How do you improve on excellence? The old Honda Civic Type R brought a level of cohesion usually reserved for high-end sports cars to the hot hatch segment, plus it brought the legend of Type R back to North America after a 16-year absence. In the case of the new 2023 Honda Civic Type R, it promises improvement via maturity, rounding off the old car’s Hot Topic aesthetics to create a more sensible super hatch.
See, the old Honda Civic Type R looked a bit spiky and anti-social with its vortex generators, fender flares, red accenting, and faux-vents conspired to give the outgoing model the same appeal as bondage pants. It was certainly bold, but bold means polarizing here. In contrast, the new car almost looks like regular-ass traffic. Sure, it has a big rear wing and three anuses, but it doesn’t look like it crashed into AB Flug’s workshop.
Die-cut aluminum uprights slim down the rear wing’s visual presence, while special Type R-specific rear doors blend the bulged rear arches much better than on the old car. Up front, reasonably-sized grilles blend with a nice lack of faux-grille macho posturing to create a look bordering on understated. As expected, five colors are on tap: Championship White, Rallye Red, Boost Blue, Crystal Black Pearl, and Sonic Grey Pearl. Honestly, go for Rallye Red or Boost Blue. It’s nice not driving a greyscale car.
As for the wheels, they feature familiar Y-spoke styling and are wrapped in 265/30ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. Yes, we’re looking at smaller diameter wheels than the outgoing car and a fairly predictable jump to Michelin as a tire supplier. After all, Michelin’s Sport Cup 2s featured on the 2021 Civic Type R Limited Edition. Weirdly, I’m not surprised to see Honda leaping down an inch in wheel diameter. Several owners reported sidewall roll and chunking issues on the old car’s stock tire setup when driven hard, not nice stuff for a track-focused hot hatch.
On the inside, the new Civic Type R adopts some traits of the old Civic Type R. The front seats still look a bit overstuffed and blocky, although they’re still upholstered in red fabric. To be painfully specific, Honda has developed a new shade of red for this faux-suede upholstery, a move that was likely unnecessary but certainly not a detraction by any means. Hell, the interior comes with a notable addition – American-market cars will get red carpets for the first time. As a marker of Type R heritage, that has to count for something, right?
While the new Civic’s interior layout promises to be much nicer than that of the old Civic, it appears that the Type R still isn’t optimized for cold-climate drivers. Heated seats don’t appear to be on the menu, nor does a heated steering wheel. I mean really, how much weight do heated seats actually add? We’re talking about a handful of pounds for the heating elements, switches, and wiring. The Volkswagen Golf R and Hyundai Elantra N already have these creature comforts, so would it have killed Honda to chuck them in the Type R?
Moving on to tech, the Civic Type R seems to offer some nifty gadgets. There’s a bespoke gauge cluster skin in +R mode with a pretty cool horizontal tachometer, while the standard infotainment system is a nicely-sized nine-inch touchscreen. There appear to be Type R-specific infotainment applications with performance read-outs, although the press release neglected to go into further detail. A Bose stereo does appear to be on tap, promising a decent improvement in audio quality over the somewhat crappy stereo in the old Civic Type R. If this is anything like the Bose stereo in the standard Civic, and I see no reason for substantial differences, it’s reasonably acceptable. Distortion levels aren’t great, the sound signature isn’t massively fun, but it should keep up with other C-segment premium audio systems.
Moving on to the Civic Type R’s powertrain, there’s a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine on tap mated to a six-speed manual transaxle driving the front wheels. Feeling brave today, aren’t we? Look, it’s okay if much of this powertrain is carryover because it was brilliant in the old Type R. Apparently some revisions have taken place to make the engine “even more powerful and responsive.” That sounds brilliant, but details and effects are yet to be seen. What can definitely be seen is the massive amounts of carbon fiber slathered all over various engine bay components. It certainly looks lovely, but I can’t help but wonder how much weight these fancy reinforced plastic bits really save over more garden-variety plastics.
So, what else can I tell you about the new Honda Civic Type R? Not much, I’m afraid. See, Honda hasn’t released power figures, curb weight, gear ratios, or anything at all that really matters to enthusiasts. In fact, I’ll provide a link to the whole press release just so you know I’m not making anything up here. What’s a claim of “most powerful Type R ever” without any figures to back it up? We’ve known what the new Civic Type R would look like for ages, we’ve known what would power it for ages, now’s the time to dredge up some figures and unveil a bloody car.
According to Honda, more details on the 2023 Civic Type R will be available closer to autumn when the Type R’s expected to go on sale. I hope that not only are the figures good, but that Honda has a damn good reason for holding out this long on releasing them. As long as the new car still drives brilliantly and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg more than the old car, I’m alright with holding off. However, the Hyundai Elantra N is absolutely brilliant and stickers for just $33,245, so Honda will have to work really hard to justify any price delta.