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Honda Civic Type R 2023 expert review

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Likes

  • Far-more elegant design inside and out
  • Scintillating performance/steering/handling/grip
  • Newfound refinement and improved ride comfort

Dislikes

  • Road noise
  • Now at least $12,000 more expensive than before
  • Four-seater only configuration

The last Civic Type R, the FK8, was all about obsessing over F words.

Fierce. Fast. Ferocious. Functional. ‘Fordable. Coming from Japan via England, it might have been lumbered with lager-lout looks, but Olympian-levels of athleticism forged a feisty modern masterpiece. 

There was nothing like it. Except of course, there is, thanks to the rebodied FL5 Type R.

But while less feral to behold, it’s also considerably less affordable, so – for FK8’s sake – it better be great.

Let’s find out.

Honda Civic 2023: Type R

Safety Rating
Engine Type Turbo 4, 2.0L
Fuel Type Premium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency 8.9L/100km (combined)
Seating 4
Price From $67,980 - $78,100

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
9 / 10

Want to hear some fun facts?

Hailing from Japan, today’s Type R is the first wearing a Civic badge sold in Australia that’s not from the UK. It’s the cheapest new manual Honda you can buy. And, in related developments, it’s now the only new manual Honda you can buy in Australia. Boo!

And speaking of purchasing, let’s talk about that elephant in the room, the $72,600 drive-away price tag.

Yes, that’s a heck of a lot more than the $55,000 the last one started at, as recently as 2021, and just $50,990 four years before that. 

And though those prices were before on-road costs (ORC) as opposed to drive-away today (narrowing the gap down by a few thousand dollars), it’s still a mighty wad of extra dough for a Type R.

Furthermore, the latter lacks the little luxuries you might expect in a $72,600 Civic, like a sunroof, leather trim, heated cushions, powered front seats and 360-degree view cameras.

The Type R is priced at ,600 drive-away.
The Type R is priced at ,600 drive-away.

You’ll find most in the Type R’s deadliest rivals, the Volkswagen Golf R from $66,990, before ORC (which makes it nearly $74,000 driveaway depending on where you live in Australia). 

The same is largely true for the (as yet-untested) Toyota GR Corolla GTS, which is compellingly cheaper from $62,300, before ORC. 

In fact, compared to the above, today's Type R is merely adequately rather than generously equipped, with what would today be regarded as bare-minimum stuff at this price point.

There’s a full suite of driver-assist safety technology and advanced airbag protection (see our Safety section for more), as well as dual-zone climate control, walk-away central locking, auto-retractable exterior mirrors, a smartphone charger, a broad-view reverse camera, sat-nav, Bluetooth with audio streaming, digital radio, Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, ambient interior lighting and acoustic sound control to cancel out some unwanted noises. 

Though not all, as we'll learn out later on.

In keeping with the hottest Civic’s reputation, you’ll also find Type R-specific sports front bucket seats finished in (now brighter) red suede-like trim, red seat belts and carpet, Alcantara-sheathed steering wheel, enhanced and configurable digital instrumentation offering performance and driver-analysis telemetry, alloy pedals and gear knob, and a big old unmissable toggle that allows for drive-mode selection without needing to take eyes off the road. Heaven.

Inside is an Alcantara-sheathed steering wheel along with enhanced and configurable digital instrumentation.
Inside is an Alcantara-sheathed steering wheel along with enhanced and configurable digital instrumentation.

There’s also 'Honda Connect', which is an app-based telematics subscription service that’s free for five years. 

Among other things, it helps find the car, provide remote lock/unlocking, climate control operation and alert notifications if it strays from a pre-set boundary. A vital inclusion, especially if somebody’s trying to nick your pride and joy.

That’s basically your lot. And the six-speed manual-only front-wheel drive Type R comes with only four seats versus five in the also-manual but all-wheel-drive (AWD) GR Corolla and seven-speed dual-clutch auto-only and AWD-only Golf R.

But this is where you have to ask yourself what you value in a hot hatch. Laser-sharp focus, or lots of luxury features? Because if it’s the former, then the razor-sharp engineers at Honda have not held back one iota.

Consider the Type R’s manual gearbox with rev-matching tech, dual-axis front struts, limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, adaptive dampers and 19-inch alloys with wider specialised Michelin Pilot 4S tyres for an even greater surface contact patch than before. 

The Type R wears 19-inch alloy wheels.
The Type R wears 19-inch alloy wheels.

