What Car? says...
The best things in life are a perfect fit. Your favourite trainers, for example, are comfy enough to wear for hours, yet reassuringly strong and grippy in challenging situations. And the Honda Civic Type R is like that go-to pair of trainers.
Compared with the previous Type Rs – which had cartoonish wheel-arch extensions and a tea-tray spoiler – the latest hot-hatch variant of the Honda Civic seems a bit more grown up. That doesn’t mean any character has been lost – better aerodynamics, more power and lots of engineering changes mean it should be even better than before.
It's going to need every one of those clever little tweaks, though. Why? Well, during its hiatus from the hot-hatch world, rivals have been hard at work too. And that means this front-wheel-drive-only model must compete with some outrageously quick four-wheel-drive rivals, such as the Mercedes-AMG A45 S.
On top of that, the Type R’s price tag makes the Ford Focus ST and VW Golf R – two great hot hatches that are handy through corners and quick in a straight line – look like great value. So, is the Honda Civic Type R really worth the extra? Read on to find out...
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
While its looks have been softened, the Honda Civic Type R’s pursuit of pace definitely hasn’t. Its performance off the line (0-62mph takes 5.4 seconds) isn’t a match for the Mercedes-AMG A45 S (3.9 seconds), but it feels nothing short of blisteringly rapid, and accelerates through the gears noticeably faster than the Ford Focus ST and VW Golf R.
The Type R’s 2.0-litre 325bhp engine (up from 316bhp) loves to rev, zinging around to 7000rpm with well-oiled fluidity. There’s plenty of useful grunt available at lower revs, so it can pull handsomely from 50mph in sixth but, equally, you’ll discover real pleasure flicking from gear to gear. Its super-slick six-speed gearbox has one of the best manual shifts of any car on sale today.
The exhaust note isn’t as elaborate as some hot hatches' – including the Golf R's – but it’s more honest and is largely unembellished by fake digital overlays.
When you need to shed momentum, the upgraded brakes play their part impeccably. In the previous Type R, spending time on a track would cause the brakes to fade, but the new car’s increased air flow and cooling means there’s been a noticeable improvement. The stopping power is impressive, giving you confidence to push closer and closer to the car’s limits.
The Type R’s true passion is in the corners, though. This is, quite simply, one of the best-balanced and grippiest hot hatches you can buy. In fact, despite lacking four-wheel drive, we reckon it’ll give the A45 S a run for its money when it comes to cornering speed, and demolish the lap time of front-wheel-drive rivals including the Focus ST.
Part of the reason for that is the Type R’s limited-slip differential (LSD). It does a fantastic job of distributing power to whichever wheel can cope with it best, dragging you out of turns with hugely impressive speed and stability.
To make the most of that on track, you’ll want to switch the suspension into +R mode. In that mode, the suspension and dampers are set to their stiffest level, turning it into what feels like a mini British Touring Car, with absolutely no body lean and supercar levels of body control.
Of course, the issue with all the power being fed to the front wheels is that, when it rains, the Type R will struggle far more than the A45 S and Golf R to transfer that oomph to the road surface. Even with stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, it’ll happily spin its wheels through first, second and third gear, especially when they’re cold.
The steering is impossible to fault for accuracy. The only niggle is that it’s very heavy in +R mode. Fortunately, Honda has added an Individual mode so you can turn everything up to +R but keep the steering in Normal or Sport. Likewise, the aggressive suspension in +R mode is way too firm for the road.
Sport mode better balances performance and comfort, but for the most part, you’ll probably want to keep the suspension in Comfort mode. When you do, the Type R is firm and controlled, but slightly more compliant over bumps with a touch more body lean when you take a corner at speed.
In any mode, the Type R retains its Touring Car appeal. If you want a hot hatch that’s fast but more comfortable for daily driving, check out the Golf R.
Strengths Fantastic gearbox; brilliant through corners; quick in a straight line
Weaknesses Less comfortable every day than a Golf R
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Type R – like the standard Honda Civic – has a low-slung driving position, and that’s accentuated by the figure-hugging bucket seats. They're a masterpiece, and perfectly suit the ethos of the car in look and feel.
Better still, despite not having adjustable lumbar support, they’re surprisingly comfortable and have plenty of adjustment to help you find your perfect driving position. They're not particularly fancy compared with the seats in the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and VW Golf R (you can’t have electric adjustment or built-in heating) but once you’re in them, we don’t think you’ll care.
When it comes to visibility, it's easy to see out of the front and, even with that huge spoiler strapped to the boot lid, you’ll have no issues seeing out of the rear. Meanwhile, to help you out with parking, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera all feature on the standard equipment list. At night, bright LED headlights ensure you can see everything.
