When Formula 1 rolled into Austin’s Circuit of The Americas – a $300 million grand prix palace – last week, I was about 30 miles away on a small club track called Harris Hill Raceway, waiting for my turn to get into the new 2023 Honda. Civic Type R. A group of us stood at Harris Hill’s front end and watched rows of Type Rs race past in a hypnotic rhythm.
“It’s a bit like a chord, isn’t it?” someone nearby joked. I laughed – not because it was necessarily true, but because it underlined how understated the new Type R looks, above all. For a car that is meant to be tracked, shifted and shown off.
But when I got behind the wheel, I realized I’d been looking at it the wrong way.
The outgoing Civic Type R (left) and new ones (right).
The 2023 Type R is the high-performance version of the current 11th generation Civic. It’s only the second Civic Type R model to come to the United States, and it has 315 horsepower, 310 lb-ft peak torque, a six-speed manual transmission, a standard limited-slip differential, and a lighter flywheel, with oddly mature exterior styling. The soft, flowing lines of the new Type R blend into the traffic instead of screaming through it – a significant departure from the last model, which looked like a sharp, angular kid’s toy waiting to slice your hand open when you hit it. picks up.
For me, the pubescent look of the outgoing Type R made it special. It leaned against the ‘hot hatch’ identity, unafraid of what adults thought. So when the new car looked like an adult, I was afraid it would lose its magic.
I donned a white, faceless helmet and walked to my Type R for the day: a “Championship White” model that I would get to do a total of six laps around Harris Hill’s fast 2.8-mile track. My mind raced through the thought of whether I would like it, love it, or even have enough time to decide.
But when I walked in, those worries disappeared. I no longer saw the car around me, only the track in front of it. I sank into the deep red seats of the car, which Honda calls “race-inspired” because they look like race seats but aren’t. Racing seats are hard, uncomfortable and pinch my hips, while these racing-inspired seats were thick, soft and hugged me instead – the perfect combination.
Last week was my first time in a Type R model and it was a breeze to drive. When I turned the car on and pushed the gear stick out of neutral a bit (which I was aiming for) to search for sport mode in the options menu, I didn’t even notice the car stalling. It was undetectable – no sway, no intense feedback when I took my foot off the clutch. Just a quick, quiet, unshattering death.
I turned the Type R back on and took off, analyzing the track I’d first seen that morning. I slid through the first few corners, amazed at how instantly comfortable it was.
Each shift was smooth and easy, and as I accelerated, the Type R adapted. The steering was weighted but not particularly heavy and slid into all my entrances instead of vibrating with it. It wasn’t the crazy hot hatch I imagined; it was the kind of smooth ride I could get on a road trip and have no regrets.
The Type R held steady with every move—braking hard, cornering a little too hot, dropping it straight to the ground—because I was the least of his worries that day. Red Bull Formula 1 drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez had done about a dozen hot laps in the cars just minutes earlier, and even when they were on the brink of impressing passengers like me, the Type R was calm. From a front-wheel drive car on the cheaper end of the performance spectrum, the Type R’s composure was as impressive as the talent of the drivers.
When I got out of the car, I looked at it one more time – I was actually looking at it, unlike before.
It was different this time. I saw more details: the small wing tips on the outer corners of the headlights; the sharp muzzle just above the Honda logo on the front; and the body lines flow to its elegant rear wing, which takes on the same shape as its curved taillights.
The more subtle styling started to make sense, given both the Type R’s market placement and how it drove. While the old car debuted in 2017 at a base price of $33,900, this new one is $42,895 — a fair evolution considering inflation and rising cost of living, but still a big investment for a buyer. Car prices that start with a “4” are for adults with mature jobs, and they have to look good. Adults.
When I realized that, I no longer felt like comparing the look of this car with the outgoing one. I knew the two could co-exist: the old, more youthful version, which insisted that looks aren’t just a phase; and the new, more mature, which values timeless fashion over current trends. The magic of the old car was not gone. It just grew up, as we all must eventually.
I started the day thinking the new Type R looked too ordinary, and I think the people around me did too. But the Type R reminded me that if you think something is ordinary, you’re just not looking at it hard enough — and that’s a problem only you can solve.
Alanis King Contributing Editor Alanis King is a transportation editor at Business Insider and previously worked as a staff writer and editor at Jalopnik.