Back in 2010, we pitted the incredible Honda Civic Type R Mk3 Mugen against Audi's R8 V10 - here's that story:
So often in life, it’s the simplest questions that require the most complex answers. Take the one we’re about ask here.
Can one of the world’s maddest hot hatches – and certainly one of its most expensive – really and honestly cut it against a classic mid-engined supercar over a favourite Welsh mountain road? As the inimitable Ms Vicky Pollard might reply: “Well yer-but, no-but, yer-but, no-but…”
As part of a grand celebration of hot hatches, we felt we had to do a story like this. The greatest hot hatches have proved, after all, to be some of the most effective giant-slayers ever to grace a public road. And although the Honda Civic Type R Mugen is something of a freak among freaks, it’s still a hot hatch at heart, featuring a transversely mounted four-cylinder engine that powers its front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
True, the Mugen’s 2.0-litre engine has been massaged to the point where it produces a spine-chilling 239bhp, and it has a red line that’s just a single blink of an eye short of 9000rpm. It also costs a vaguely hilarious £38,599.
Yet in many respects the Mugen represents absolutely how far the hot hatch has come during the 21st century. It looks sharp to the point of contemporary design perfection and is entirely focused on the business of going quickly, but at the same time it’s also sufficiently well packaged to accommodate four people and their luggage with ease, and it will return close to 30mpg all day long unless you go completely and utterly berserk in it.
Mind you, it’s hard not to drive this car like a maniac over the kind of roads you see in the pictures above, especially when there’s someone in an Audi R8 V10 in front of you, trying their best to make a point. Dial a fair chunk of pride and honour into the argument, as well as the fact that you happen to be the fool who came up with this idea in the first place, and 9000rpm is really the only place to be in the Mugen Type R.
So what, specifically, is the Honda up against here, and does it stand any sort of chance of hanging on to the back bumper of such a hard-hitting opponent under any circumstances?
The R8 V10 has been fairly well documented here, but familiarity has done nothing to dilute its appeal. It remains a deeply impressive, extremely rapid supercar by any standards. From A to B there are very few cars that are quicker, at any price.
The comparison between it and the Mugen doesn’t make particularly great reading for hot hatch fans, either. In simple terms, the R8 has 10 cylinders to the Honda’s four and boasts 518bhp rather than 239bhp. The Audi is also four-wheel drive and has more than twice the amount of torque available in the Civic.
There is one thing that the R8 has more of but in this instance doesn’t need: kilograms. The Audi weighs 1625kg to the Mugen’s 1233kg. So although it still has a massive power-to-weight advantage – 319bhp per tonne versus 194 – the R8’s extra weight might just be what prevents it from disappearing over the horizon.
And that’s before you so much as mention the more relevant issue of how fast you are prepared to drive a car like the R8 on the public road.
Fact is, the R8 has so much acceleration that the occasions on which you can use all, or even half, of its potential are exceedingly rare indeed. In a straight line it will out-accelerate the Mugen in third gear, even if the Honda is in the heart of its rev range in second gear. Put the R8 in second gear and it will rocket away from the Mugen, simple as that.