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    HONDA CR-Z MUGEN

    HONDA CR-Z MUGEN

    TIME was when Hondas were the go-to rides of both the street tuner and rice boy sets. CR-Xs and SiRs and various hallowed Type Rs ruled. Spoon, Modulo, Mugen—all spelled awesomeness among fan boys of the brand founded by some dude named Soichiro.

    But times have changed. The NSX is dead. And so is the S2000. The SiR had long ago gone to that great junkyard in the sky. Instead of harping on VTEC and 50,000rpm redlines, Honda’s pitch these days usually centers on V6s that turn into three-pots and a button that waters down engine power and gearbox response, and even air-conditioning. If street tuners and rice boys could move along with the times as deftly as carmakers did, they’d have the Honda CR-Z to play with now.

    Well, not that Honda isn’t trying to lure these guys. And the best proof of this is the Mugen look-good kit that the company has brought out for the CR-Z—a variant of which Honda Cars Phils. Inc. peddles.

    Thankfully offered on both CVT- and manual gearbox-equipped CR-Z variants, the special Mugen-wearing edition with the six-speed stick shift goes for P1.860 million, around a cool P400,000 more than the standard variant. While the difference may initially sound ludicrous, do the math—it’s actually reasonable. Because what you get with the Mugen package—and every piece included is genuinely a Mugen, specifically designed for the CR-Z, at that—is a full body kit that isn’t the least bit shy when it comes to styling. Every piece is rakish and angular and almost sci-fi.

    The front spoiler’s sharp edges set off the rest of the body’s lines. It sits low to the ground and has a binnacle for some air holes, fog lamps and LED jewelry. The side skirts are just as low, and are carved inward but bulge out near the rear wheel arches. The bumper at the back gets a huge diffuser. While we’re looking at the car’s derriere, equally hard to miss—actually, it’s a lot easier to spot—is the large wing spoiler that’s perched atop a pair of thick stems. Rounding off the CR-Z’s Mugen pieces are 17-inch multispoke alloys that are wrapped in the expected high-performance, low-profile rubbers. Of course, there are the numerous Mugen badges to remind everybody that the add-ons are indeed, well, Mugen.

    In the cabin, the special CR-Z flaunts red stitching on its fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, red accents on its sport seats, door panels and leather shift boot, and a shift knob in carbon-fiber finish that’s accented with, you guessed it, red trim. Even the floor mats, which annoyingly bunch up toward the pedals—a potential safety issue—have red accents and wear Mugen patches.

    Clearly, the CR-Z’s transformation into a Mugen variant is no slapdash affair. Add the pieces up together and P400,000 really isn’t so steep. Unless you’re a cheapo job who thinks it’s perfectly all right to tack onto a CR-Z accessories you have bought at Blade.

    Because the CR-Z’s Mugen makeover is merely cosmetic, the car still drives the same as the standard version does. This means that despite excellent brakes and the 17-inch alloys with meaty rubbers, responses are not exactly sporty. The car’s steering is a bit numb, no thanks to electric power assist. The suspension damping is needlessly on the stiff side. Thankfully, the power plant—a four-pot, 1.5-liter, i-VTEC engine supplemented by an electric motor that Honda calls the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), and which makes 134 horsepower at 6,600rpm and 190 Newton-meter of torque around the 4,500rpm mark when it’s paired with the six-speed manual gearbox—is peppy enough. Oh, trust me, you would want to have this stick shift rather than the CVT. It just makes the CR-Z a whole lot livelier.

    Helping here is the S+ button that, providing there’s enough electrical charge stored, sends extra oomph coming from the IMA. It’s not much, but extra oomph is always good.

    Then there’s the Sport setting, which quickens throttle and transmission responses. Normal dials things back a bit. Econ setting, meanwhile, is one of the things Honda has been hyping these days, mentioned at the start of this piece. Basically, it retards everything, including bullying the transmission into shifting to a higher gear as soon as possible, to cut on fuel use and emissions. Check your pulse. If you detect one, do not switch the CR-Z into Econ mode.

    As a Honda living in present times, the CR-Z is fitted with some colored lights on the instrument panel that “coach” sensible driving manners. Drive frugally and the light goes green. Drive amusingly and it glows red.

    If you’re fashionable, go for green.

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