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Extreme, but more so - First drive: Honda Civic Mugen 200

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It's a limited edition version of the already hardcore Honda Civic Type-R, but toughened-up a little more.

(Editors note: even though the Mugen 200 is not for sale in the U.S. we thought our readers might like to see what is available on the other side of the pond.)

Honda and Mugen have a long history of co-operation. Well, we say co-operation, but what we really mean is that the Japanese tuning firm has fine form when it comes to extracting additional power from the already astonishing VTEC Type-R power unit. When Honda unveiled the Civic Mugen concept in 2009, it was an open secret that production versions would follow. And so they have. And here's the lower-powered one of the pair, the Mugen 200, of which only 200 are going to be made.

The Civic Mugen 200 is powered by Honda’s remarkable 2-litre VTEC-R, which pumps out 197bhp. Of course, it's a screamer like all fiery Hondas, and the first thing you'll notice after drving a conventional car is just how revvy the thing is, and how once you pass the 4500rpm mark it starts howling like a BTCC racer. Once you experience the banshee cry, and the push towards the 8200rpm rev limiter, you're going to want to feel it time and time again.

But if the engine's standard fare, why would you buy this Civic over the standard Type-R? It certainly looks the part, with it 19in Lighning alloys, aerodynamic and styling tweaks that echo the original 2008 concept car. Subtle it isn't. And if you're the sort of person who likes to make discrete progress then this isn't for you. But we're guessing you already know that.

Like the outgoing Championship edition car, this Civic also benefits from the fitment of a limited slip differential. It had a seriously beneficial effect on the handling, allowing much harder turn-in and earlier application of power exiting tight corners. You'll feel plenty of wheel tug under acceleration on less-than-smooth surfaces, but it all adds to the feeling of loutishness that we love about this car. The front wheels can curiously wash out if you're super-aggressive with the throttle in low speed corners, but its composure in high-speed bends is near sensational.

The steering, which feels curiously numb in normal driving does its best to develop real feedback in those high speed corners this car loves so much, too.

It does have faults though, and lots of them. But these are mainly confined to those people who would like a quiet life. The gearing's low for motorway driving, the low-speed ride is appalling, the ergonomics are a bit haphazard, and it's not a quiet car overall. But we love the intricately engineered feel of the drivetrain, and the overall quality that shines through every interaction you have with the car. We'd also argue that it just doesn't feel that quick anymore - perhaps that chassis is crying out for more power; perhaps we're spoiled by forced induction; but it could either do with 50bhp more, or losing 200kg...

Overall, the Civic Mugen 200 is a flawed gem, but one we still have a lot of time for. You can't help admire Honda by standing by its engineering principles, even in the wake of more powerful opposition. It will be interesting to see how the next Civic Type-R takes shape, and whether it ends up being turbocharged. Deep down, we hope not.

But for now, buy this one with your heart, not your head...




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