While every other legit hot hatch uses a turbocharger to increase power without sending fuel consumption the same way, the Honda Civic Type R stands alone in refusing to do so. The idea: high revs equal more excitement.
And it almost works. Almost, because in reality the standard Type R isn't quite fast enough to compete with the latest breed of turbo hatches. But this MUGEN version, boy is it fast. Not necessarily on paper (the 0-62mph sprint is around the six-second mark) but fast where it matters - in your belly. Above 6,000rpm, this car feels quicker than careering down an escalator on a buttered sledge.
What are its rivals?
At £40,000 the Type R MUGEN occupies a limited edition hyper-hatch class occupied by very few. Only 20 will be made.
That sort of money usually goes on high performance premium cars like the BMW 335i M Sport Coupé or the Mercedes E-Class Coupé 350 CGI Sport, comparison to which is entirely misplaced. The Civic is a properly bespoke product, virtually hand built by a team of six at MUGEN's Northampton base - they strip down a common Civic Type R and turn it into something rare and very special.
How does it drive?
The MUGEN drives like no other hatchback on the road, but at the same time it's exactly the car the standard Civic Type-R should be. It's all about revs.
Glorious, frenetic, loud, addictive, racy, bonkers revs. Where the standard Type R hits 6,000rpm and gets a bit quicker and a bit louder, this car hits another level altogether. And it gets very loud. It's like someone's switched on another engine that's hidden in the boot or something. From that point onwards the MUGEN sounds and goes like a touring car (or how you'd imagine a touring car to go, anyway), and it doesn't let up until 8,500rpm.
For that reason, this is a car at its very best on a twisty, empty road. The great thing is, in that circumstance it's not remotely intimidating, because there's so much communication from the steering wheel that you always feel in total control. It's a horrible, clichéd concession, but there's no better way of describing it than to say it's like a go-kart. Sorry.
Apart from all the stuff we've just said, the most impressive thing about the MUGEN is that it rides better than the standard Civic. You'd anticipate a car so tightly wound would rattle your bones like a set of maracas, but it doesn't. It's very firm, yes, and occasionally thumpy, but it's more than manageable.
MUGEN strips down the entire engine, drivetrain and suspension system before rebuilding them using a load of custom parts. The result is more power (up to 240bhp), less weight, better, more communicative steering, a more compliant ride, improved stopping power, a gearbox that somehow feels more precise, and, the highlight, that screaming 'VTEC zone' above 6,000rpm. The work that goes into this car is only a couple of steps short of OCD.
If MUGEN was to present this car to Dragon's Den as a business case, Duncan Bannatyne would be out quicker than the time we suggested he invest £250,000 for a two percent stake in our hoverboard company: a Type R plus the parts required for the MUGEN transformation would cost close to £60,000, and that's before the 150 hours of labour that goes into each one over a two-week period.
The MUGEN really does demand your focused attention to shine, and if you try to put your foot down at low revs it's disappointingly flat. The 266bhp turbocharged VW Golf R, for example, doesn't have that problem, and also has the silky ride of an executive car and a much better driving position. Work-shy drivers need not apply.
It also has the worst rear visibility of any hatchback on sale - if ever a reversing camera were actually needed€
Should I buy one?
Yes, if you can find one. No car is depreciation proof, but a few of these have been bought as investments, such is their perceived future value.
And while we understand that, we also think it's a tragedy, because this is simply one of the most riveting cars ever committed to reality. Its 2.0-litre base engine is no longer produced, having been killed off by EU emissions regulations; this is as fitting a send off as we can imagine.