Honda has been building racing cars since 1964, ultimately bringing bespoke competition machines to virtually every area of motorsport. Sporting a distinctive white and red livery derived from the Japanese flag, the company remains a potent force on the circuit.
In 1992 a new division was formed within the car company to bring these racing genes to road cars, initially with the intention of converting them into track-oriented tools. Starting with the (first generation) NSX Type R, Honda continued to make Type R-Spec versions of the Integra, Accord and Civic, creating a variety of iconic items in the process.
Typically, the Type-R spec meant it was removed and upgraded, omitting niceties like air conditioning and cruise control, swapping window glass for lightweight polycarbonate, and brakes, engine and drivetrain all being upgraded for endurance and performance. Usability and refinement have crept back in over the years and this latest Honda Civic Type R is as at home on the open road as it is on the track.
The 2023 Honda Civic Type R
In many ways, the new Honda Civic Type R is a happy anachronism that can’t make any commercial sense in today’s odds market. ‘New’ is a slight misnomer as this 2023 car is based on the heavily modified 2017 model, with all sorts of major additions and improvements.
For the layman, the big difference is the styling. The humble Civic has been around since 1972; over 27 million of these have been sold. Simple, compact and affordable hatchbacks used to rule the world. After eleven generations, it can no longer be described as compact, cheap or even particularly simple.
The new car fixes some of its predecessor’s more outlandish and awkward aesthetic choices, particularly in relation to the light clusters and forward-facing stance. It’s by no means a pretty car, and in Type R trim it’s destined to stand out from the crowd thanks to a massive rear spoiler and body kits.
That’s what the Type-R driver wants. For generations, the base car served as a blank slate for driving enthusiasts, inventors, dreamers and downright show-offs. The Type R is simply Honda using its considerable skills to maximize all available options.
This is a car for a generation that grew up playing modern racing games and whose garages are filled with esoteric and exotic machines. It’s a world where you use your winnings to buy upgrades to win more lucrative races, a cycle of incremental improvements towards performance perfection.
The Honda Civic Type R comes with all options ticked. In Europe, you can’t buy a stock Civic that isn’t a hybrid; Type R dispenses with all the superfluous electrification nonsense (see the honda e) in favor of a supercharged four-cylinder VTEC engine with 329 hp. There’s a six-speed manual – again exclusive to this model – along with supportive sports seats and complex dashboard gauges that track things like G-forces and lap times.
All of this reinforces the video game analogy, because to be honest, this car is basically a toy. We got to drive the Honda Civic Type R at Thruxton, a particularly fast circuit in southern England. Battling the best of British winter weather, the Type R is visceral, intense and reassuringly stable. The short-throw circuitry is punchy and direct, reminding you that this style of time-honored analog interaction is fast fading from collective memory.
The character of the Type R has been carefully refined to emphasize the connection between driver, car and track, even if the Formula 1-inspired on-screen displays are pure Gran Turismo.
Suspension, steering and even the sound of the exhaust can all be switched through three settings, Comfort, Sport and “+R”, increasing the feel and performance with every step. You can also make your own individual selection.
Compared to the exotic, track-focused (track-only, really) machines built by dedicated sports car manufacturers, the Civic Type R is a steal. What’s more, this 4-door, 5-seater is an uncompromising everyday car when you’re not honing your skills on a racetrack.
The truth is that fewer and fewer riders have the means or desire to pursue this particular hobby. Honda expects to sell just a few hundred Type Rs in the UK market each year, down from around 5,000 two decades ago.
When internal combustion engines start to sputter, the halo effect of this type of car slowly but inevitably fades. All credit to Honda for doing everything to make the new Type R a worthy conclusion to the line-up.
Honda Civic Type R from £46,995
Honda.co.uk (opens in new tab)