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First drive: 2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.

First drive: 2023 Honda Civic Type R
The Type R is back, and yes, itís still fitted with an unapologetically high-revving, distinctly un-hybrid VTEC petrol engine.

   



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2023 Honda Civic Type R

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The new Civic Type R has been long awaited, but it enters the market at a difficult time. The popularity of the hot hatchback has diminished, and the Type R is competing with increasingly upmarket rivals. But Honda claims the newcomer has the tools to cope, including the most powerful 2.0-litre VTEC engine ever fitted to any Type R. It's also based on the best Civic in years, but will that be enough to see off a plethora of talented rivals?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Honda Civic Type R
Price: £47,645 (as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power: 329hp
Torque: 420Nm
Emissions: 186g/km
Economy/Range: 34.4mpg
0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
Top speed: 171mph
Boot space: 410 litres

Styling

The new Type R takes much of its styling features from the new Civic, which is already better looking than its predecessor. But thatís just the skeleton Ė the flesh is where the true Type R magic happens. Honda has given the new Type R lots of aerodynamic tweaks, allowing the front splitter, bonnet and bumpers to produce more downforce without creating any extra drag. Even that massive rear wing is designed to be as efficient as possible. The result is undeniably dramatic, but it still has that slight air of yobbishness that some will find alluring and others will find repulsive. Thatís just the Type R way.

Interior

As with the exterior, the Type R's interior is merely a twist on that of the standard Civic, but that's another solid start. Literally. The old Type R was well built, but the new Civic models use more upmarket materials that make it feel considerably more premium, while the design is far more stylish. Nevertheless, some of the old Type R trademarks remain, including the red upholstery and the badges on the steering wheel, as well as the bare-metal gear knob. With red stitching and floor mats, it's quite in-your-face, but that just makes sure you know the Type R is a much more aggressive beast. That said, it still comes with all the tech you expect from a modern family hatchback, including the touchscreen infotainment system and the digital instrument cluster, both of which are an improvement on the old designs, with better graphics and functionality. Admittedly, they aren't perfect, but they're a step in the right direction.

Practicality

Practicality was always one of the Civic's strong points, and though the new model's move to hybrid has dented that slightly, it's still roomier than most. There's space for two adults to sit relatively comfortably in the back, despite the sloping roof line, and those in the front will have no complaints at all. The only slight issue is in the boot, where the Type R has the same capacity as the standard Civic, despite not having the hybrid systems. Still, 410 litres of luggage space is more than you'll get from a Golf R.

Performance

Whereas the standard Civic e:HEV has a hugely complicated 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid system, the Type R is much more old-school. Up front is a 2.0-litre petrol engine, but there's no electric motor. Instead, you get a new turbocharger that allows it to produce 329hp, and all that power is fed to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. That means 0-62mph takes 5.4 seconds and the top speed is 171mph.

Those figures might not be all that impressive compared with all-wheel-drive hot hatches such as the Audi RS3 and VW Golf R, both of which are faster from 0-62mph, but the Type R is still plenty quick enough. It'll outrun a Focus ST and a standard Golf GTI without too much trouble, and when driven more subtly, it'll easily top 30mpg.

The only problem is the engine note, which sounds a little too muted for our liking. It's fine being quiet on the motorway or in town, but you want it to have some character when you're pushing it, and the new Type R is slightly lacking on that front.

Ride & Handling

The new Civic e:HEV is already brilliant to drive, and the Type R simply builds on those strong underpinnings. It feels slightly lighter on its feet than the old Type R, but it's cut from much the same cloth. Wide tyres and suspension trickery allow it to cling on to the asphalt long after you expect the grip to melt away, while the ability to keep body roll to a minimum in corners allows great confidence. The same goes for the steering, which is brilliant, but the best bit is the sharp, smooth manual gearbox, which is nothing short of superb. Teamed with rev-matching technology to help flatter your technique, it makes you feel like more of an organic component in the car.

For all that driver involvement, though, the Type R's real genius can be found in the most laid-back Comfort mode, as opposed to the more aggressive Sport and +R settings. There, the car feels stiff and pointy, but in Comfort mode it rides with surprising subtlety, while the engine sounds muted and subdued. Sure, there's quite a lot of road noise and the seats are too hard, but this is a better long-distance cruiser than you might imagine. And because visibility is decent, it's also pretty good in town.

Value

The new Type R might be competing with some premium models, but even so the pricing is decidedly punchy. With just a fiver's change from £47,000, you have to be committed if you want one of these. So committed, in fact, that you'll overlook the VW Golf R that's £4,000 cheaper and comes with all-wheel drive. That said, the Civic doesn't want for very much, with just one trim level providing everything you need. A reversing camera, cruise control and satellite navigation are all included, along with the digital instrument display and parking sensors at the front and rear. You even get lots of safety kit.



James Fossdyke - 11 Jan 2023



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2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.

2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.2023 Honda Civic Type R. Image by Barry Hayden.







 

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