The 2023 Honda Civic Type R is probably one of the most anticipated new cars this year. The second generation to be officially imported to the U.S. market (and the sixth generation overall), the new Type R has long been anticipated to be one of the best-driving sport compacts around, on the road and the track. But how does it measure up to its competitors?
The Civic Type R has three main competitors: the Volkswagen Golf R, the Toyota GR Corolla, and the Hyundai Elantra N. At the Honda’s $43,990 (with destination charge) price point, you could even throw in a few more sporty and/or premium vehicles like the Toyota Supra 2.0, and Audi S3. For now, though, let’s focus on how the Civic Type R measures up to the Golf R, GR Corolla, and Elantra N, based on features, pricing, and specs.
The VW Golf R is probably the closest competitor the Type R has. Take pricing. Including destination charges, just $1,395 separates a no-options Golf R ($45,385) from a no-options Type R ($43,990).
Horsepower ratings are a draw. The Golf R gets power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four with 315 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. That gets paired with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG automatic (which brings an extra 15 lb-ft of torque, rising to 295) and 4Motion all-wheel drive. The Type R also gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 315 horsepower, but it outdoes the Golf R in torque, putting out 310 lb-ft. The Golf R’s all-wheel drive advantage might give it the win in a drag race, though. We don’t have a 0-60 time for the new Type R just yet, but the Golf R can do it in under five seconds.
The interior is one place where the Type R has a huge advantage over the Golf R. While the Golf R’s interior may look and feel premium, it still has those terrible haptic controls. Meanwhile, in the Type R, you get the functional usefulness of real physical buttons rather than digging around in touchscreen menus. It’s a draw on versatility, as both are four-door hatchbacks with roomy rear seats and trunk areas. But while the Golf R has 34.5 cubic feat of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded, the Type R should have that handily beat. Honda hasn’t published a specific measurement for the Type R, but a base 2023 Civic hatchback offers a capacious 46.3 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats folded.
Styling may also be a factor in choosing between the Golf R and the Type R. The Civic has toned down its looks for the newest generation. The styling on the FK8 Type R was all JDM bro racer anime, looking like something a kid in a classroom doodled on scratch paper. Lots of buyers liked that aspect of the last-gen Type R, but the new model is more grown up, almost handsome. The Golf R is a premium performance hatchback through and through. Its styling has evolved over the years, and to my eye, it’s a looker.
The GR Corolla is the new kid at school. The Corolla hatchback has been flirting (unsuccessfully) with performance for the past few years, with all-show-no-go trims like Night Shade and XSE. But Toyota surprised the hell out of everyone with this rally-inspired performance machine.
Against the Type R, the Corolla is down one cylinder and 15 horsepower. It’s by no means underpowered though, kicking out 300 hp from its turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-three. And that 300 hp gets paired with a six-speed manual and an intelligent all-wheel drive system that’s able to variably split power front to rear. The front-drive Type R has nothing like that, of course, though the Honda does have a limited-slip differential and adaptive dampers.
The Type R also has a better looking interior than the Toyota. Aside from the special instrument cluster, seats, steering wheel, and aluminum pedals, the GR Corolla’s interior is the same one you’d find in a basic Corolla SE. Some might find that unacceptable.
One big area where the GR Corolla comes out on top compared to the Type R is value, at least when it comes to starting price. Toyota says $35,900 will get you into a base-model GR Corolla Core. That’s a pretty excellent price point, but if you want something more exclusive, higher-spec GR Corollas start getting closer to Civic Type R pricing.
There’s the $42,000 GR Corolla Circuit, which comes standard with bigger brakes and limited-slip differentials (both optional on the base trim). If you want to really go all-out you can drop more money on the GR Corolla Morizo Edition. This is the hardcore, limited-edition track enthusiast model, with no back seat, a slight boost in torque, a 100-pound weight reduction, Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and a close-ratio six-speed manual. Toyota is only making 200 of them, at an MSRP of $50,995 — but good luck finding one at sticker price. The Type R offers nothing like this; in fact, the Honda is only available in one spec, so you’ll have to go aftermarket to get that level of raw track focus in your Civic Type R.
The Elantra N is the wildcard in all of this. It’s an unusual middle-ground offering that, annoyingly, often gets lumped into the wrong category. Let me explain.
