Is this the best hot hatch ever?

By Michael Taylor Special to the Star

Saturday, February 17, 2024

You know when you nestle into these bright red suede-effect fabric bucket seats that you are sitting in a performance focused driving machine. Press the start/stop button and the 315 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine comes to life, letting you know that you are not in an entry level Civic. Put it into the +R drive mode and the triple centre exhaust, with Active Exhaust Valve, announces to the world that this is no ordinary Civic. Shift it into first gear, release the clutch and, in about five seconds, you can be travelling at 100 kilometres per hour.

Take your first corner with any kind of speed and you will start to get a sense of the handling prowess of this amped up front-wheel drive hatchback, or liftback as it is sometimes called. This Civic Type R feels so planted, capable and confidence-inspiring. This is, after all, the most powerful Honda ever sold in Canada or the United States. It is the most powerful Type R performance car offered in their 30-year history.

And from the moment you power it up, you just know you will love all that power and performance.

This sixth generation Civic Type R, based on the current 11th generation Honda Civic, looks a little more mature and refined than the previous gen, but that hasn’t slowed it down. Quite the contrary. A 2023 Honda Civic Type R S set the front-wheel drive production car lap record around the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife race track in Germany, covering the 20.8 kilometres in just seven minutes and 44.881 seconds.

What really sets this hot hatch apart from its competition is its sublime six-speed manual transmission, and its front wheel drive, which is virtually devoid of torque steer. The engineers have really worked their magic with this manual transmission. Shifting gears is so rewarding and happens without the driver felling like they’re trying. The revised rev matching, should you choose to use it, has two modes: Comfort and Sport. When you are in the Sport or +R drive modes, it aggressively blips the throttle for quick and perfectly rev-matched downshifts.

You really appreciate just how good this manual is when you drive anything else.

We like the slightly toned down, less boy-racer overall good looks of this FL5 Civic Type R. They have taken it down a notch from the previous gen FK8, but it still looks fast, and distinct from the base Civic. It still has a large in your face rear wing, which is there for a reason, to generate downforce to improve handling.

The 2023 Civic Type R has a nice, beefy, flared stance. It is longer (3.81 cm), wider (1.27 cm) and lower (2.79 cm) than the previous Type R. The front track is 2.54 cm in wider and the rear track is 2.03 cm wider, improving stability and handling. The wheelbase has grown by 3.56 cm to 273.55 cm. It has gained 30 kilograms, weighing in at a relatively svelte 1,446 kilograms. Some 62 per cent of that weight is up front, which is similar to the previous gen Type R.

The piano black 19-inch rims look great under these bulging wheel arches. They are fitted with 265/30 ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires which are 1.9 cm/0.75 inches wider than the previous Type R’s tires. Behind those rims are Brembo brakes that look great and provide ample stopping power.

The 10.2-inch TFT driver information screen and nine-inch centre display provide all of the information you’ll need. The Type R comes with proprietary LogR DataLogger app which enables you to record and analyze your lap times. Wireless charging is a convenient bonus.

The 2023 Honda Civic Type R is the best hot hatch available in North America. Is it perfect? No. But it will remind you just how good it is every time you take it for a drive.

No one buys these amped up economy cars because they have to. You don’t spend almost twice the price of an entry level Civic on this Type R because it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do; you buy this car because it strikes a chord within you.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is, they are very hard to get and they will soon disappear forever from new car showrooms. They are so scarce, sellers of used 2023 Civic Type Rs are asking for a premium of up to 50 per cent over the cost of a new Type R.

This is the last purely internal combustion engine Civic Type R that Honda will build.

The Type R team knew that when they built it, which is why they threw everything at it, to make it the best it could be.

I assume there will be a next generation Civic Type R, but that it won’t be like this one. It could be a hybrid, but, more than likely, it will be all-electric.

So enjoy this Civic Type R, with its petrol-driven engine and manual transmission, while you can!

Editor’s note: Please be aware that availability of vehicles depends on supply. Prices may change.

2023 Honda Civic Type R

Type: Four-door, four-passenger hatchback, front-wheel drive

Engine: Turbocharged, two-litre, 16-valve, Port Injection, DOHC, VTEC inline four-cylinder; 315 horsepower at 6,500 revolutions per minute; 310 pounds-feet of torque (motive force) from 2,600 rpm to 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Fuel economy: 10.8 litres/100 km in the city; 8.3l/100 km on the highway; 9.7l/100 km combined

Cargo: 695.6 litres, or 24.5 cubic feet rear seats up; 1,204l or 42.5 cu. ft.

Price: $50,050.