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Honda Civic Type R Mugen (2010) review

Published:21 October 2009

Honda Civic Type R Mugen (2010) review
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By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

Honda Mugen video

The Honda Civic Type R Mugen is going into production. Yes, it might have been the worst kept secret in the world, but now Honda and Mugen have officially announced that they will produce a limited number of tuned and tweaked Euro-spec Civic Type Rs for the UK.

Just 20 will be made, each will cost £38,599, and if you tick the right option boxes you can make sure your car is exactly like the original Mugen concept. CAR has just driven the pre-production version of the Honda Civic Type R Mugen, so read on to find out how it differs from the concept.

£38,599 is a lot of money – presumably for that much cash the production Honda Civic Type R Mugen will be identical to the concept car?

Not quite. The limited run guarantees exclusivity and goes someway to justifying the pricetag, but you don’t get everything that was on the concept. So while there are engine, suspension, brake and aero tweaks, you have to pay extra for lightweight body panels and the stripped-out interior.

Will there be enough people in the UK ready to cough up the cash? Mugen is certain there will be – when it released 300 Japanese-spec Civic RRs in its home country all of them were sold in just 6 minutes. And if UK buyers don’t snap up this new car, then Mugen knows there are plenty of customers in Europe who will be happy to have one.

             

 

Ok, so what do I get for my money?

Let’s start with the engine, which is where most of the money goes – Mugen claims the engine is worth around £16k. There’s a revised air intake system, different cams, new pistons and a very complicated stainless steel exhaust. Together with a higher compression ratio power climbs from 198bhp at 7800rpm to 237bhp at 8300rpm, while the rev limit has also been raised 300 revolutions to a screaming 8600rpm. The torque output is also up, from 142lb ft at 5600rpm to 157lb ft at 6250rpm.

Mugen knew these outputs were achievable though – the trick was getting them with such a restrictive exhaust. The Civic has a fuel tank in the centre of the car so the pipes can’t just run straight back, so the company has put a lot of work into developing a new system (including cats) that gives a bark but gets rid of the resonance that made the concept Mugen a painful everyday prospect.

Beyond that the suspension is new, but also different to the concept car. That car featured a set-up that was medium stiffness for super-smooth Japanese tarmac, but one that Mugen admit was far too firm for Britain. Now there’s a softer version.

Then there’s a new front lip spoiler, new rear bumper with oval as opposed to triangular exhaust trims, and that bigger rear wing that doesn’t actually impinge on rear visibility. Plus the rear brakes get a different pad material, while the front brakes are 20mm larger and have a new four-pot monobloc calliper that actually weighs less than the smaller items on the regular car. Finally, a shorter throw gearbox, forged wheels – that weigh 32% less than the cast alloys on the standard car – and a smattering of Mugen badges complete the transformation.

The total reduction in weight is about 20kg, but the power-to-weight ratio climbs from 156bhp/tonne to an impressive 190. And all 20 cars will be white because Mugen will use the LSD-equipped Championship White Type R as a base, with the conversions carried out at its based in Northampton.

And what if I want more?

Then Mugen will sell you a Track Pack which nets you Recaro buckets and four-point harnesses, the removal of the rear bench seats but addition of a composite rear bulkhead, a trio of temperature and pressure gauges, and some trick track-biased Yokohama rubber. Beyond that the lightweight composite vented bonnet and front wings with also be available, and while all of the above will shave at least another 80kg of the kerbweight, it’ll also bump the price up to over £50,000.

Existing Type R will be able to purchase all of the above – bar the engine mods – as aftermarket accessories.



How does the new 2010 Honda Civic Type R Mugen drive?

Still pretty mega. Climb aboard and all seems normal as our test car had the standard interior and exterior, bar the Yokohama tyres. But as soon as you engage first gear you notice the quicker gearshift, and on the move the extra grunt is immediately obvious.

When you put your foot down you’re treated to one of the best naturally aspirated engines around. There’s a real kick around 5500rpm where the VTEC system kicks in (and where all the power and torque gains are made), plus a harder-edge wail from the engine. The exhaust is also now completely without the awful resonance that blighted the concept, but in making the tweaks the production car has lost some of the former car’s waspish buzz and crazy top-end shriek A little of the aural drama has been gone, but it still sounds great, and it won’t make your ears bleed everyday.

Mugen has also deactivated the traction control and ESP systems on this pre-production car, and the 20 production cars won’t have any electronic nannies either. Traction is never a problem, though the special tyres help this – with the extra grip you feel less of the diff working away, and there’s definitely no Focus RS-style upper-body workout. And you feel the extra grip from the tyres through corners too, where you can push the Mugen hard like the R26R and know it will just keep holding, especially through high-speed turns.

And when you push beyond the point where the car would usually electronically intervene – noticeable by our pre-pro car’s ESP light flashing but with no physical effect – the Civic stays predictable and safe. You’ll run out of talent before this thing runs out of grip.

The brakes are also excellent, never fading, body control is great, the nose remains pointy and alert but now the rear of the car feels part of the action as well, and despite our test track being super-smooth, the occasional bump highlighted more compliance in the suspension.

Downsides? The steering is a little light, naturally aspirated engines in big hot hatches are great on track but a little tiring day-to-day, and until we try this car on UK roads we won’t know if the suspension has been sorted.

Verdict

As a trackday tool this production-spec Mugen Civic is great, and if you go the whole hog and strip it out then it’ll be even sharper. If Mugen has made the suspension work on UK roads then it’ll be one helluva hot hatch.

But the amazing R26R was nearly £16k less (or £30k if you want the full stripped-out Mugen), and yet Renault struggled to sell them all. Be in no doubt – Mugen will sell all 20 of these cars with ease, and it’ll be a great brand builder for them. But to us it’s not worth that much money.

Specs

Price when new: £38,599
On sale in the UK: Spring 2010
Engine: 1998cc 16v 4-cyl, 237bhp @ 8300rpm, 157lb ft @ 6250rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 6.0sec 0-62mph, 150mph, 30mpg (all estimates)
Weight / material: 1247kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4280/1795/1440

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Photo Gallery

  • Yes – Honda's going to build the Mugen Type R. And we've driven it
  • The new Honda Civic Type R Mugen lands in UK showrooms in spring 2010
  • The new Honda Civic Type R Mugen will cost £38,599. Yikes!
  • New Mugen spec Type R feels like a mini race car
  • 'Sorry officer, I couldn't see you behind that huge wing...'
  • Mugen Civic Type R: you'll have to be quick, as only 20 are being made
  • That'll be Ben Pulman doing his best road test face
  • Honda Civic Type R by Mugen: the cabin photo
  • Mugen Civic Type R's engine develops a healthy 237bhp

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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