Yes, they are an inch smaller than on the FK8, but Honda reckons that’s now the optimal size for what this baby sets out to do. 

You know, proper driver-focused hot-hatch stuff you’d actually need when you’re on it.

At nutty track speeds, a sunroof, heated leather powered front seats and a surround-view camera are trinkets that add unnecessary weight. If you cannot live without them, consider the brilliant Civic e:HEV hybrid instead. 

Since the FK8, the ultimate Civic has operated on a different plane to the likes of the less-expensive VW Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST and Hyundai i30N.

But now, as you’ll find out further down, the Type R has the talent to take on premium AWD hot hatches with comparable engine performance but even higher prices, like the Audi S3, BMW M135i and Mercedes A35 AMG.

The Type R is offered exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox.
The Type R is offered exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Brandishing exotic performance engineering, the Honda rises to all challengers where it matters regardless of badge. 

And it seems over one thousand Australians agree, pushing delivery dates out to two years at the time of publishing. To put this in context, Honda shifted around 1400 FK8 Type Rs over four years.

Perhaps we prefer the more mature styling of the latest version. Or maybe buyers with inflation calculators have been smart enough to work out that $50,990 in 2017 equals $60K in 2023, lessening the sticker shock somewhat.

So, yes, $72,600 drive-away is expensive. But slaying the competition don't come cheap.

Is there anything interesting about its design?
9 / 10

The previous Type R certainly stood out, looking like this latest Civic, except seen through the prism of a kaleidoscope, with strange distortions and heavy-handed detailing. Some loved it. Many did not.

Designed in Japan, everything has changed in this far-smoother and more-aerodynamic iteration, and it’s far less divisive for it.

The new Type R has a more mature design compared to its predecessor.
The new Type R has a more mature design compared to its predecessor.

Signature visual elements remain, like the red Type R badges. The front diffuser is larger for more efficient cooling, aided by the aluminium bonnet's air extraction system. All vents are functional.

Now, most of the rest of the body is steel, with resin making up the front bulkhead and tailgate, in the name of lightness. Just add lightness, as Lotus famously believes.

The new Type R is slightly longer, lower and wider than before.
The new Type R is slightly longer, lower and wider than before.

As before, you’ll find triple exhaust outlets and a large rear diffuser. And now the spoiler can no longer be seen from space… or even from the driver’s seat, since it’s mounted on discreet aluminium stanchions that raise it above the rear window line, improving downforce and cutting drag in the process.

Speaking of aero, the newcomer is slightly longer, lower and wider than before. As with many modern Hondas, the windscreen pillars are further back than before to aid vision, while giving the Civic a more aggressive profile. The same applies to the now-door-mounted exterior mirrors.

At the rear are triple exhaust outlets, a large rear diffuser and spoiler.
At the rear are triple exhaust outlets, a large rear diffuser and spoiler.

Underneath, the floorpan is flush to further reduce resistance. There are air foils in the wheel arches and lower body kit to direct airflow where required. To that end, only the Type R’s front doors and roof are shared with lesser Civics despite appearances suggesting otherwise. Even the back doors and quarter panels are wider. Honda has really committed.

It’s worth noting that the FL5 is about 40kg heavier - an understandable compromise given the larger body is some 40 per cent stiffer.

And being 35mm longer in wheelbase than the FK8 pays dividends inside.

How practical is its space and tech inside?
8 / 10

The last Type R was equally brash inside. Not now, and it’s benefitted from a noticeable material and quality uplift, meshed with a newfound elegance and upmarket feel. Combined, they put the Honda in league with Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

Besides being far-comfier than they look (which is to say, fantastic), the now-8.0mm lower-set front seats liberate more headroom as well as provide ample (manual) adjustment. Result? They're brilliantly fatigue-free even after hours behind the wheel.

Plus, the driving position is first class, forward and side vision are excellent – the driver no longer has that big spoiler bisecting the rear window – storage is practically everywhere (including space for a bottle in both front doors - though the glove box could be a bit bigger) and the ventilation works a treat. Honda has the basics right.

The Type R's driving position is fantastic.
The Type R's driving position is fantastic.

Now a word about the lovely digital instrumentation, which can be elegant old-school analogue with a touch of ‘90s Civic Type R yellow needle geekiness, or racy old-school with a F1-style light-bar tacho reminiscent of the iconic S2000 roadster of the same era.

