No doubt there will be a few of you for whom the be-winged, be-spoilered and be-side skirted looks push the right buttons, but I don't think I'm going out on all that much of a limb if I say that you won't be in a majority...
But, however dubious the looks of this one-off special, there's no denying it's an intriguing concept. Honda pitches the standard CR-Z as the world's first genuinely sporty hybrid car, but the 'sporty' aspect doesn't stand up to all that much scrutiny when you drive the car. It's a moderately spritely thing, but a total power output of 122bhp and a 0-62mph sprint posted in 9.9secs is hardly the stuff of performance legend.
Colin Whittamore from Mugen Euro is at pains to point out that the supercharger has been fully and thoroughly integrated into the Mugen CR-Z's drivetrain and its IMA system. The three drive modes (including a special 'MUGEN' rather than sport mode mode) are all carried over, with 50mpg easily achievable in 'eco' mode (we'll take Mr Whittamore's word for that one...).
"The idea was to use the significant advantage of the early torque provided by the Honda IMA electric motor," says Colin, "then increase the torque available from the engine progressively".
As a result, the torque curve of the CR-Z is much more like that of a conventional car. Thus (theoretically at least), this rather unusual vehicle, with its odd-tech drivetrain, 197bhp and 158lb ft of torque, should behave like a conventional, lightweight hot hatch, despite achieving this in an far from conventional way.
The second thing you notice is how damn loud the exhaust is. Apparently the original one they fitted was strangling the engine's ability to breathe. This one most definitely does not do that, but its boomy gargle would want to be toned down should a fast CR-Z ever make it anywhere near a production line.
There is a problem, however. True enough, it picks up the pace sharply and revs keenly and freely, but it doesn't actually seem all that nippy. Admittedly a wide, empty circuit such as Rockingham sucks away any real sensation of speed, but even accounting for that the Mugen seems ever-so-slightly lacking in shove. But this is still an experimental car, a first dalliance with a very new approach to fast motoring form Honda and Mugen, so we'll have to give 'em the benefit of the doubt on that one.
The combination of all these factors really transforms the CR-Z, creating a flingable, grippy and fun car. The turn-in feels sharp, there's loads of grip and the CR-Z feels stable all the way through longer corners, while the brakes are truly magnificent; strong, sharp and yet easy to modulate.
There's a lot of potential in the CR-Z Mugen, but they do need to work on that engine a little more. And, if they ever put one on sale, market it for a fair chunk cheaper than the £150k it cost to develop this one-off.
As for the rest of the car, well obviously if they made it it wouldn't cost £150k, but we doubt it would dip below £30k. But that's not really the point of the Mugen CR-Z. It is a statement of performance intent, Honda and Mugen showing us that, while we might have to embrace new technology, we won't have to give up what we love - fast cars.
Mugen Vs standard CR-Z spec: