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

Driven: 2023 Honda Civic Type R
First impressions were good, but does the Type R get better when you spend a little more time with it?

   



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Honda Civic Type R

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

We've already driven the Civic Type R, and found it a bit mixed. On the one hand, it drives beautifully and it looks better than ever, but on the other it's expensive and slow relative to hot hatches with a more modern attitude. But that's the conclusion drawn from a wet and wintry race track and even wetter country lanes. Will living with the car for a while in summer give us a different perspective?

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

Incredibly, the Type R's styling seems to have grown on us since we first drove it back in January. Naturally, it's an evolution of the already handsome latest-generation Civic, which feels much more mature than its predecessor. Yet though the Type R adds a hint of yobbish aggression to proceedings, it does so in a surprisingly mature way. Yes, there are three exhaust outlets, and yes, there's a massive rear wing, but the design is still cohesive and smart, even with its lowered suspension, big black alloys and flared arches. It's mad, but in all the right ways.

Interior

One of the best things about the new Civic is its cabin, and the new Type R has inherited much the same advantage. You get the same wide dashboard design with cleverly hidden air vents, and you get the same basic digital instrument cluster and touchscreen, albeit with some snazzy Type R graphics added to the mix. But overall, it's essentially the same, and that means you get great build quality and some more upmarket materials than the old Civics. Admittedly, it still isn't quite as solid as an Audi RS 3, but it's easily a match for the Ford Focus ST or even the VW Golf R.

But it's more dramatic than either of those cars, thanks to the trademark Type R upgrades. There's red suede upholstery on the race-inspired front seats, and there's a bare-metal gear knob, as well as a Type R plaque on the dash. You get red stitching, too, and some red floor mats, just to hammer home the sporting intent.

Of course, that's a mixed blessing. The gear knob can get quite hot or cold, depending on the atmospheric conditions, and those seats are a bit firm. Weirdly, they get a bit uncomfortable after an hour or two, but they never seem to get any less comfortable than that, so long journeys aren't quite the ordeal we originally expected them to be.

Then there's the Honda touchscreen, which is certainly an improvement on the old system, but it's a way behind the latest Ford or Hyundai tech. Still, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, so you'll use that most of the time, and the screen is sharp and responsive enough to cope. The digital instrument display, however, is really very good, and it integrates the aforementioned smartphone tech to great effect, offering turn-by-turn instructions where other cars might not.

Practicality

The whole point of a hot hatch is practicality, and few are as useful as the Type R. Like the standard Civic hybrid, it has a reasonably spacious cabin, with plenty of room in the front and rear. Rear legroom is particularly impressive, although there's a slight trade-off in terms of headroom thanks to the car's sloping roof. Although tall passengers will have plenty of space for their legs, they might find their heads jammed against the roof lining. Still, it's roomy enough for most, and the 410-litre boot is a notable upgrade on the space you'll find in the back of a VW Golf R.

Performance

Where other car makers have gone all forensic in their search for performance, adding all-wheel-drive and double-clutch automatic gearboxes, Honda has remained stoically old-school, preferring the Type R to feel like a classic hot hatch. As a result, you get much the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine as before, albeit with a new turbocharger that ups the output to 329hp.

Although thatís much the same power you get from a Golf R, the Type R sends it all to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, rather than to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic. Scientists would tell you the Honda way is wrong, and the performance figures back that up Ė 0-62mph takes 5.4 seconds, whereas a Golf can do it in less than five Ė but that isnít really the point. The Type R spins its wheels and fidgets as it accelerates, making it feel more organic and more alive, even if it is a bit slower overall.

Admittedly, the Hondaís gearing is a bit short for long drives Ė cruising on the motorway sees the revs climb to almost 3,000rpm Ė but that just makes the car more involving on winding back roads. And although the engine is a bit muted in Comfort mode, the Type R still feels a bit noisy and raw. Thatís a good thing in many ways, particularly if you want to have a bit of fun on your favourite back road, but itís a bit of a pain if you just want to go to work. Itís hardly the end of the world, though. Your ears wonít suddenly start bleeding.

Ride & Handling

For a while, now, Type Rs have been based on remarkably competent Civics, right back to the old FK2 in 2015. But this Civic is perhaps the best Civic yet Ė certainly in the past decade Ė and the Type R uses that base to great effect. Naturally, it comes with big tyres and lower suspension, but thatís not all that makes the Type R so good. In fact, perhaps its best attribute has nothing whatsoever to do with performance.

The Type Rís ride is brilliantly composed for something so quick and so agile, particularly in the Comfort setting. It does get a bit brittle in the Sport and +R modes, but Comfort makes it surprisingly pliant. It still thumps into the bigger bumps, but thatís only to be expected when the tyres appear to be painted onto the rims. Most of the time, itís barely less comfortable than your average family hatchback.

Yet despite that, itís much more capable in the corners. Body roll is limited, grip is enormous, and the steering is nothing short of sublime. On a track, it feels nimble and light on its feet, while on a good road it still feels dependable and trustworthy, without ever feeling as though its capability is infinite. In fact, itíll hang on longer than you expect, but it never lures you into a false sense of security. You feel how hard its working.

And you have to work for it, too. The six-speed manual gearboxís ratios are quite short, so you stir the pudding quite a bit, but thatís all to the good. You feel as though itís all your doing, even when the rev matching technology is flattering you through every gear shift. Even the most ham-fisted driver can make a smooth downshift with that system in operation.

What this means is the Type R manages to balance the need for drama and excitement with an ability to look after you all the way, and that means it can engage the talented and the less talented drivers alike. Thatís quite the combination.

Value

This might be the last Type R, and it might be one of the best, but the price point remains an issue. At almost £50,000, it doesn't come cheap, but then nor does anything else in this class. A Ford Focus ST Track Pack and VW Golf R are almost as expensive, although the latter is faster in a straight line and it offers an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive. Whether that works in its favour is up to you.

But what is clear is that the Type R is cooler and more interesting than the Golf, and it's just as well equipped. You get a rear-view camera, cruise control and satellite navigation as standard, as well as parking sensors all round, a digital instrument cluster and lots of safety equipment. Heated and cooled seats would be a nice addition to the standard kit, but those red suede seats are remarkably good at staying warm when it's cold and staying cool when it's warm. They don't really need artificial assistance.

Verdict

We were already aware of the Civic's qualities, but spending more time with it has not exposed any major weaknesses. Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, it isn't that fast, and the price remains very high, but when VW is trying to charge more than £60,000 for a special edition Golf, it doesn't look so bad. Add in the more mature styling and the surprising levels of comfort, as well as the Type R's legendary status, and this has to be the best Type R in years.



James Fossdyke - 13 Jun 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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