Goodwood Test: Honda Civic Type R 2023 Review
There is absolutely no pressure on the latest Honda Civic Type R. It’s not like it’s the first Type R to be released since Honda quit making cars in the UK, or that it’s the latest in a line of icons that follows on from an absolute monster, or that the numbers suggest very little change over its predecessor, or that one will now cost you over £45,000 as standard.
But, as you are no doubt aware, it is actually all of those things wrapped up in one package. Every single Civic Type R is under pressure, immense pressure, but the latest, the FL5 feels like it has to battle even more than normal. Can it step up to the plate?
- Stunning nose
- Less ridiculous looks
- More usable engine
We don't like
- Bouncy suspension
- Rev hang
- Aftermarket look of the rear wing
For some, the FL5 will collapse at the very first hurdle. Its predecessors have become increasingly manic, sprouting wings, design lines and appendages from all angles. Nothing seemed able to stop the crazed design studio at Honda from eventually creating a mechanoid monster from its hot hatch.
But someone, somewhere at Honda, has had enough. Rather than getting even more extreme, the newest Civic Type R is, if anything, toned down. Yes, it has a rear wing, but the wing doesn’t have horns. Yes, it has three exhausts, but the rear bumper doesn’t look like a weapon of war. At first glance seeing the FL5 was a shock, you wondered what Honda was doing in a world where standing out, being bigger, better, faster, and bolder than ever before mattered more than anything.
But, spend some time around the Type R and it feels like it makes more sense. Yes, that rear wing [itals] looks [/itals] flimsy, but the mounts are actually just lightweight, and the spoiler itself is sculpted, looking like it’s actually ready to carve some air. The front still looks angry, but in a more serious manner, not puffed up and red-eyed, more ready for action. If you loved the old Type R, you may not like the new one. If, like me, you wondered if it needed to be that wild, you’ll probably look upon the new one with kinder eyes.
Performance and Handling
Under the nose of the FL5 Honda Civic Type R you’ll find pretty much the same engine that motivated the FK8. The 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine now has 329PS (242kW) and 420Nm (309lbft). Not a whole lot more than it had before, but the weight of the turbo has been reduced to speed up its reactions and a lighter flywheel has been added to help throttle response – especially on lift-off.
The rest of the mechanicals are also very similar to what went before. A six-speed manual gearbox, a limited-slip diff, but the Type R now sits on wider rubber, and the adaptive damping has been re-tuned for improved handling. In fact, everything that separates chassis from road has been made a little more harder-wearing to take more of a b-road pounding.
Has it worked? Well, yes. If the old Type R was a monster that you had to spend a moment learning to drive, the FL5 comes intuitively. Power can still be found high up the rev range, but peak torque now sits between 2,600 and 4,000rpm. Rather than constantly hunting revs you find yourself happily shifting in the mid-range to hunt all that torque.
The steering is lightning fast, but manages to never feel like it darts. The clever steering rack that Honda has used for more than one generation means that torque steer remains surprisingly minimal, despite the Type R staying resolutely front-wheel-drive.
The front is the new Honda Civic Type R’s real showstopper. You can lean on it as you enter a corner and ride the grip on the outside tyre. The back will bounce around to some extent but never tries to imitate a pendulum – this experience is about using the LSD to keep the front hauling you around rather than yanking power to complete a corner.
The gearbox is magic, not so perfectly refined that you never feel involved, but blessed with such a short throw and lovely gear knob that you will find pleasure in changing down to stop at traffic lights. It still demands you work. Shift too fast and you will hear that horrendous crunch of un-knotted cogs. The rev hang remains, it might be diminished, but it’s there enough that on the way down you will just need to pause from time to time. But when it all nits together it’s a delight.
The suspension I found to be a bit of a mixed bag. You will probably want to spend some time fettling your own individual setting because “Comfort” is fine but doesn’t quite give the balance you want mid-corner and +R can feel deadly. Stick it into the top setting and the already sharp Type R becomes vicious. It’s absolutely perfect for smooth tarmac, upon which you can sling the now rock-solid Honda from bend to bend, but on a bumpy b-road the vertical movement can feel like the North Sea in February. The good thing is that it means you have plenty of confidence in the way the car shapes through a corner, and it never feels like it tracks horizontally.
Nothing may have changed to the mechanical gubbins of the latest Honda Civic Type R, but it feels like a tectonic shift has happened inside. The old Civic’s interior felt functional, and that carried from the basic spec right up to the top end. But this one feels like a lot more thought has been put in.
The materials still feel rugged rather than executive in places, but the design is great, mixing elements of the past – that silver metal gearstick, the red seats and the silver centre console – with modern. The mesh line running across the centre of the dash is particularly pleasing and the touchscreen’s new positioning atop the dash rather than planted in it is not only easier to read on the road but allows for a cleaner dash.
And that is probably the key word here, clean. The FL5’s interior does everything that was done before but without feeling as crowded as the FK8. Go back and look at the triple-section setup of the old car’s instruments, and the proliferation of big vents across the dash and then look at the new car and feels much more ordered. Even the steering wheel – now delightfully covered in Alcantara – appears to have been on a diet.
Technology and Features
For £46,000 as standard (yes, no typo) the Civic Type R comes with kit that you would expect – reversing camera, automatic lights, wipers, etc – and lives without some things you might expect – where are my heated seats? My bum’s cold. But the key thing that the Type R adds to that touchscreen system is a load of telemetry data.
To be honest as we were driving entirely on the road I spent very little time looking at it, but if you flick through the various options to be found there you’ll gradually go cross-eyed. If there’s a piece of data you could boast to your friends about, it’s there. Is that a good thing? Dragging our eyes over to some brightly coloured g-force meters and numerous dials as we drive? I’m not so sure. I don’t care about it but if you do, enjoy.
The FL5 Honda Civic Type R is incredibly hard to quantify. Take it in isolation and it is an incredibly rapid, massively satisfying machine in which you cannot help but want to just nip down to the shops the long way. The looks have grown on me and it feels less likely that you’ll feel a little awkward when talking to your parents about why you crashed through the front of a Demon Tweeks catalogue. Its rivals now are the most expensive machines in the category – Audi, BMW, Mercedes – and for pure driving fun it outperforms them all. You might have to put up with your core being worked but, if you are thinking of a high-end hot hatch, there’s no contest.
But, and it’s a decent-sized one, it costs forty-six thousand pounds. And that makes it at up to £12k more than a Hyundai i30N. Yes the Civic is probably just about the better car but whether it is the tune of adding the cost of a second-hand Fiesta ST, is questionable.
If you love Type Rs, and if you want the ultimate front-wheel-drive hot hatch, and possibly the ultimate hot hatch, it can only be worth the money. But it’s now really pushing the boundaries.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, petrol
329PS (242kW) @ 6,500rpm
420Nm (310lb ft) @ 2,200rpm
Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
£46,995 (before options)
Reviewed by Ben Miles