From £15,760
Production version of near-bespoke Type R is good - and very pricey

Our Verdict

Honda Civic
The ninth generation of Honda’s venerable hatch has moved upmarket, although the styling is divisive

The Honda Civic is an impressive achievement and a worthy rival to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, but it isn't quite up to class-leading standards

20 October 2009

What is it?

This is the production version of the “concept” that we drove a month ago. That was an experimental car created to gauge the reaction to a Mugen-tuned Civic Type R. Mugen Europe’s UK-based engineers have listened to those reactions and modified the car to produce this, the firm’s first road car, which has been developed at Mugen Europe’s Northampton HQ.

It’s also the only Honda that costs nearly £40,000, a price tag Mugen says reflects the car’s hand-built nature (the engine alone takes seven days to finish.)

It’s based on a Championship Civic Type R, so it comes in white only and has a limited-slip diff. Mugen has thoroughly reworked the engine with new pistons, ECU, camshafts and exhaust to give it 237bhp (up on the standard car’s 208bhp) and a smidgen more torque.

They’ve also added bespoke brakes, suspension and an aero kit, along with reinstating the back seats and toning down the concept’s overly harsh ride as a reaction to feedback from those who drove it.

That lot adds up to an eye-watering £38,595, although your money buys you a certain kind of exclusivity as Mugen will build just 20 – European boss Hiroki Toyoda is adamant that the firm will not do any more – and they’re for the UK market only.

What’s it like?

Whether or not you like the way the car looks will be down to whether or not you like the way Japanese hot hatches are styled, but it’s actually fairly smooth and neat, if you disregard the outsize rear wing. The plain but purposeful 18-inch forged alloy wheels look suitably serious (and they weigh a third less than the standard rims), as do the semi-slick tyres wrapped around them.

It’s got the performance to match the looks, too (thankfully). On the handling circuit at Honda’s Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan, the Mugen feels properly alive and agile, with super-fast reaction times. The steering is quicker than a standard car’s, although this has been achieved through tinkering with the front suspension – the steering rack is standard – and it’s still quite light.

The brakes have been upgraded, with bigger discs at the front and they survived two hours of constant use without any fade. You can chuck the Mugen all over the place and it doesn’t feel like you’re approaching its limits, yet it always feels lithe and entertaining. The ESP system’s been removed as well, which helps.

The other obviously noticeable change is the noise. It’s still loud in the way only a high-revving, non-turbo four-cylinder can be, but Mugen’s got rid of the excessive resonance that troubled the concept.

The one thing that remains something of an enigma is how the car will ride on UK roads – the handling circuit had marble-smooth asphalt, although Mugen has done over 1300 miles of testing on UK roads to make the car work here and it claims the ride is much improved over the concept’s unsettled and noisy behaviour.

Should I buy one?

This is a lot of money for a Civic, and if you want the really serious Mugen spec (no back seats and Recaros in the front), track tyres and data recording kit you’ll pay more for a Track Pack, although Honda and Mugen haven’t yet said how much.

Stack it up against a Focus RS and it looks unreasonably expensive – too expensive, in fact - for a car that doesn’t offer significantly more ability, although it is lighter and will be a lot rarer.

Without driving it on UK roads it’s difficult to say if it could be used as a daily driver, so I’m reserving judgement. But Mugen didn’t try to create a dual-purpose device; this is a pricey, bespoke machine and it’s unlikely anyone buying it will use it as their only car.

And it’s a hand-made, exclusive sort of Civic, and it’s not often you can say that about a Honda.

Dan Stevens

Join the debate

Comments
10

22 October 2009

Lovely car, but it is just a silly price. Yes, it is wonderful that highly trained engineers have lovingly hand crafted the engine, including licking it clean of dust (so I heard) .... but the fact that nearly £15k of engine work has given it just 30BHP more shows why the turbo / super charger was invented. Yes it would change the character of the car ..... but it would give it torque, and much more power for about £3k extra.

No brainer really.

22 October 2009

I keep thinking I've stumbled in to EVO or a Japanease Mods forum Pointless reveiw, a bit pricey is a massive understatement!

22 October 2009

The engine in the Japanese market Civic Type-R (FD2) has 237bhp. Why didn't Mugen simply drop one of those in?

The fact that this car exists proves that the Type-R brand has moved away from its original values.

22 October 2009

This car is even more pointless than the Lexus LFA. Come to think of it, why not create a hand-built Corsa 1.4 with 5 bhp power hike and a 25k price tag - rarity factor ensured!

22 October 2009

There are going to be a lot of people missing the point on this car. But I can see a bunch of real track day enthusiasts who want THE best driving experience they can get, around their favourite tracks and still give them the same feeling and performance on their way home.

This is a race engineering company applying decades of expertise (right up to F1) for the ultimate visceral thrill - with the durability of a Honda road car - that's why it's special, and not everyone's going to be able to appreciate (or afford) it.

I hear they sold 300 of the Japanese 4 door Civic in 6 minutes for £30-something, and, although this car has been totally engineered for UK roads, I reckon there'll be enthusiasts across the world who will see it as good value for something so unique.

22 October 2009

[quote NobbyUK]good value [/quote]

Good value is the £16K clio 200 cup. For the price of the Mugen you could buy two of the little buzzbombs (one for yourself and one for a mate to race) and with the change pay for weekend trackdays for months if not years.

23 October 2009

Yes, it's silly money by any rational standard and would never sell in any volume at that price. But there are probably 20 people out there who fancy a highly-developed hand-finished car of this nature and for whom money is not a barrier. And 20 is all they are looking for.

23 October 2009

[quote NobbyUK]But I can see a bunch of real track day enthusiasts who want THE best driving experience they can get, around their favourite tracks and still give them the same feeling and performance on their way home.[/quote]

That is what the Type-R badge used to stand for.

25 October 2009

[quote Loconinja]The engine in the Japanese market Civic Type-R (FD2) has 237bhp. Why didn't Mugen simply drop one of those in? [/quote]

Only the Mugen FD2 had 237bhp but that was hideously expensive, too!

26 October 2009

[quote simonali]

[quote Loconinja]The engine in the Japanese market Civic Type-R (FD2) has 237bhp.  Why didn't Mugen simply drop one of those in? [/quote] 

Only the Mugen FD2 had 237bhp but that was hideously expensive, too!

[/quote] All FD2's that have been imported seem to be producing 230+bhp standard on the rollers

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