Honda Civic Type R (FL5) review: the undisputed king of hot hatches
It’s the most exciting, capable and well engineered hot hatchback we’ve ever driven, but has lost some of the fluency that made the last Type R truly great
After one of the most frustrating and painfully protracted multi-stage embargoes in recent memory, we can finally tell you what the new FL5 Honda Civic Type R is like to drive on road, track and in most weather conditions.
Honda hasn’t made it easy for itself, launching what is an extremely track-focused model in a European winter, and with the news that it’ll only be sold in relatively limited numbers and for a very un-Honda price of nearly £47,000.
But trust us when we say the wait has been worth it because the Civic Type R is terrific, with only one or two caveats. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that it sits right up in the pantheon of all-time hot hatchback greats – which is even more remarkable when their future is becoming less than certain.
Honda Civic Type R: in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical highlights > A masterclass in powertrain engineering, perfectly paired to a highly tuned chassis
- Performance and 0-60mph time > Looks average on paper only due to the limits of front-drive traction. In the real world there’s plenty of performance
- Ride and Handling > Set up with an unerring focus that shines brightest on roads of a smoother disposition
- MPG and running costs > If you’re able to get more than 30mpg out of a CTR you probably have a heart of stone
- Interior and tech > It’s perfect. Driving position, tactility, material quality, design. Honda got it so right.
- Design > Same basic silhouette as before, but now with a more mature and bespoke aesthetic that makes it look every bit a near £50k sports car
Prices and specs
At £46,995, the Honda's pricing is punchy, but with hot hatch sales falling the chunky price tag reflects the fact cars such as the CTR are bought by true enthusiasts; people who understand specialised hot hatches of this calibre are a rare treat built to serve a niche, not a sector with meaningful volumes.
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- Honda Civic Type R (2017-2022) review – ride and handling
- Honda Civic Type R (2017-2022) review – design
- Honda Civic Type R (2017-2022) review – MPG and running costs
It's a lot of money, but if you're serious about driving and appreciate the notion of a car that's effectively been blueprinted from nose to tail by Honda's most pernickety engineers, you'll fall for the Type R in a big way.
What's more, although it's almost 100bhp down on top-tier machines such as AMG's A45 S or Audi's RS3 (both significantly more expensive), the CTR's brilliantly honed dynamics mean you would seriously think twice about what you're getting from the premium superhatches beyond brand image and on-paper bragging rights.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the Civic Type R is actually the Hyundai i30 N. It might have been around for a while, and doesn’t have nearly the performance, capability or focus – but when it comes to sheer entertainment, and the way it can pick through even the toughest British back roads, it feels like a complete bargain against the Honda.
Why it made eCoty 2023
Based purely on cost, Honda's Civic Type R is the underdog at eCoty 2023, its sticker price of £49,995 making it both a bargain in terms of the driving experience it offers and absurd when you consider it’s based on a five-door hatchback that will be sold globally in its millions.
The latest Type R earns its place in 2023’s eCoty purely on merit. Without a doubt it’s not only the best new hot hatch you can buy, it’s also one of the very best of all time. Like the select few from its homeland, the Type R has benefited from continuous development rather than radical revolution in the recent past. Its drivetrain has been finessed, steering precision polished, damping and spring rates harmonised, the styling toned down. A bit.
In every test we have put the Type R into, the front-drive, six-speed-manual hatch has left its rivals wilting as it delivers another superlative performance, demonstrating that the highest level of driver engagement isn’t exclusive to the exotics and the specialists. It’s a hatchback that can carry a family every day for every scenario before instantly turning its hand to being a devastatingly rewarding car for trackdays or those drives where you simply want to get away from it all.
The Type R redefines the all-rounder, proves once again that a well-engineered front-wheel-drive car can be as exciting and engaging as the very best traditionally configured sports cars – some of which the humble(ish) Honda will be taking on at this year’s evo Car of the Year. Not that this troubled the Civic’s predecessors in past eCotys, and we can’t see that changing when today’s example squares up to this year’s other contenders.