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Front Page - Friday, April 28, 2023

Hard to go wrong with Honda Civic Type R or VW Golf R

If a traditional two-door sports car isn’t practical enough for you, consider one of these hot hatch options: the Volkswagen Golf R or the Honda Civic Type R.

The Volkswagen Golf R’s excellent combination of fun driving dynamics, all-wheel-drive traction and generous cargo space has made it a long-running favorite for driving enthusiasts. Its 2022 redesign brought many upgrades, including more power.

Even fresher is the redesigned 2023 Honda Civic Type R. Compared to the outgoing model, it boasts more restrained styling, greater performance and a modernized interior.

Which four-door sport compact is the best? Edmunds’ experts compared them to find out.

Performance and handling

Both hot hatches are powered by turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines that churn out impressive power. The front-wheel-drive Type R produces 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The all-wheel-drive Golf R also makes 315 horsepower but less torque, 280 lb-ft when equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission and 295 lb-ft with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

A six-speed manual is the only choice in the Type R.

When Edmunds put them through their paces at our test track, the Golf R blasted its way to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, topping the Type R’s 5.5-second sprint by a significant margin. The Volkwagen also was more than a second quicker in the quarter mile.

However, the Golf R we tested was equipped with the faster-shifting dual-clutch automatic. Its all-wheel-drive system also helped. But when it came to the skidpad, which tests a car’s cornering grip, the Type R significantly outperformed the Golf R, which is surprising considering its front-wheel-drive powertrain.

Track numbers aside, both fun machines are a blast to drive, but the Type R stays more planted and balanced around corners and boasts one of the finest manual transmissions in the business.

The Golf R is no slouch, though. Its all-wheel-drive traction is excellent, and the dual-clutch automatic is lightning-quick. But the Type R’s more engaging driving dynamics give it the win here.

Winner: Honda Civic Type R

Comfort, interior space

Thanks to their adaptive suspensions, the Golf R and Civic Type R have respectably comfortable ride qualities, though the Golf R’s is noticeably smoother. The bolstered sport seats in both hatchbacks look cool and provide a commendable amount of comfort and support. However, unlike the Type R, the Golf R has heated and ventilated front seats, and there’s heating for the rear seats as well.

The Volkswagen also does a better job at keeping outside noise to a minimum.

The longer and wider Type R offers more passenger space, but the Golf R still has enough to keep passengers comfortable. The Civic’s rear seats only fit two instead of three passengers, as the Golf R provides.

But the Honda makes up for that with almost 5 more cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which is enough for several more bags of groceries.

Better sound isolation and cozy seats give the Golf R the win.

Winner: Volkswagen Golf R

Pricing, features and mpg

The 2023 Honda Civic Type R is sold as one well-equipped model that starts at $44,390. The 2023 Volkswagen Golf R has a starting price of $45,835 with the manual transmission and goes up from there. There’s also a 20th Anniversary Edition and an available dual-clutch automatic transmission for an additional $800.

Both rivals pack similar performance upgrades such as 19-inch wheels with performance tires, adaptive sport-tuned suspensions and beefy brakes. Tech features are also similar. Both come standard with a package of advanced driver aids, upgraded audio systems, digital instrument clusters and large touchscreens.

Fuel efficiency is nearly neck and neck. The Golf R has an EPA estimate of 23 mpg in combined driving with the manual transmission, just 1 below the Type R’s 24 mpg. Although with the automatic transmission, the Golf R gets a respectable 26 mpg combined.

Winner: tie

Edmunds says

Categorically it’s a tie, but the Civic Type R squeaks by with the victory thanks to its more engaging driving dynamics, larger cabin and slightly better price point.

Michael Cantu is a contributor at Edmunds and is on Instagram.