Inside, you’ll find an interior based on the standard Civic. That’s not a bad thing: it means a clean, uncluttered and user-friendly layout, which gives you physical controls for the air-con and real buttons on the suede steering wheel. We much prefer them to the touch-sensitive ones in the Golf R.
Instrumentation is displayed on a 10.2in screen behind the steering wheel, which has plenty of clarity but isn’t as versatile as the one in the Golf R. There’s a row of shift lights above it that light up as you head towards the rev limiter, helping you time that perfect upshift. You also get an audible beep to alert you, for when you’re too busy to keep an eye on the lights.
When it comes to infotainment, the Type R has a 9.0in touchscreen infotainment system that is better than the Golf R's system, which can be laggy. The Type R’s menus are more intuitive and easier to use than the VW system, and the one in the Ford Focus ST. There are also physical shortcut buttons that make it easy to hop between the main menus.
The Type R is made to feel truly distinct from regular Civics, with racy red suede-trimmed seats, red dashboard inlays, racing car-style steering wheel and smatterings of faux carbon-fibre highlights throughout.
The underlying quality is there too, because it feels solidly made in the main. In terms of tactility, it's not up to BMW M135i or A45 S standards of material finish, but it's at least as good inside as the Golf R.
Strengths Great driving position; comfortable yet supportive seats; intuitive infotainment system
Weaknesses Some rivals are plusher inside
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
As with the standard Honda Civic you’d have to be Hagrid to feel cramped in the front of the Type R – head and leg room are both excellent. What’s more, there’s plenty of storage space, including the usual allocation of cupholders and a good-sized glovebox for your racing mitts.
In the back you'll find much more leg room than in a lot of hot hatches – including the BMW M135i and Mercedes-AMG A45 S – but that sloping roof means head room is a little tight for six-footers. It’s not tiny and two occupants should be perfectly fine, but the Ford Focus ST is better overall.
The Type R also loses out on the standard Civic’s fold-down centre armrest and map pocket mounted on the back of the front passenger seat. You do get two cup holders integrated in the middle of the seat base, which also highlights the lack of seating for a middle passenger – the Type R is strictly a four-seater.
The boot is huge by hot-hatch standards and will easily swallow pushchairs, shopping or suitcases. When extra room is needed, you can fold down the 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and they lie completely flat.
Strengths Lots of front space; big boot
Weaknesses Strict four-seater; less rear head room than rivals
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Price is where the Honda Civic Type R package hits a bit of a roadblock. You see, it’ll cost you more than almost every rival hot hatchback except the Mercedes-AMG A45 S. That’s if you can even get your hands on one – the number of Type Rs coming to the UK is in the hundreds.
Thanks to those limited numbers, it's predicted to hold on to its value far better than rivals, helping to keep PCP finance payments competitive (again, if you can find one). Regardless, don’t expect it to be a bargain, so make sure you get the lowest price by checking our new Honda deals page.
Don’t expect run-of-the-mill hatchback running costs, either – a 2.0-litre engine that pumps out 300bhp-plus isn’t going to just sip fuel. It’s not shockingly juicy, though, with official figures quoted at a respectable 34.4mpg (combined). That's better than the A45 S but not as frugal as the Ford Focus ST or VW Golf R.
In terms of reliability, Honda claimed 6th position out of 32 manufacturers in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, placing it above all of the Type R’s key rivals. The standard Honda Civic and the Type R as models, meanwhile, were too new to feature in the survey, but come with a three-year warranty for peace of mind.
As standard, every Type R comes with plenty of equipment, including 19in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient lighting, privacy glass, adaptive cruise control, adaptive LED headlights, wireless phone-charging and keyless entry. You also get lots of safety technology, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), traffic-sign recognition, lane-departure warning and automatic high-beam assistance.
Speaking of which, the Civic scored the full five stars when it was tested by the experts at Euro NCAP in 2022. Diving deeper into the results, the Civic did a good job of protecting children sitting in the rear and adults up front, with the only note being a weak rating for protecting the driver’s chest.
Strengths Slow depreciation; lots of standard equipment; good reliability score
Weaknesses Expensive to buy; hard to get your hands on
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Yes. Thanks to the 324bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that sits up front, the Type R will sprint from 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds. That's not as fast as the Mercedes-AMG A45 S but compared with its two-wheel-drive rivals, the way it gains pace feels rapid.
As is traditional with the Type R, a slick six-speed manual gearbox is your only option. That’s not a bad thing, because it's one of the best available in any car on sale today, including some truly great sports cars.
|RRP price range
|£49,995 - £49,995
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|34.4 - 34.4
|Available doors options
|3 years / 90000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£1,738 / £3,619
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£3,477 / £7,237