Honda's Mugen Motorsports performance tuning arm is about to launch a hardcore version of the Honda Civic Type R bolstered to around 240bhp and injected with a stripped-out track focus to rival Ford's Focus RS and the Renault Mégane R26R.
Mugen sees the hot hatch obsessed UK market as a lucrative business opportunity, thanks to a solid fan base of enthusiasts prepared to spend on focused high-performance hot hatches. Honda this week held a track day at Rockingham for the Type R owners club, which was attended by some 50 owners who had spent up to £90,000 tuning their Civic Type R's.
That eye-popping figure might explain why Mugen reckons £35,000-£40,000 isn't too steep for a full, manufacturer approved Mugen Civic Type R. It's an appropriately high price for a company whose Japanese name translates as 'unlimited'.
Your money buys a 240bhp engine conversion for the standard 2.0-litre VTEC, a body kit with carbonfibre bits, stripped-out interior (less is more, no rear seats) and exclusivity. Only a few dozen Mugen Type R's are likely to be sold in the UK from autumn 2009.
Mugen Honda Civic Type R: the background
Mugen was founded in Japan in 1973 as a Honda tuning arm by Soichiro Honda's son, Hirotoshi. Until now its European arm has been based in Switzerland, but it recently opened a UK operation in a former Cosworth facility in Northampton.
The Mugen Civic Type R will be aimed at Britain's track day enthusiasts. The hardcore bias will junk most creature comforts and the chassis will be upgraded with new wheels and tyres and suspension mods, according to those familiar with the project. Expect tweaks in line with the red Japanese-spec four-door Mugen Civic pictured in our photo gallery – but added to the UK's three-door Civic hatch bodystyle.
Different levels of personalisation will be offered with a menu of packages allowing owners to choose how hardcore to go. We expect it will be available as a retro-fit to existing Civic Type R owners, as well as a complete new build package to owners with a large amount of readies burning a hole in their pocket.
And the Mugen Civic is merely a marker in the sand. Expect a full range of performance cars in the years ahead. Mugen will operate separately from Honda, albeit with the Japanese car maker's blessing.