Many outlets like to pit the Elantra N against cars like the Honda Civic Si or VW Jetta GLI. In reality, the Elantra N-Line is more in line with those cars. For just over $27,000, you get a 201-hp turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch, and sporty styling.
The Elantra N lives somewhere above its N-Line sibling, but below the Type R. It’s that weird gray area I mentioned. The Elantra N outpowers cars like the VW GTI/GLI and Civic Si by a pretty big margin, but it’s down on power compared to the Golf R, Type R, and GR Corolla. On paper, though, the Elantra N’s specs seem to come close to those cars. You’ve got what’s probably the best-sounding stock four-cylinder exhaust on the market today, launch control, and electronic limited slip differential that Hyundai calls “corner carving.” That all sounds like it’s in Type R territory.
The power gap between the Elantra N and Type R isn’t as big as you’d think, either. The Elantra N’s turbo 2.0-liter inline-four develops 276 hp, down 39 hp on the Type R, though the Hyundai’s overboost function gives you an extra 10 hp for a in brief doses.
The interior of the Elantra N is also a nice place to be. You have excellent sport seats, a thick N steering wheel, and nice combination of touchscreen and physical controls.
Ultimately, though, pricing is the most attractive trait in the Elantra N. In the classic Hyundai fashion, it’s a steal: You can get a base Elantra N with a six-speed manual for just over $32,000. Add on another $1,500 if you want the dual-clutch automatic. So if you stick with a no-options Elantra N, you’ll save $9,650 compared to the Type R. That’s a lot of money for gas and mods.
The new-for-2022 WRX is another strange offering in the same vein as the Elantra N. It outpowers the lower end of the competitive set, but has specs and pricing that put it more in line with the the horsepower heavy hitters in the segment. Previously, the Type R went to bat against the WRX STi, but that’s not a thing anymore — Subaru has said it won’t build an STi version of this generation WRX.
So you could say that a base WRX, at a shade under $30,000, undercuts the Type R by a significant margin. But a base WRX is pretty basic, especially when you take a look at that interior. If you’re only concerned about performance, a base-model WRX gets you Subaru’s all-wheel drive system, a six-speed manual, and a 271-hp turbocharged boxer engine. But to match the Type R on pricing, you have to move up to the top of the range, the WRX GT, which starts at $42,395. You don’t get any power or performance upgrades, though; it’s just more premium features.
Ultimately it may come down to two things that hurt the WRX compared to the Type R. First is the styling — the WRX has always had unconventional styling, but the new black plastic cladding on the fenders has been highly controversial. Second is the transmission: If you don’t want to shift for yourself, an automatic WRX comes with the “Subaru Performance Transmission” — in other words, a CVT. That alone could be enough for buyers to reconsider it.
You’re probably wondering what a sports car is doing here. Hear me out. When you take into account the premium pricing of the new Type R, it opens up a whole new world of vehicles to consider. Some of them may not be direct competitors per se, but match up well on paper in terms of specs and price. The Toyota Supra 2.0 is one of those vehicles.
Just $645 separates the base price of the $43,540 Supra 2.0 and the Civic Type R. Granted, you’re giving up some things compared to the Type R. For one, a Supra 2.0 is down 60 hp compared to the Type R, its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four developing just 255 hp. Another knock against the Supra 2.0 could be the transmission. Toyota recently introduced a manual option for the Supra, but it’s only available with the six-cylinder engine6; the 2.0 can only be had with an eight-speed automatic.
If you just want to be seen in a Supra, dropping just under $46,000 isn’t a bad way to do it, especially considering the attention-grabbing styling of the thing. And while a two-door, two-seat sports coupe won’t have nearly the practicality of the four-seat, four-door hatchback Civic Type R, if you’re simply looking for driving excitement and aggressive styling, these two vehicles could technically be considered competitors. But we know that’s an unusual comparison.
Whichever one of these vehicles you choose will come down to your personal needs and preferences, of course. All these vehicles offer something the Civic Type R doesn’t: the Golf R is fast and luxurious; the Corolla GR is the rawest vehicle in the segment; the Elantra N is an incredible performance value. Reviews and track tests show that the 2023 Honda Civic Type R is a true enthusiast machine, fast and rewarding to drive. And if you’ve always been waiting to buy a performance Honda with a bright red interior and a machined aluminum shifter, there’s nothing else that will scratch that itch for you.