Calling all 2023 Honda Civic Type R owners: WE WANT YOUR CAR.
Can you blame us? Since Honda decided to gift us with the FK8 Civic Type R years ago- you know, the one that looked like it was styled by a 3rd grader all hopped up on high fructose corn syrup- we’ve been in love. The success of that one warranted a new generation, and Honda obliged by giving us the FL5 generation you see here. We wondered: could they capture lightning in a bottle once again? Could the new one really be better than the old one? Before we try to answer that very question, a problem presented itself- Honda is making these things in seriously limited numbers; so much so that when we called around numerous dealerships nearby to plunk a deposit on one for our own collection (and some much, much farther afield) we realized that if you are lucky enough to get an allocation you likely paid more than sticker relating to a ‘market adjustment’. When we offered to do whatever it takes to get our hands on one, the response was unanimous:
Back to that question for a moment- the answer is an emphatic yes. Sure, we’ll explain why we arrived at that conclusion, but our friends at Car and Driver recently crowned it king amongst the crème de la crème of hot hatches, beating the GR Corolla and VW Golf R on its way to a clear victory. They summed it up perfectly and thusly: “Unfathomably great, with no ‘for a front-driver’ qualifier needed.” Perhaps now you’re getting the idea of why we want one so badly.
Yet before we even dipped the clutch for the first time in the new FL5, our expectations weren’t particularly high. After all, there’s a lot of carry over bits from the last generation, including major components like the engine, transmission and suspension- although all three areas have been tweaked here and there in an incremental process that, on face value, doesn’t seem to have a meaningful impact- but taken as a sum of said improvements, the result is staggering. This feels like a completely new car, and a better one at that. Honda calls this process kaizen- we call it awesome.
It isn’t significantly faster in terms of straight-line speed, despite a slight bump in power. The gearbox, which is an unmitigated joy to use, doesn’t feel much different either. But get the two working hard and the information streaming up from the seat of your pants confirms that the FL5 Type R is indeed a friskier dingo. It even sounds better doing so, which shows that Honda was paying close attention to complaints that the outgoing CTR sounded too much like a vacuum cleaner.
Now rolling on smaller 19” wheels (but with 265 width tires, the widest ever fitted to a production front-wheel drive car) shod on sticky Michelin performance rubber, the real magic of the spiciest Civic is how it devours corners. The front and rear track have been widened and the very trick torque steer killing front suspension geometry make for deliriously high levels of grip, all of which is exploited by a pin sharp steering rack that is one of the better electronically assisted units extant. Forget everything you know about a car being held back from the limitations of front-wheel drive architecture- this is one of the sweetest handling cars on sale, regardless of where the power is sent. You don’t need to be touching extra-legal speeds to taste the magic- the CTR is as fun and engaging at 40 km/h as it is at its top speed, which is on the north side of 260 km/h. Amazing stuff, made that much cooler when you consider that this machine is based on the excellent but humble Civic.
To fully exploit the capability of this machine, you’ll need a racetrack- it is much too meticulously engineered and fast to be used responsibly on public roads. It is there that the CTR’s track focused pedigree really comes into focus. You grab this car by the scruff of its neck and toss it around with abandon and it never complains; instead, it almost seems to whisper, ‘please sir/madame, may I have another?’
Find yourself overdoing it and carrying way too much entry speed into a bend? Stand on the brake pedal with conviction and the ferocious bite of the Brembo brakes never seem to weaken, and the chassis shrugs off mid corner lumps like a prize fighter. The best part? The overheating issues that plagued the previous gen are a thing of the past thanks to a better cooling system and much larger air intakes so you can lap all day to your hearts content. You will wave the white flag much, much faster than the car will.
Another CTR hallmark is that after you’re content boiling your brake fluid and running those Michelins down to the cords, it will politely head for home in the same comfort as its lesser Civic siblings. The aircon blows cold, the stereo system is surprisingly fantastic and the seats- oh, the seats!- gently coddle you after holding your keister resolutely in place during all those high speed corners. We’ve always maintained that Volvo makes the best thrones in the biz but these chairs give the Swedes a serious run for their money.
All that hot lapping will expose the CTR’s one flaw (at least the only one we could detect.) The gas tank seems way too small for our tastes and driving at 10/10ths will drain it dry fairly quickly. Those who’ll road trip their CTR’s will want to make sure the tank is topped up or a flat bed tow to the next fuel stop could be in their future. So…that’s it, that’s the only thing that bothered us? Well, if we break out our pedantic hats we’d say that the searing red hue of the interior could be toned down a bit. That’s it. That’s the bad news in its entirety.
Well, that and the fact that you cannot get one of these things which is why we are pleading for yours. Not that you’d give it up anyway- this Type R is the best yet and just so achingly good at everything it does. The bandwidth this car offers is unmatched, hands down, save for maybe a Porsche 911. Actually, one of our close friends remarked that if Porsche built a front drive, turbocharged four cylinder GT car this would be it. Seriously.
In the meantime, we’ll thank you for your consideration in this matter. Knowing full well that you’d never part with your Civic Type R, we’ll keep pestering dealers and scanning the enthusiast reseller sites in the hope that that there might be a car available in the future. This one is special, folks- and we’d guess with 100% certainty that this will be a collector’s item for sure. Get yours while you can.
2023 Honda Civic Type R – Specifications
- Price as tested: $51,961
- Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger hatchback
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 315 @ 6,500 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 310 @ 2,600 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,445 kg (3,183 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 10.2L/100km (23 mpg)