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.