Test drive: Honda Civic Type R Mugen 200
The TotallyMotor Verdict
Honda will tell you that it’s an end of an era. The Civic Type R as we know it – and in the UK; love it – is to be built no more, with just those that are left to be sold. Bad news – no more screaming i-VTEC back lane fun. Good news – those that are left are being sold on special offer at a reasonable £19,995 OTR, for the Civic Type R GT 2.0 i-VTEC manual.
There is an all-new, 2012 Honda Civic, with much more of a focus on economy, inner space and driving refinement – not that the Civic Type R we see here lacks in these departments – it’s just that if and when a new Type R comes along, and due to Honda’s focus shift to the greener side of the racing line, the new Type R is likely to feature a smaller capacity, turbocharged engine, rather than the 198bhp, 2-litre, 8000rpm screamin’ demon we’re enjoying today. There is no other production car like this Civic Type R, and there never will be.
But let’s not snivel at the end of a motoring era. Instead, let’s take this Championship White Civic Type R Mugen to the sky-high redline limit and back, and send her off in style!
Test drive: Honda Civic Type R Mugen 200
Well, for a start, as you can see from our TotallyMotor test car pics; the Civic Type R just doesn’t have a bad angle. No matter where our Nikon viewfinder scrolled, it always found strong, sleek, yet sumptuous proportions.
The Championship White paintjob – and Honda can actually justify this emotive moniker thanks to a rich and successful motorsport history – rolls over deep, detailed and angular Mugen front and rear bumpers and side skirts, and blacked-out 19-inch alloys with ultra-low and ultra-wide Yokohama tyres.
It’s wide and low, loud and proud; born for max-attack on the racetrack, and ready for fast ‘n’ focused fun on the road. There’s an undeniable modified look to this R-car, but not many can build a car to slay the bends like the Japanese, and Honda can certainly stake their own claim to fame for building truly focused driver’s cars. And at the end of the day of hot laps; all of Type R’s edgy style and aggression is there for a reason, and if you don’t sneak a sly smile when you regard it each day, then there might have been an enjoyment-bypass somewhere along the line.
Into the interior:
Black and red, Alcantara-trimmed bucket seats dominate the R’s interior, and thanks to cornering-securing side bolsters, I did find myself carefully climbing into the driver’s seat, lifting over the first bolster before nestling comfortably into the pilot’s point. Perhaps not the most graceful way to ingress, but these bucket seats are all about keeping the driver where they should be during the sort of cornering forces these cars are capable of.
The seats themselves are comfortable and not overly tight, but for a well-over 6-foot driver, I did find them mounted too high. I wanted to sit deeper into the Type R’s chassis.
The leather-wrapped and red-stitched steering wheel looks and feels the fast-part, and coupled with the seat adjustment, had just enough slide and tilt to get me eight-tenths comfortable.
The clocks are the usual Honda techno-treat, and while the dash is curvy-interesting, it is also mostly a plastic expanse. Much of this car’s build-budget is spent on engine, transmission, suspension, seating and differential.
Flick the key and prod the Engine Start button, and the Mugen 200 buzzes into life. I was expecting more burble from airbox and (twin-exit) exhaust box, but the soundtrack is only a little louder than average. At tickover, at least.
The clutch has a weight to it, the 6-speed manual gearbox has an accurate and satisfying snick to it, but make sure to dial-in a little extra power from the quick-spinning engine, working the lightweight-flywheel-clutch progressively to get the Mugen rolling smoothly. And after that, it’s all about the revs!
The 198bhp is at the top of the rev-range and you’ll have fun finding it there. After about 6000rpm the i-VTEC engine kicks into its second cam phase; the engine note steps up, and so does the power. With an incredible 8000rpm redline you might think you’re hurting the thrashing engine, but that’s what it’s designed for and this 2-litre terrier is one of the most reliable, hard-edged engines ever built.
The engineering understanding that goes into building a safe and reliable, race-ready motor like this is phenomenal, and while this rev-happy – and ultimately less economical – engine is soon to be replaced be something greener; it’s i-VTEC’s character and performance that’s so endearing, and addictive.
If you’ve never driven an R but like your cars to demand a little more then book a test drive, find your favourite back lanes, and when the road is clear, drop the power-pedal.
As the revs rise, so does the adrenaline – I found my eyes wide and firmly fixed on the quickly-approaching horizon. With six gears and very long revs-legs, the Civic Type R Mugen 200 is fast – 0-62mph in 6.6sescs and 146mph. It demands commitment and attention, but pays back in excitement.
The suspension is firm and doesn’t travel far; testament to Type R’s race-bred DNA, and you will feel more in terms of lumps and bumps. But this is a no-bones racer, for the road.
There’s a limited-slip differential in this Mugen-tuned R and on the track there would be tenths to be saved through tighter cornering, but on the road the diff adds a fair bit of kick-back through the steering. The turn-in itself is quick and grippy with body roll forgotten.
The brakes left me wanting more and looking through those big 19s, the standard-looking discs and calipers seemed too small to really haul the R’s big speeds. They work; they stop you, but I wanted braking bite and power to match the rest of the car’s bite and power.
In all, the experience of the Mugen 200 drive matches the wailing engine and exhaust notes that only 8k on the tacho can give you, and the niche of enthusiasts the R was designed for should feel a fast satisfaction.
Payback for the revvy fun is a quoted economy of 31mpg and a CO2 rating of 215g/km. On a week-long test I saw an mpg-average of 28.2, probably not helped by much motorway cruising where, at around 80mph, the engine is revving at a heady 4000rpm.
Ten second sum up:
The Honda Civic Type R Mugen 200 is a no compromise sports car that, when used in the real-road-world, means that you must actually make some compromises in terms of economy and bump-related comfort. It’s for a certain kind of buyer, but half an hour behind the wheel at max-attack, and that buyer will happily remember exactly why they bought one.
Prices and availability:
The Honda Civic Type R GT is currently available at a reduced price of £19,995. Price as tested, £25,510, for the limited-edition Civic Type R Mugen 200. Available now. But possibly not for long!
Words & pics: Daniel Anslow
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