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Honda CR-Z Mugen road test

  • One-off delivers 197bhp and 215Nm of torque
  • 0-62mph in 6.6s, top speed 140mph, returns 40mpg
  • Only 8-10 models being made for £40,000-50,000

There are cars that look beautiful that turn heads, there are cars that look weird that turn heads and then there are the cars that just turn heads – and that’s the Honda Mugen CR-Z sports hybrid.

This is a car that looks like it belongs on cruise organised by the Max Power brigade not the St Paul’s Cathedral protesters, so the 'hybrid' tag is misleading since the whole point is to go extremely fast rather than to save fuel, reduce emissions and please the neighbours.

This is a one-off thanks to the work of British-based tuner Mugen Euro and gives you an idea of what a high-performance CR-Z could be like.

For the ill-informed the standard CR-Z is an attractive looking petrol electric coupe powered by a 112bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine and a 10bhp electric motor that achieves sub-99g/km CO2 emissions and 70mpg-plus fuel economy. 

Mugen has retained the powertrain but plonked a supercharger on it to give the CR-Z a power output of 197bhp and the result is Honda Civic Type R-rivalling performance. With a top speed of 140mph and a 0-62mph acceleration time of 6.6 seconds it’s a no-holds-barred brute that also achieves CO2 emissions of just 120g/km. 

To give it urgency Mugen added a ruddy great spoiler on the back, a rear diffuser, a carbon fibre bonnet, carbon fibre doors, 17-inch lightweight forged alloys and painted it metallic orange. Visually, it's crude but those changes did yield a weight-saving of 50kg over the standard CR-Z.

Inside it’s strangely alluring. The layout is all over the place but the dashboard gauges showing oil and water temperature, plus oil pressure tell you this is a car built for speed.

Lightweight it is, robust it is not. The interior feels flimsy and it took a couple of hearty slams to get the passenger door to shut properly. The door panels need the tiniest prod to invert disconcertingly.

Sensibly, Mugen also installed lightweight Recaro sports seats and although they are right for the car gymnastics are required to slip into them. They aren’t adjustable or supportive, but around the shoulders you do feel nicely hemmed in.

Press the red starter button and the sound isn’t particularly awe-inspiring especially when you see all the gauge needles firing into life, but get the Mugen above 4,000rpm and you’ll be convinced somebody is hoovering in the rear, such is the whoosh of the supercharger.

What’s going on in front of you when you kick past the 4,000rpm mark is a vicious blur. The Mugen has an angry urgency about it and if you keep your right foot down you will feel the long arm of the law such is the rapidity. It’s crude, loud and stupidly fast but below the 4,000rpm it feels slow to react. 

You need to tread carefully around corners, particularly if it’s wet. Although the suspension has been revised and includes adjustable dampers to give a firmer, flatter feel through corners, you’ll find the Mugen can be a right handful.

If you are leaden-footed the back will step out but it's also ridiculously easy to push the nose out wide. If you’re not paying attention you’ll find yourself heading straight for the scenery.

It’s interesting because the CR-Z doesn’t do much until you get the revs up – power is definitely not progressive – but once you get into the power band, it’s positively unruly and fun at the same time.

There's three driving modes: Sport, Normal and Eco. We kept the car in Sport mode – the most responsive - and the Normal  and Eco modes, designed to give a tamer driving experience, just don’t feel right.

Despite the suspension changes the ride isn’t overly firm, but you wouldn’t want to spend any more than an hour behind the wheel. Thankfully the six-speed manual gearbox feels sharp but you’ll tire of the rock-hard clutch pedal that requires much more than soft shoes to be bearable.

Practicality? Not really. No rear seats and limited space. However, it does respresent some sort of sense if you happen to be watching your pennies because 40mpg is possible if you don’t drive like a total moron, which in this type of car, is pretty good.

The company has built 8-10 examples so this is a very limited edition. If you fancy one then you'll need to wait three months and shell out about £40,000-£50,000: that’s twice as much as a regular CR-Z, but then again, it's ten times more fun.

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