeah, right.

By comparison, the new 2023 Type R looks like a car that was actually made for adults. Sure, telltale hot hatch hallmarks like bulging fenders and a big wing are still present, but by and large the 11th-generation Civic’s refined styling gives the Type R a much more grown-up vibe. That is, until you hit the track.

2023 Honda Civic Type R first drive track Harris Hill

I’m not even halfway through my first lap of Harris Hill Raceway before I’m giggling in my helmet. The 2023 Type R hasn’t lost any of the drive-the-doors-off-it demeanor that made its predecessor such a hoot. You genuinely get the sense that this thing loves to be wrung out, egging you on with each lap, igniting the flame of youthful reckless abandon that comes with beating the crap out of a plucky sport compact.

The Type R’s 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 is a champ, delivering 315 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. This engine suffers from the tiniest bit of turbo lag when you initially set off, but above 2,500 rpm or so, it’s nonstop punch. You can confidently take tight corners in third gear instead of downshifting to grab second, knowing there’ll be more than enough torque to push you through the exit.

2023 honda civic type r engine

If you do feel like dropping a gear, the six-speed manual transmission comes with Honda’s excellent rev-matching tech, which the company says is now 10% quicker in action than before. Yes, you can fully disable the auto rev-matching if you love doing the heel-and-toe dance yourself, but honestly, I tend to leave it on. Outside of track use, this electronic throttle blipping makes the Civic Type R easier to drive in day-to-day traffic. It also helps smooth out rocky transitions if you’re an inexperienced stick-shifter, making manual driving more accessible to a wider swath of enthusiasts.

Honda doesn’t quote an official 0-to-60-mph time, but straight-line acceleration isn’t where the Type R shines. Instead, this hatch is all about hanging on tight while cornering, its wider front and rear tracks and retuned suspension components providing increased stability. The 2023 Type R’s 19-inch wheels are wrapped in 265-section Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, offering a larger contact patch than the old car’s 245s. You can even spec the Type R with super-duper-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer tires, providing an it’s-fine-just-send-it level of confidence – automotive PReP, if you will.

2023 Honda Civic Type R first drive track Harris Hill

Despite its front-wheel-drive layout, the Type R isn’t prone to torque steer, largely thanks to a helical limited-slip differential. Understeer is mostly quelled, too, though the laws of adhesion (and physics) still apply if you enter a 90-degree turn at warp speed. Honda tweaked the Type R’s steering slightly for 2023, giving you a little more feedback about what’s happening where your tires meet the asphalt.

Overall, the Civic feels just as light and chuckable as you’d expect, with small amounts of body roll giving you a heightened sense of speed as you whip through corners. Strong Brembo four-piston Aluminum calipers clamp down on 13.8-inch vented front brakes, as well, helping to slow the Civic without much dive or rear-end skittishness.

2023 Honda Civic Type R first drive track Harris Hill

I can’t speak to the Type R’s public road livability, since Honda only let me loose for a few laps around Harris Hill, but nothing about my experience leads me to believe that commuting in the Civic will feel like a chore. In fact, it ought to be much more pleasant than in the previous Type R, thanks to reshaped seats that are as supportive as they are comfy, as well as better material quality and improved ergonomics. All new Civics are impressively refined, and that’s just as true of the Type R.

There’s more tech to talk about this year, too, with traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert joining other standard features like adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning. Inside, the Type R comes standard with the digital gauge cluster found on other high-spec Civics, and the 9-inch central touchscreen runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which are easier to use than Honda’s native infotainment software.

2023 Honda Civic Type R interior

From the design to the driving experience to the cabin tech, it’s clear the 2023 Civic Type R is a much more well-rounded package. However, that maturity comes at a price. The 2023 Type R starts at $43,990 including $1,095 for destination, which is $5,080 more expensive than the 2021 model (though the delivery charge is also $80 more). That puts this Honda well above competitors like the $33,245 Hyundai Elantra N or $36,995 Toyota GR Corolla, though the Civic is much nicer inside – and doesn’t look as cartoonish.

That price shouldn’t put you off, though; the Civic Type R continues to punch well above its weight in terms of performance. The Type R might be better at adulting, but damn does it still know how to have a good time. 

Photos Courtesy of Honda

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