If there were ever a car that exemplified the kind of hot hatches we've left behind in recent years, the Civic Type R Mugen is it. Where a modern hot hatch - certainly a popular one, it seems - is typically a demure, restrained, five-door and automatic contraption, warmed over a little from standard to sporty, the Mugen was mad. Properly, almost unbelievably mad.
It was a three-door hatch, one that looked a bit daft, came only with a manual gearbox and thrived on revs. To be honest, that applied to the standard FN2 Civic Type R too, traits that the Mugen Europe car then took and ran with to create something unforgettable. Ostensibly a farewell to the legendary K20 2.0-litre engine, Mugen overhauled the four-cylinder - full details here, as there are a few - to create a VTEC masterpiece. Power went up to 240hp from 200, torque to 157lb ft from 142. Those peaks were made at 8,300rpm and 6,250rpm respectively, truly absurd numbers today - but nothing more than Honda tradition back then.
In addition to their engine work, the Mugen Civics were treated to adjustable Showa dampers, lighter wheels and tyres, composite body panels, bigger brake discs, that gigantic spoiler and a mechanical limited-slip diff. All that work explained the £38,599 list price back in 2010; a list price which then explained why only 16 of the 20 cars sold. Then the 2.2-litre, 260hp, this-really-is-the-last-one-honest variant was made, but quite what happened with those four is unknown.
Anyway, this particular Mugen is from Honda's press fleet, one that countless scummy journalists have had a go in. Including some PH ones. But don't let that put you off; it's still only covered 30,000 miles and always dry stored, it will have been religiously serviced its entire life by Honda UK, and has been lovingly prepared for sale: a £12.5k respray, new brakes, dampers and tyres, refurbed wheels and a fresh red rocker cover.
So leave alone being the best Mugen out there; MU09 GEN could well be the best Civic Type R available, as well as one of the best known. As it well should be, being for sale at £45,000. While that 2010 list price of £38,599 represents more than £48,500 in 2019, there's no escaping the fact that it's a heck of a lot of money for a Civic. Even with the private plate, a USB of nice photography and PDFs of the magazine features included. You could nearly buy a Trophy-R for that money...
Even by the standards of mad hot hatches, the Civic was always going to have niche appeal; what was true at the time arguably applies even more a few years later. It was prohibitively expensive then and remains so now, even if that jewel of an engine is believed to be about half the cost. Still, the classic Japanese car scene is enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, as various cars hit anniversaries and rose-tinted memories grow even fonder. Perhaps that uniquely Japanese approach to engines and chassis, where technologies were utilised that simply didn't feature elsewhere, is now holding greater appeal as vehicles trundle towards homogeneity. VTEC won't happen again, and nothing typifies the VTEC way quite like the banzai Civic. Perhaps those who spent £100k on an NSXmight need a Civic shopping car - it'll be £45k very well spent.
SPECIFICATION - HONDA CIVIC TYPE R MUGEN
Engine: 1,998cc, four-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 240@8,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 157@6,250rpm
First registered: 2010
Recorded mileage: 32,891
Price new: £38,599
Yours for: £45,000