They’re colour-coded, so you know which of the four drive settings – Comfort, Sport, Individual or racy '+R Mode' – you’re in. And there’s that aforementioned toggle that is an easy thumb push away without the need to look down. Smart thinking, Honda.

But the smallish 9.0-inch touchscreen dates the Civic compared to the vast flash panoramas other rivals, including the Golf, boast. Still, it’s enough display real estate for the 'LogR' app’s driving-telemetry data dump, with its g-force dials, plethora of engine-operation gauges and driver-behaviour analyses.

So much for the sensible stuff. There is much here that appeals to the heart as well as the head.

The 9.0-inch touchscreen is small by today's standards.
The 9.0-inch touchscreen is small by today's standards.

For instance, the red velour-style seating and red seat belts, as well as the aluminium gear knob which is also an S2000 throwback, are reminiscent of the times when Honda ruled motorsport. And the felt-like steering wheel feels like it belongs in a Ferrari. Special things.

That said, the Type R isn’t without foibles.

Our test car suffered from dash rattles. Not a typical Honda trait, we've been assured ours is a pilot vehicle and production cars won't be afflicted. We'll see.

We understand the need to pare weight back, but even Type R drivers could use a rear-vision mirror that dips when reverse gear is engaged so as to not scuff those beautiful alloys. Surely that’s a software box-tick… this Civic costs nearly $75K, remember. 

Unlike the regular Civics, the Type R only has two seats in the back.
Unlike the regular Civics, the Type R only has two seats in the back.

Like the old version, the Type R only offers two (well-shaped and comfy) seats out back, despite there clearly being space for three passengers. 

This may be a deal breaker for some buyers. Especially as there is no folding centre armrest to compensate! 

Nor the cupholders that come with it, face-level air vents, map pockets and sunglasses receptacle. You’ll find all of these in the brilliant $55K Civic e:HEV hybrid, by the way.

Finally, out back, the Type R's luggage compartment is large, reflected in its 411-litre boot capacity (which is 4.0L down on before) – expandable to 904L VDA with the split rear backrest folded. 

Boot space is rated at 411 litres.  
Boot space is rated at 411 litres.  

To access the flat floor area, you’ll need to negotiate quite a high loading lip. And a 35cm-wide retractable cargo cover can be unclipped and stored under a front seat.

Under the floor there a very shallow space where a space-saver spare would reside, but the Type R instead relies on a tyre repair kit, neatly packaged in the typical thorough Honda way within a side wall.

Which describes the Type R’s cabin in one word. Thoughtful.

What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?
10 / 10

The burning heart of the Type R is its largely carried-over powertrain – a 1996cc 2.0-litre double overhead cam VTEC in-line four-cylinder direct-injection turbo-petrol engine.

Dubbed the K20C, it delivers 235kW of power at 6500rpm and 420Nm of torque from 2600-4000rpm. That’s a modest improvement of 7.0kW and 20Nm over the previous car.

Weighing in at 1429kg (kerb), the Type R’s power to weight ratio is an impressive 164.5kW/tonne. To that end, the lightweight die-cast aluminium block features reinforced man bearing caps as well as a “super lightweight” forged-steel crankshaft. 

The turbo, four-cylinder engine produces 235kW/420Nm.
The turbo, four-cylinder engine produces 235kW/420Nm.

As before, a six-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission on offer. This time it includes an improved rev-matching system to synchronise engine revs during up/downshifts, and adapts its ferocity according to which mode it's in.

There are four driving modes – Comfort, Sport, +R (ideal for track) and Individual. The latter allows a mix-and-match of engine, steering and suspension settings to suit the driver's mood. Be it a howling VTEC combined with a cushy tush. Bliss.

As before, a helical limited-slip differential is present; it won’t lock the speed of the front wheels together, to compensate for varying cornering distances while providing better traction and response.

The Type R has four driving modes – Comfort, Sport, +R and Individual.
The Type R has four driving modes – Comfort, Sport, +R and Individual.

Other highlights include the dual axis MacPherson-style strut front suspension with aluminium knuckles, strut forks and lower arms for crisper steering and handling; a multi-link independent rear suspension set-up; dual-pinion motion adaptive electric power steering with a stiffer torsion bar for greater control and feel; and adaptive dampers. 

Finally, brakes are 350mm ventilated disc with Brembo four-piston calipers up front and 305mm solid disc brakes in the rear.

Weight distribution is 68:32 front/rear.

What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?
9 / 10

On a diet of 95 RON premium unleaded petrol, the Type R’s official combined average claim is 8.9L/100km, which is actually 0.2L worse than before. 

The urban and extra-urban numbers are 12L and 7.1L/100km respectively. A Euro 5-rated engine, its combined average carbon dioxide emissions rating is 203g/km.

Using the official average, the Type R should theoretically over 525km per (smallish 47L) tankful.

During our time with it, we managed 11.5L, more or less matching what the trip computer displayed over our 500km or so. That’s a pretty impressive result given how mercilessly this Civic was caned. 

It’s just that sort of car.

What's it like to drive?
10 / 10

Words like electrifying, scintillating and tenacious have long been bandied about describing the previous Type R’s performance, handling and road-holding characteristics.

But now that the FL5 weighs a bit – but costs considerably – more than before, has anything been lost in its transition from old to new?

Moment of truth.

Even after only a few hundred metres behind the wheel of the 2023 Type R, it is abundantly clear that this car has lost none of the sheer joy and zest for life that the previous model possessed in spades.

It still revs with unbridled zeal – with needle effortlessly sweeping past the 7000rpm red line – the gear shift is probably one of the best FWD manuals ever thanks to its newfound slickness  and feel, the clutch is in total sync with the shifter and the brakes wash away speed with the ease of wiping a whiteboard clean. 

In +R mode, the car transforms into a hungry, hot-headed beast.
In +R mode, the car transforms into a hungry, hot-headed beast.

Everything works in progressive, reactive and utterly dependable unison. The driver feels as one and in fierce control.

And that's all immediately apparent even in its most docile driving mode – Comfort. 

Switch to Sport and the beautifully balanced steering weighs up in concert with heightened throttle response, to turn that wick up even more. And for most people, that’s enough, since the Civic is already orbiting in the apex of hot-hatch performance and dynamics.

But that doesn't make +R mode redundant, because that mode sharpens everything with crystalline clarity and super-focused intent. 

The car transforms into a hungry, hot-headed beast, complete with a VTEC wail and speed to match. 

Even after a short drive, it's clear the Type R hasn't lost any of its zest for life.
Even after a short drive, it's clear the Type R hasn't lost any of its zest for life.

It will strive to take you to 10/10ths if you’re game, leaving your senses tingling and your appetite starving for more. An electrifying experience.

Which, frustratingly, also sums up the stormy weather during our entire time with the Type R out on Victoria's sweeping rural roads, but this only served to heighten our admiration.

It's a shame we couldn't test the reported 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds (against the old car's 5.8s), though the reported 275km/h must remain an academic figure until we access a legal German autobahn. 

Back to reality. Despite being a FWD on ultra-slippery surfaces drenched from summer rain, the Type R retains its predecessor’s supernatural ability of remaining bonded to the bitumen, outwitting steering-wheel tug as the torque transmitted unfettered to the front wheels, without ever feeling bogged down.

Through tight switchback turns, engine, gearbox, steering and suspension remain on the same page. In our case, that meant carving through a deluge as if dragged along by a massive magnetic force underneath the bitumen, holding on long after this driver lost their nerve and backed off powering through for fear of endless legal and social repercussions.

The Type R makes you question the need for AWD.
The Type R makes you question the need for AWD.

Have no doubt. The Civic’s front end remains as riveted to the road as ever, with the driver sensing its grip through tactile steering and seat-of-the-pants feel alike. 

We’d go as far as adding that the FL5 is even greater than the FK8 in that regard, because of how purely the torque is tunnelled down through the front wheels. 

It seems to do it with more finesse and even greater smoothness than before. And before it was sensational.

And here’s the clincher. 

The Type R makes you question AWD and all the extra weight and complexity it adds, when really, all you need is connection, agility and control. 

The Type R is the Shangri-La of hot hatches.
The Type R is the Shangri-La of hot hatches.

No matter at what speed, the act of dropping down a gear is a thrill, with the Honda possessing an extraordinary will to comply.

Where the latest Type R really shows the way is in its broader levels of comfort, because with the adaptive dampers and more rigid body and added refinement and sophistication this car has received. 

It’s now a suppler and docile car if you want to just go slow and enjoy the scenery and not drive this car like you’ve stolen it.

