Saturday, April 1, 2023
First Reviews 2023 Honda Civic Type R First Drive Review: Catering to an Older...

2023 Honda Civic Type R First Drive Review: Catering to an Older Clientele

I love the new 2023 Honda Civic Type R but not enough to trade in my 2021

  • The new 2023 Honda Civic Type R is priced at $50,050 in Canada, $42,895 in the US.

  • The Type R is based on the 11th-generation Civic.

  • If you want one, better get in touch with someone at Honda NOW.

The 2023 Honda Civic Type R is one of the so many special cars that we North Americans watched evolved from a distance. Although Honda/Acura did delight the enthusiast community with the Integra Type R and a few SiR versions of various Civics. It will have taken until the 6th generation Type R for us to get it and it made its mark.

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Known as the FK8, this Type R set a bar for FWD sports cars that have been all but impossible to match since it launched in 2017. In fact, the Limited Edition Type R set a one-lap Suzuka track record in 2021 which was bested by only 0.873 seconds by the new Type R. But, perhaps more indicative of the FK8’s overwhelming skills is that it held the title as the fastest FWD car around the Nurburgring for two years until Renault took it away from them with a 3.7-second shorter time. That we don’t have a lap time at this point for the new Type R, known as the FL5, is somewhat telling though results may be forthcoming…

Parallel evolution

If you are familiar with the multiverse, the FK8 and FL5 could be the same car launched at the same time in two parallel universes, or nearly. In one, the FK8 is clearly focused on the Fast & Furious crowd while the FL5 caters to the next age group. This conclusion comes courtesy of my owning a very low-mileage 2021 Civic Type R, since new, and driving both cars back-to-back.

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The new 2023 Civic Type R is still powered by the K20C1 turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. For this round of Type R, Honda upgraded the charger, mildly increased boost, and increased the mill’s output to 315 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 310 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,600 rpm to 4,000 rpm, from 306 and 295 respectively in the FK8.

I might be under-selling the engine’s upgrades, but the bottom line is that the new FL5 does not feel any faster that the FK8. The former tips the scale at about 60lbs more which isn’t enough to negate the extra 9hp and 15 torques but then again… The KC20 still generates gobs of low-end torque which will quickly break the front Michelin Pilot Sport tires’ grip with only a mild dose of throttle.

The noticeable changes

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

From the driver’s seat, the manual-driving experience is heightened thanks to a high-rigidity lever and optimized shift gate pattern coupled with a lighter flywheel. Despite the FK8 displaying one of the most satisfying shifting experiences, the new Type R’s is even better. There remains a satisfactory amount of mechanical resistance through the throws however working the shifter through the “H” pattern is now even more natural feeling. Add to this perfect pedal placement with an intuitive clutch friction point and shifting becomes a drug.

Near the aluminium-tipped shifter is another difference. The new 2023 Honda Civic Type R still holds the Comfort, Sport, and +R drive modes but now there’s also an Individual setting. If you’re done reading, you’ve made it far enough to learn this is the main objective advantage of the new FL5 over the FK8.

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The adaptive and adjustable dampers can now be separately set, as can all other drive functions such as steering and throttle response. This ultimately transforms the Type R into a more civilized compact sports car bruiser. The new car, based on the 11th generation Civic, sports a 35mm longer wheelbase and wider track. Mixed with dampers fixed in Comfort, the Type R can now manage horrible Montreal-area roads with ease similar to that of the regular Civic. In contrast, Honda’s now tuned the dampers, when in Sport mode, to be far less forgiving than the FK8’s equivalent setting. In other words, the old Type R is more compliant on Sport than the new.

Still chassis’d to perfection, almost

The front suspension still features a dual-axis setup, separating the strut from the steering action, while the rear still holds a multilink setup. With the said adaptive dampers, the new 2023 Honda Civic Type R still takes to any on- or off-ramp with majestic grip and poise. Sadly, I could not track the car this time but hopefully, that will change in the future.

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

There’s never any doubt the driver is in control simply because the Type R’s handling is unquestionably good. Whether mashing the throttle and sensing the helical limited-slip differential grappling for the surface or trail-braking through an exits’ entry, the combined feedback from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires and loaded steering reassure the driver that the limits are still far from being overwhelmed.

Now, about steering, I am surprised to report that the new FL5’s performance is a trivial notch below, from 12 to 11 out of ten, from that of the FK8’s. The best way to illustrate the difference is that the old Type R’s assistance is even throughout the wheel’s turns, as though it was unassisted. The new car’s steering assistance backs off slightly as the wheel returns to center only to build up once past the threshold. Yeah, that’s about it.

Matured CTR

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

And now looks. This is undeniably the biggest change from one generation to another. The new 2023 Type R’s design is a return to the model’s roots, at least for the first three generations. Basically, the Type R was a gussied-up Civic with a spoiler and wheels. By the fourth iteration, Honda went bolder and bolder with deeper more aggressive body kits, large spoilers, and wheels. The FK2 and FK8 Type Rs were the ultimate expressions of what, to many, helped make the Type R such an icon.

The new 2023 Honda Civic Type R is achingly gorgeous – almost German-inspired. Brands like Audi and Volkswagen have perfected the art of powerful subtlety, and this applies here. The best parts are the rear one-piece fenders and, in fact, the entirety of its rear including the clean and tasteful spoiler and quietly adorned bumper. Simply said, the new Type R is no longer the visually abrasive car it once was. And that poses one problem: It goes by unnoticed. Worse, it could easily be mistaken for an Accord with a spoiler.

As we drove about with both cars, it was clear which Type R got the most looks. Tragically and truthfully, only one person recognized the new flagship Civic. Designers went this way evidently to cater to its existing ageing clientele. And that would be me…

As you peruse the gallery, you’ll note the cabin is far different than what was found in the old Civic. In short, the new dashboard is leagues beyond that of the old as are the camera, the menus, and the interaction with the infotainment system via the nicer 9-inch touchscreen. Finally, the seats in the new Type R are mildly cushier improving comfort marginally.

What Type R are you?

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

After 48 hours with the cars and many hours driving and staring at the two Type Rs, it’s obvious that both cars are exceptional, similar, and very different.

The new 2023 Honda Civic Type R is different because it now competes more directly with the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3, and other premium sporty cars like the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, which is purposeful. It’s possible that, as a final petrol-powered Civic Type R hurrah, Honda wants to leave on a nobler note.

The bottom line is that the new Type R is as exceptional as it needs to be but no longer outstanding. Someone on the interwebs said it best: It’s a sequel to a show that can’t be remade. It’s still worth binge-watching though.

For a moment, I thought about trading in my FK8 for an FL5 as I was staring at the new Type R. Then, I drove off in my car and perished the thought.

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2023 Honda Civic Type R | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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