2023 Honda Civic Type R on the Track: Can Track Time Sway Me from My V8 Ways?
As a lifelong V8 muscle car fan, I had a hard time accepting the hot hatch market as a teen and young adult. Now, having experienced the 10th generation Honda Civic in Type R trim and most of its competition, I was highly excited to see what the 11th generation Civic can do in hot hatch guise.
My history with cars started at age 9 when my family moved to East Texas and our new neighbors had a Chevrolet Camaro. As a nine-year-old in the pre-Google era I did what any young kid does, I asked my parents too many questions. So many in fact that they took me to the bookstore to get books documenting the history of the car over its then four generations. I was hooked on V8 muscle from that point on. As a teen, I would scoff at all the little four-banger imports with their “fart-can” mufflers that made themselves so well known in the high school parking lot. Real power made a rumble, I thought.
This prejudice followed me until I began this career in automotive journalism. Knowing I had to keep an open mind and be willing to drive anything, I can still remember the first Type R I drove. It was a 2018 model in bright red, documented right here on GT: Garage Talk. That car instantaneously changed my perception of the genre and opened my eyes to the fun that little hot hatchback cars can be.
In the video documenting that used 2018 model, I admitted that I understood the cult-like following the Type R had garnered over the years, and could see why dealerships were getting caught putting such a big markup on them when new. They were fun, practical, and quirky little cars based on highly popular platforms that made finding (most) replacement parts extremely easy. Crack a windshield in traffic? No worries, the Civic is one of the brand’s best-selling vehicles and you can get a new one in no time… not always the case with limited production performance vehicles.
Fast forward to the present day, and Honda has introduced a toned-down 11th generation of their Civic that in base form definitely appeals more to me than the angular and futuristic design of the 10th gen. Dubbed the FL5, this sixth-generation of the Type R variant is also toned down from the model it replaces. Smoother lines and fewer “look at me” fake vents make it more palatable to the general public. It definitely blends in more than its predecessor, and I am completely fine with that. The fewer people who know what kind of power I have on tap, the better. That makes for more fun when cruising down Broadway.
Boasting the most power of any Civic to wear the Type R trappings, this 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine makes 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, allowing this new Civic Type R to set a new front-wheel-drive record at the Suzuka Circuit which bested the 2021 Type R Limited Edition with a lap time of 2 minutes and 23.120 seconds. In fact, the new Type R is not only more powerful and responsive than the previous generation but also can claim a higher power-to-weight ratio which helped it achieve that new lap record.
The new Type R also has a proper 6-speed manual transmission in an era when 3-pedal options are dropping off order books left and right. With modern features like rev-matching and a new Type R-exclusive shift link mechanism with shorter throws than the previous Type R, this 6-speed is even smoother and more precise than ever before.
Rowing through the gears, it was clear this 6-speed manual was far superior to the slushbox in my daily driver. The satisfying click of finding each gear was fun to do while sitting stationary as much as it was while carving corners and hitting apexes on the track. Speaking of which, getting this front-drive car out on the track shows that the engineers at Honda must have attended Hogwarts because they appear to be wizards of traction. Thanks to the helical limited-slip front differential I hardly felt the car lose traction and getting the front wheels to do all the steering duty while also applying all the power to the track is no easy task, much less on our course at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway which has several fun elevation changes making it a blast of a course to drive.
It is only proper that after testing a used 2018 Type R on public roads, my first chance to sample the 2023 mode would be on a closed track, its natural environment. Slipping on my XL race helmet and sliding behind the wheel I was seeing a lot of red. Not just the red “H” logos on the front and rear of the vehicle denoting the power under the hood, but inside the Type R has red front racing seats, red seatbelts, and red carpet and floor mats. If red is not your color you may want to look elsewhere.
I quick stab of the right pedal makes a wonderful sound from under the hood and out of the three tailpipes out back. The center-mounted triple-outlet exhaust features an active exhaust valve that opens and closes depending on the drive mode and situation, opening up for the loudest and most free-flowing option.
This Type R also features a dual-axis front suspension setup that helps drivers diver into corners with supreme confidence. Rear suspension duties are handled by a multi-link rear setup with highly rigid components for added stability and linear handling response. Wearing MacPherson struts up front, this suspension setup helps to minimize torque steer common to front-wheel drive cars while delivering a precise steering response. Adaptive dampers help minimize body roll through corners on the track or smooth out rough roads in a commute.
Slowing you to a stop are large 12.8-inch two-piece front brake rotors that are clamped by four-piston Brembo calipers. Granted I only had three laps in the Type R, but I did not feel any fade and knew I could go in harder to corners knowing the Brembos had my back with their strong stopping power. Wrapped around my black wheels were perhaps the best performance tires for daily use in the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires. 265 millimeters wide and 19 inches in diameter, these tires create a larger and stickier contact patch than the previous generation and aid in stopping, cornering, and all-around maneuverability.
All these components and more translate to a package that seems just as happy on the roads of your town as they do here on our racetrack for the afternoon, making this a vehicle that would not be a pain to drive you to, on, and home from a track day session. All you need to do is see the big grin and hear the goofy laughs this car induced from me while bouncing between apexes.
I can say now with full authority that turbocharged 4-cylinder hot hatches have won over this fan of the big V8 growl. That is not to say that I wouldn’t pick a V8 over these hot hatches, I just have a newfound respect for the formula. Not to mention we also had access to an 807 horsepower screaming banshee of a V8 courtesy of the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Black Ghost on the track as well… more to come on that beats soon.
2023 Honda Civic Type R Specs:
2.0L VTEC Inline 4-Cylinder Engine
310 lb-ft of Torque
6-Speed Manual Gearbox with Rev-matching
Driver-selectable Drive Modes:
Dual-Axis Front Suspension with MacPherson Struts
Multi-Link Rear Suspension
Brembo Four-piston Front Brake Calipers
13.8-inch Two-piece Rotors
Helical Limited-slip Front Differential
Electric Variable-Ratio Power Steering
265/30 R19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S Tires
Motor Trend-Recorded 5.3 Second 0-60
Motor Trend-Recorded 13.9 Second ¼ Mile at 104.2 mph
Digital Instrument Cluster
Added Aero for Increased Downforce
Red Cloth Front Sport Seats with Increased Bolstering for Cornering Support
Black Cloth Rear Seats
9-inch Color Infotainment with Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Qi Wireless Phone Charger
Honda Sensing Suite of Safety and Assistance Features
Collision Mitigation Braking
Road Departure Mitigation
Adaptive Cruise Control
Lane Keeping Assist
Forward Collision Warning
Lane Departure Warning
Traffic Sign Recognition
Auto High-beam Headlights
Driver Attention Monitor
Multi-angle Camera System
Bose 12-speaker Premium Sound
Starting Price: $43,295
Price as tested: $44,385
First 21 images courtesy of capturingthemachine.com