The all-new 2023 Honda Civic Type R is priced at $50,050. The 2023 Volkswagen Golf R starts at $47,495.
Both new cars are among the most powerful sport compact cars ever offered for sale.
These new sport compact cars are more grownup than ever.
If you’re in the market for a hot hatch, you’re in luck. It’s been a New York minute since the last time there were as many enticing small sporty cars to choose from. And when it comes to the cream of the crop, the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R and 2023 Honda Civic Type R are two juggernauts in the segment.
Both cars offer impressive performance, sporty design, and plenty of features to make them stand out from the competition. Despite meeting in the middle like this, they are extremely different in the way they were conceived to do what they do.
The Golf R’s MO has always been to deliver blistering performance but never at the expense of refinement, comfort, and serenity. The Civic Type R, on the other, was until now narrow-minded and laser-focused on the job of going fast. For the new 7th generation 2023 Type R, Honda took a few notes from Volkswagen, and the result was good, and not as good.
Let’s compare these two hot hatches head-to-head to find out which is better, if possible.
What is the pricing and when will they be available?
Both cars are currently available and can be configured online. Even so, and like most desirable new things, taking delivery of one within a reasonable timeframe is unlikely. What’s more, the new Type R is available in very limited qualities in Canada. And based on observations alone, the Golf R isn’t very common either.
The 2023 Volkswagen Golf R starts at $47,495 with a manual transmission. The only options are the DSG automatic transmission which adds $1,400 to the price tag and a $1,250 sunroof. Colour selection has no impact on the price.
Pricing for the new 2023 Honda Civic Type R is set at $50,050. There are no options and colour selection does not affect pricing.
Which is more entertaining to drive?
The Civic Type R. Well, the Golf R. No joke, both are addictively good.
The one caveat here is that I’ve never driven a Civic Type R in winter, not even mine. With the limited-slip differential, it would manage to perform well with a good set of winter tires. The Golf R, on the other hand, is an all-season and all-weather dominator. Its 4MOTION AWD system is more sophisticated than ever and now features a drift mode. As a daily-every-season driver, the Volkswagen is almost impossible to beat. Well, there’s the Toyota GR Corolla…
But, short of the advantages provided by the AWD system, the Civic Type R is a more dynamic, more involving driver. Steering offers more grit, sharper responses, and less-filtered feedback. Chassis-wise, it’s also more engaging however the gap between the new FL5 Civic Type R and the new MK8 Golf R is far narrower than it was when the previous generation FK8 Type R and MK7.5 Golf R were sold new.
Both are imminently fast as they carry a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. Output for the R is a generous 315 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm. The Type R’s 2.0T offers up to 315 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 310 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,600 rpm to 4,000 rpm. Although the power numbers are similar, the Golf R is quicker to 100km/h by a half-second at about 4.9 seconds.
To the delight of driving enthusiasts, both cars include a 6-speed manual transmission as standard. Points must be awarded to the Civic’s drier and more mechanical shift action. But more than that, the precision and instant “clicking” while rowing through the gears is beyond rewarding and unlike in any other car. The Golf R’s shifter doesn’t bite as sharply but it nonetheless positions itself as one of the best in the business.
Which is better equipped?
The Golf R. It is true that both cars come with plenty of modern tech features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist systems and more. On top of that, both vehicles also come with plenty of safety features like blind spot monitoring systems, forward collision warning systems, and more.
The Volkswagen is delivered with Nappa leather-covered seats, a head-up display, an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat with memory function, heated front and outer rear seats, and a heated steering wheel – none of which are available in the Civic Type R. Oh, and AWD – same story. And, should you want the transmission to shift itself, the 7-speed DSG is only $1,400 more.
What About Styling?
It’s a tie. The good news is that both sport compact cars are hatchbacks.
For Honda Civic Type R fans, the new FL5 has visually matured into an “acceptable” sporty car for adults to drive. Gone are the exaggerated tacked-on flares, oversized chunky rear spoiler, and overtly aggressive on-road presence. As an FK8 Type R owner, I get Honda’s design direction however most who come across the new Type R will mistake it for an Accord sedan with a rear spoiler.
The Volkswagen Golf R remains as subtly attractive as always. Elegant and understated, the new Golf R maintains the automaker’s vision of Golf+.
The Golf and Civic’s cabins are quite premium. Admittedly, the Civic’s interior evolution is considerable from one generation to the next while the Golf’s has lost some of its former glory.
Our Thoughts On The 2023 Honda Civic Civic Type R And 2023 Volkswagen Golf R
The bottom line, the defining line, is that both of these cars have never been more similar in presentation. The same goes for the driving experience.
This is the result of Honda dialing back the Type R to appeal to a broader audience and compete even more directly with the Golf R. The latter is still the ultimate all-season sports car. Up until very recently, it was alone however the recent arrival of the all-new 2023 Toyota GR Corolla has changed that.
Three final thoughts: Both cars are exceptional and there is no “lesser” choice. Even if you’d like one soon, you won’t – demand outstrips availability. And, the best option is one of each.