Honda Civic Type R: Small changes lead to big upgrade


A storied Honda nameplate has been retooled for 2023, with the automaker marking it as the most powerful vehicle ever produced by the brand.

With 315 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the 2023 Civic Type R is not a remaking of the 25-year-old nameplate, but a wholesale improvement on the small things. These tweaks make for a big step up in overall handling and power, early reviews say.

While the exterior is subtle, maintaining the previous model’s restrained style, a redesigned front bumper, larger front fender grilles and a new side sill combine to provide more airflow efficiency and give the Type R a more aggressive stance.

A new “+R” driving mode, located on the steering wheel, allows the driver to check engine rpm and gear position with greater clarity. An infotainment console, similar to that in the 2023 Honda Civic, is present in the middle of the dash.

Early reviewers are impressed with the sum of the changes on the Type R. Overall, reviews of the new edition are positive.


Sum of small changes

“The new Type R is a collection of small improvements. The platform of this FL5 generation car is similar to the outgoing FK8. The engine has slightly more horsepower and torque. The flywheel is 18 percent lighter and the chassis is 15 percent stiffer. By the numbers, it is marginally better.

“It looks more grown up, but more importantly, it also looks more honest. The previous Type R would never be battling robots in space, no matter how many fake vents or ineffective winglets it had.

“There are a few design elements that are more aggressive than they need to be, but you have to let the designers have some fun. They have to be able to communicate to the world that this car is not just a car, but a Type R. The new styling wants you to know that the car does not belong in traffic. It belongs on a race track.

“The rev-matching on the transmission is faster. The flywheel is lighter and has less inertia, allowing the rotating assembly to reach its target RPM 10 percent quicker. I will admit that I’m not the biggest fan of manual transmissions. It’s my engineering thinking; I look at a good dual-clutch and wonder why anyone would want to shift slower. But this transmission is impressive and fun. It just works, and works well, every time.

“The new Civic Type R boasts a long list of slight improvements, but a lot of slight improvements do not necessarily mean a slightly better car. Those improvements must work together to make for an overall better experience. At this, Honda did excellently. A car is more than the sum of its parts, and the 2023 Civic Type R is better than the sum of its improvements.”

– Matt Brown, Road and Track


Toned down, but great regardless

“Honda led off by noting that the new 2023 Civic Type R is ‘the most powerful Honda production vehicle ever sold in the U.S.’ It’s an empty suit of a superlative when you note Honda achieved it by milking a not-so-gobsmacking nine extra horsepower from the previous generation’s 2.0-liter engine. Using it is a tacit admission by Honda that the new Type R is more of an incremental update and refinement than rumors of a radical, hybrid, 400-horsepower AWD Civic Type R suggested.

“The new look is subtler and more sophisticated — perhaps the sign of a more mature Type R brand after the first effort sought attention. There are some visual features to appreciate with the Civic Type R, like Honda integrating the wider fenders into the bodywork. But I still think many a civilian will see the Type R and why someone stuck a giant aftermarket spoiler on a Civic hatchback.

“On the road, the drive modes felt distinct and well-curated. Although like the standard Civic, the full-screen graphic when changing modes lingered so long on the touchscreen I missed the Google Maps prompt to continue my drive route and had to make my own way to Sonoma. You get a hard-steering +R mode for corners, a Comfort mode to move things more to a standard Civic realm and a Sport Mode that strikes a nice balance in between.

“The exhaust note from the Civic Type R — a note of complaint with the last model — remains slightly underwhelming. Honda made some tweaks to help the noise, straightening the exhaust pipe and adding an active exhaust valve. But it still doesn’t have the maniacal orchestra of crackles and pops you get from a Hyundai N car. Counterpoint: I didn’t get pulled over for exhaust noise by the California cops.

“If you live in flat, snowy Michigan like me, have a four-person family and just have a lot of errands to get through, the Type R may demand too much from you (and those you love) to be an everyday driver.”

– Tyler Duffy, Gear Patrol


Lives up to the hype

“‘It’s just a car,’ one might argue. But it isn’t just a car, now, is it? It’s the new Civic Type R. An actually-attainable performance car we’ve been waiting to drive since the first spy shots hit the internet way back in 2020. Thankfully, the track eventually dried up enough for us to have a semi-proper go and, turns out, the new Type R lives up to the hype. It’s epic.

“Style-wise, things are much less jagged than before, but that doesn’t mean the Type R’s appearance has gone completely soft. There’s a GT-style wing that’s all black—less visually obvious to casual observers but, to those in the know, arguably cooler than the old car’s bar table spoiler. Satin black wheels are sharper-looking than the old car’s glossies, and the body is swollen in all of the right places.

“The driving position and inputs are basically perfect. Honda’s six-speed shifter feels as great as ever—clunky, crisp, just the right amount of heft, even shorter-throw than before—and is paired to one of the most forgiving clutches I’ve ever come across. Auto rev-match continues to never miss and said revs really do feel like they arrive a tad quicker than before, making swapping up and down through the gears a trivial act of gearhead zen.

“Holy hell, can this car move. Stable, engaging, and capable of ridiculous pace, the Civic Type R changes directions like a true champ, with that cheater-mode front axle and those sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires letting it turn in and power out of corners with alarming levels of urgency. +R mode steering that’s admittedly a little hefty on the street is perfectly weighted for track work.

“In case you haven’t already gathered, I love the 2023 Honda Civic Type R. I love it even more than I did the old one. It’s more livable than that car in multiple senses. Its handling edges feel a tad more rounded without losing that vital dynamism while the exterior looks markedly classier, and the interior and tech are clear upgrades. If I had to pick something I do miss from the old car, though, it’d probably be the big hood bulge that was visible from the driver’s seat, lending to a more blunt, muscle car-like vibe. The new Type R and its more smoothed-out forehead feel a bit above such nonsense.”

– Chris Tsui, The Drive


Nailed it

“Based on the handful of laps we took around Harris Hill Raceway outside Austin, Texas—including as a passenger to two-time Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen—it seems Honda absolutely nailed it.

“The clutch has an appropriate amount of effort, and the engagement is as intuitive as it gets. The shift throws aren’t as toggle-switch short as a Miata’s, but the shifter is equally easy and pleasurable to row up and down through the gears. The ratios are well spaced to keep the power on tap, and in +R drive mode, the instrument cluster displays an F1-style rev indicator across the top to keep you from bouncing off the limiter.

“We didn’t feel a hint of torque steer under hard acceleration, but there is a quick shimmy under threshold braking before the ABS kicks in. It’s a strong enough wiggle to keep you on your toes, but not so much as to feel out of sorts or to get you to dial it back.

“In some of the higher-speed bends, there’s an initial whisper of understeer, but it’s easy to predict and manage with a minuscule lift of the throttle and a nudge of the steering wheel. In slower corners, trail-braking all the way to the apex gets the tail to subtly rotate and you can maintain some oversteer once you get back on the gas—no need for those silly artificial drift modes, and the tires surrender grip progressively rather than in an instant.”

– Mark Takahashi, Car and Driver



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