Sports Cars

2023 Honda Civic Type R Makes the Hot Hatch Segment Hot Again

  • The high-revving 2023 Honda Civic Type R, with 23.3 psi of maximum boost, is the most powerful US-sold Honda ever, with 315 hp.
  • Weighing 3188 pounds, the Civic Type R is well suited for winding roads and—if the opportunity should arise—Sonoma Raceway.
  • The hot hatch is on sale now at $43,990.

    Trivia question: What is the most powerful Honda ever sold in America?

    No, it’s not the 600-hp NSX—that’s an Acura, at least over here in America. No, it’s not a V6-powered Honda Ridgeline (286 hp). It’s the all-new Civic Type R, which clocks in at a mighty 315 hp at 6500 rpm from the turbocharged 2.0-liter K20C1 engine.

    “The high-revving VTEC Turbo engine features direct injection, an electrical waste-gate and a low-inertia high-flow mono scroll turbocharger creating 23.3 psi of maximum boost,” Honda explained. “Horsepower, torque and response are improved by a redesigned turbocharger, a 10% increase in intake airflow rate and new, more efficient exhaust system.”

    Blazing red upholstery in Honda Civic Type R.


    That 315-hp output is in a car that weighs just 3188 pounds, too. So right off the spec sheet it looks like a recipe for fun. And it was. After as many laps around the 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway as I could weasel my way into, I gotta say, it is fun. And stable. And basically a very safe car in which to have a very good time, given the right conditions.

    The Type R is based on the 11th-generation Civic hatchback with unique features that set it apart. From the A-pillar forward all of the body panels are unique. For instance, the vented aluminum hood is not just a styling feature but actually helps dissipate heat and creates downforce, Honda says.

    “One of the things you’re going to find out in a lot of these design attributes is not just about making the car look great, but they also have performance functionality added to them,” said Dan Calhoun, senior product planner responsible for all the 11th-generation Civics.

    We drove the Civic Type R at Sonoma, but a pair of them were spotted at Nurburgring. Speculation is they were going for the FWD record there.


    For instance, the lower grille is longer and wider, resulting in an increase of about 40% of airflow into the car. Next to the grille are two sets of vents. The inner set is functional and helps cool the brakes; the outers are there for styling. The smoothly integrated flared fenders make the new car 3.5 inches wider than a standard Civic, which increases cornering agility, even if the added width doesn’t jump out at you.

    “The beauty about why this fender doesn’t look that much different from the side is because of how well it’s integrated into the car,” said Calhoun. “That’s all about keeping the form really clean and having that sleek design.”

    The rear doors of the Type R are unique, too, while the exhaust tips and routing increase exhaust flow 13% versus the previous Type R. Both the diffuser under the back end and the wing above it are functional as well, Honda says.

    On the cars we saw, everything inside was red, from the floor mats to the deep red racing seats, though they’re not really racing seats—they’re a little more relaxed. Honda says they’ll be comfortable for long hauls, while still holding your torso in place around corners. Turned out to be true.

    You also get a Bose premium audio system standard with 12 speakers, along with a nine-inch color touchscreen. In front of the driver is a 10.2-inch full digital instrument cluster. When you put the car into +R mode, that display transforms, offering a lot of driving information, including the “F1-inspired rev indicator” at the top.

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    But enough walkaround, now for some driving.

    The 2023 Civic Type R rides on “bespoke” Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. These “summer tires” do well in warm temps on dry surfaces, neither of which we had. On the first part of the hill-country drive on public roads through the winding hills east of Napa, those tires were just a little terrifying. Into the first dark, damp, but I-don’t-think-icy corner, I sort of suspected all this and was going less than my usual 10/10ths. Lucky for me. The car went sideways for about two or three heartbeats. Grip was only slightly better than ice.

    I slowed down.

    Later in the morning, probing the slipperiness once again, I found the tires only slightly better. Be sure and keep this in mind if you live anywhere colder and damper than your ex-spouse’s heart.

    Rivals in the class include Toyota GR Corolla, Hyundai Elantra N, and Volkswagen GTI and Golf R.

    Power from the K20C1 four-cylinder is massive. As the sun got a little higher and the road dried a bit, I pushed harder. The tires felt better in the warmer temps, and I let loose a bit more. On dry, sunny corners I started to enjoy it.

    While you can never tell who’s driving these things, I kept up with a BMW M3 that happened to be in front of me struggling mightily to go fast. I eventually backed off, not wanting the poor schmoe to slide off in an episode that would require filling out paperwork. It all made me wish for warmer temps and emptier roads.

    All through it, the standard six-speed manual with its smooth aluminum shifter knob was easy to engage, and rowing through it was both fun and efficient.

    The wetness and slipperiness of the roads was overcome to an extent by the Civic Type R’s helical-type limited-slip differential. Under power, it works unobtrusively to equalize the speed of the two front-drive wheels without locking them together, Honda says. Driving in the wetness would have been a much bigger task without it.

    Up and down Sonoma’s 120 feet of elevation changes, and especially through the wide, sweeping carousel, the Civic just held on. The Michelins were doing better as it was later in the day and a little bit warmer, maybe about 60 degrees. Plus, it wasn’t raining, as it had been the day before. So down and around I went, finding that you could take Turn 1 flat and amazed at the speed with which I could take the rise and drop just past Turn 3. Even along the back stretch through all those wiggles of Turns 8, 8A, 9, and 10, the Type R remained stable.

    Honda Civic Type R’s VTEC Turbo four-cylinder.


    I had it in +R most of the afternoon but, with concern for residual moisture still on track, I never turned off the stability button located down and to the left of the steering wheel. I should have. My last set of laps were behind “two guys who race Civics.” They had their ESC buttons in the “off” position and man they pulled away quickly. If I’d had mine off I coulda…

    Aw, but then there you go, talking like a race car driver. This Civic Type R will make you do that.

    Of course, so too might other cars in the class: a Toyota GR Corolla, Hyundai Elantra N, Volkswagen GTI, and Golf R. Any one of those would also be fun on this race track. Would they be more fun? By chance I had just gotten out of the Hyundai Elantra N a week before and was really impressed with that car’s steering and grip. I might even choose that one over this, partly because it’s ten grand cheaper. The Type R stickers at $43,990, which is almost the same as the Golf R at $45,835. The GTI is only $31,275. The GR Corolla $36,995.

    A lot of buyers choose the Type R because of its long racing heritage, which you might trace all the way back to those CRXs that raced in the Escort World Endurance Challenge in the ‘80s. There are a lot of reasons to pick the Type R in a market with so many choices. Enjoy!

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