Which makes the sole dynamic disappointment even worse – and that’s the amount of road noise emanating from the tyres. On certain coarse surfaces it is almost distractingly loud when tranquillity is required.

The Type R retains its predecessor’s supernatural ability of remaining bonded to the bitumen.
The Type R retains its predecessor’s supernatural ability of remaining bonded to the bitumen.

Luckily, even though it majors on security and safety, nobody buys a Type R for all-round serenity, and when driven like Honda’s genius engineers intended it to be, its capabilities and charms are infectious and compelling.

That’s why the Type R is a contender for best hot-hatch ever. At about a grand less than a Golf R, at $72,600 drive-away, it actually seems like a bit of a bargain as a result. 

That said, it will be interesting to see how it shapes up against the new GR Corolla. Watch for our full test of that soon.

Regardless, it's little wonder that the ultimate Civic is sold out for two years or more. Honda has absolutely nailed it. The Type R is the Shangri-La of hot hatches.   

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty
5 years/unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
9 / 10

There’s no ANCAP result for any of the latest Civics, but Euro NCAP has awarded the hybrid a five-star rating.

Eight airbags are fitted – including new-generation frontal airbags designed to cradle the head to mitigate brain injury, front knee airbags and rear passenger-side impact airbags.

They build on the built-in active safety like improved forward vision afforded by the thinner windscreen pillars and low dash design, better pedestrian-impact front-end area and a stronger body structure that is designed to better-withstand impacts from larger vehicles.

On the driver-assist safety front, you’ll find Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB – that’s operational from 5-180km/h), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist System and Road Departure Mitigation System. 

Note that the lane support systems work between 65-180km/h and the traffic-jam assist tech works between 0-72km/h.

You’ll also score traffic-sign recognition, adaptive cruise control system, a driver fatigue monitor, auto high beam, front/rear parking sensors, anti-lock braking system with brake assist, 'Electronic Brake-force Distribution', hill-start assist, stability control and traction control.

ISOFIX child-seat latches fitted to outboard rear seat positions are fitted, while two top tethers for straps are included across the two-person rear bench.

What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?
9 / 10

Remember when Hondas used to sometimes be quite expensive to service?

Nowadays, every model including the Civic Type R costs $199 per standard scheduled service for the first five years. 

That’s very competitive, though the brand’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is par for the course nowadays. Roadside assistance is included. Intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km. 

Verdict

While keeping its FK8 predecessor’s frenetic performance and superlative dynamics, the latest Type R flexes out the envelope effortlessly, with newfound comfort and sophistication inside and out.

And sure. It does cost quite a bit more than before, and suffers from excessive road noise in some circumstances.

But the Type R may be the greatest hot-hatch of all time. Given this might also be the final generation before electrification takes over, what a way for the internal combustion-engined pocket-rocket to go out. With a wail not a whimper.

As such, the only F-bombs likely to drop are from rivals scrambling to figure out how Honda does it. Join the queue. 

Pricing Guides

$65,962
Based on 30 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months.
LOWEST PRICE
$44,990
HIGHEST PRICE
$79,880

Range and Specs

Vehicle Specs Price*
E:hev LX 2.0L, Unleaded Petrol/Electric, SPEED ELECTRONIC CVT $50,710 - $58,300
Type R 2.0L, Premium Unleaded Petrol, 6 SPEED MANUAL $67,980 - $78,100
VTi-LX 1.5L, Unleaded Petrol, SPEED CONTINUOUS VARIABLE $43,010 - $50,050
See all 2023 Honda Civic in the Range
*Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price
Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC Youth radio Triple J's "all things automotive" correspondent from 2001 to 2003. He rejoined John Mellor in early 2003 and has been with GoAutoMedia as a senior product and industry journalist ever since. With an eye for detail and a vast knowledge base of both new and used cars Byron lives and breathes motoring. His encyclopedic knowledge of cars was acquired from childhood by reading just about every issue of every car magazine ever to hit a newsstand in Australia. The child Byron was the consummate car spotter, devoured and collected anything written about cars that he could lay his hands on and by nine had driven more imaginary miles at the wheel of the family Ford Falcon in the driveway at home than many people drive in a lifetime. The teenage Byron filled in the agonising years leading up to getting his driver's license by reading the words of the leading motoring editors of the country and learning what they look for in a car and how to write it. In short, Byron loves cars and knows pretty much all there is to know about every vehicle released during his lifetime as well as most of the ones that were around before then.
About Author
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication. Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.

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