The 2023 Civic Type Rawr (as it will always be known to me) may be more of a “hot sportback” than a “hot hatch” but it’s undeniably insane. 315 eager ponies are channeled thorough one of the best 6-speed manuals in America and sent to the ground via 265-width summer tires. What’s not to love? The front wheel drive only design? Let’s talk about the Type R.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love high output front drivers, after all I owned a S70 T5 once upon a time. However, I think that somewhere *under* 300 horsepower is really my front wheel drive fun limit, but there is something oddly joyful about torque steer. Yes, the Type R will still torque steer, but not like a 1990s FWD V8 Caddy, it’s far more refined as you’d expect. 0-60 times should be around 5-seconds if you’re willing to roast the clutch, 5.5 if you’re not.
The best way to describe the new Type R is this: this is the most grown-up hot hatch that has ever come out of Japan. The styling is, dare I say it: sedate compared to the old model, and like most of us since 1997 it has gained a bit of weight. At 3,188 pounds the 6th gen Type R is nearly 900 pounds heavier than the 1st gen (1997) and about as weighty as a 1997 Accord V6. Thankfully weight isn’t everything, the well-designed suspension and wide grippy tires keep the hot Civic firmly planted on a track. That said, I have this nagging feeling that it would feel “large” if you decided to autocross it vs chuck it on Sonoma Raceway as Honda chose to do. Speaking of weight, the GR Corolla is a little heavier at 3.285 pounds or lighter at 3,186 pounds in its lightest form.
Back to the all-wheel-drive statement. With this much power, AWD is really needed to get the most out of the engine. Assuming the surface is perfect, FWD does reduce turbo bog a hair, but for all other times and places, a good AWD system helps you apply that power. VS the GR Corolla, the Type R is certainly more prone to power-on understeer while the Corolla’s rear power bias can get more rear end rotation than you’d think possible. Ditto the Golf R.
Honda’s refined and grown up look belies the Type R’s suspension tune which is decidedly firm. I had expected something more akin to an Audi S3 or RS3 in the tuning of the new suspension, but6 if anything it’s firmer than the old Type R with a bit more bounce. The bounce is likely due to the combination of extremely low-profile tires and limited suspension travel. It’s something you‘ll get used to but also something absent on the Corolla and Golf.
On the inside you get the same interior as the rest of the Civic lineup, that is to say: clean and modern. The seats and belts are red, natch for a hot hatch. The LCD instrument cluster has been tweaked for Type R models with more engine data and a “racing inspired” shift indicator which is basically a row of LEDs. About that shift indicator: This is the first one that I found useful. Most start lighting up too late and those that beep usually do so at the last moment. Honda on the other hand actually thought about how to make theirs useful. The LEDs start lighting at least 1,500 RPM earlier than average and the beeper starts beeping when you’re in the yellow zone to let you know you need to think about shifting. What’s the use in beeping when you’re banging off the redline? I never understood that. This on other hand lets you keep your eyes on the track, and the timing between beep and shift is sheer perfection. You might never use the tach again.
After a day with the Type R I came away conflicted. That likely has to do with the fact that I was driving an Audi S3 the same week. I knew that the 2023 Type R would be more grown up than the old model and I assumed that meant it would feel more like the 306 HP Audi in some ways. The RS3 after all is quite simply the best car I’ve driven in years. Let’s put the Civic vs Audi S3/RS3 in human terms. The Audi is a 45-year-old guy that goes to the gym daily, plays tennis, wears well-tailored suits and wins the arm wrestling competition with a smile. The Type R is the 45-year-old guy that dresses like he’s 20, goes to the gym as often but prefers Tough Mudder and thinks he’s the arm wrestling champ… but Audi-dude beats him every time. Oh, and Audi dude’s duds are cheaper than the designer hoodie Type R dude is rocking.