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Honda Civic Type R Mugen
6/10

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Road Test

Honda Civic Type R Mugen

Driven December 2009

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Honda doesn't hang around. Barely three months after it releases the Mugen Type R Concept, along comes the real thing in full production spec and ready to buy.

The trouble is that each one of the 20 cars available costs £38,599 - a staggering sum for a hot hatch, no matter how exclusive it is.

However, for your nearly £40k, you do get a bit of star treatment. Mugen, the AMG of Honda, will tailor the car to your exact requirements, and you'll be intimately involved in the build process because Mugen engineers will be in constant contact with you. Even the engine's ECU mapping can be tailored to suit you.

Mugen doesn't like turbos, so the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine with a new red line of 8,600rpm has had to be extensively retuned to generate the 237bhp and 157lb ft. That's 39bhp over the normal Type R. You'll also find stiffer suspension on this Type R, and the Mugen Civic has spent a fair amount of time in Honda's wind tunnel to get all those scoops and that faintly ridiculous rear wing working properly.

The results are impressive. It's an astounding car, because the whole thing feels so in tune with your every movement that you don't so much drive it as simply think it around the track. It's that intuitive. You feel like you're hardwired into the car. The throttle response is incredibly sharp, and everything feels brilliantly responsive, while a shortened gear change gives a quicker time between cogs, simply adding to the experience. Considering Honda gearboxes are already the snickiest in the world, this must've taken some doing.

As I only drove it on the billiard table tarmac at a track, it's difficult to know whether that stiffer suspension has affected the ride. But the concept felt better damped than the normal Type R when we drove it on UK roads in August, so there's no reason to suspect this production version will be any different.

The 20mm larger brakes deserve particular praise. When I drove the Mugen, it had been thrashed a lot before I got into it, but the brake pedal was still really firm under foot. No suggestion of fade here.

You can still go as hardcore as the concept by opting for sticky tyres or Recaros. Mugen will also charge you more money for taking away some car (you can shed 86kg by ditching the rear seats), but this version should be enough. Adding yet more pennies to a £38k Civic, even one as brilliant as this, just isn't worth it.

Piers Ward

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