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March 25, 2014

Review: 2014 Honda CR-Z Mugen CVT

Photos by Ulysses Ang
First-timers will find the Honda CR-Z a mesmerizing, if not, confusing sports car considering all the tech shoved into it. Start it up and the instrument cluster alone has 11, yes, 11 separate clusters and gauges displaying all sorts of information. Add to that the 3-Mode Drive system to the left and the climate control to the right and it becomes apparent that the CR-Z’s made for the Gran Turismo generation. However, as you get used to it, operating the CR-Z becomes second nature; like a well-worn pair of Adidas running shoes (we’ve tested it in Modulo CVT trim and even pitted the MT versus the Toyota 86). Yes, this is one complex machine, but it’s completely understandable too. But what happens when Honda sprinkles a bit of their motorsports magic onto the CR-Z? The resulting sports hybrid is something that’s equally familiar and mysterious—meet the CR-Z Mugen.

If there’s one Honda vehicle that’s oh-so deserving of a Mugen makeover, it’s the CR-Z. Not only is it a generally accepted fun-to-drive car, but it rekindles that lost feeling of sportiness absent in recent Hondas. Honda dove deep into its Mugen catalogue and transformed the “straight out of science fiction” CR-Z into a car that looks like it’s capable of hyperdrive. Even in the subdued Mystic Purple hue, the Mugen’s not for introverts. Upfront, the deeper and lower front bumper adds LED daytime running lights while the rear bumper echoes that treatment with a fairly aggressive diffuser and a Formula One-style central LED fog lamp. At the side, the CR-Z cuts a different silhouette with its lower side skirts, carbon fiber side mirrors, and massive rear wing. Finally, the CR-Z swaps its two-tone alloys for highly polished forged ones with the same diameter set-up (17’s) but with a more aggressive offset.

In the beginning, the Mugen body kit looks frivolous, but after a while you can’t imagine looking at the CR-Z without it. It beefs up the CR-Z’s existing sharp lines and adds the right amount of drama. Of course, it reduces its everyday usability as the lower ground clearance and large rear wing don’t do wonders if you park the CR-Z Mugen in a tight underground space. The front bumper tends to scrape through almost any driveway (the ordinary CR-Z goes through them just fine) and the sharply raked hatch means the rear wing opens past 1,750 mm (1.75 meters) so extra care is needed at places with low headroom. But hey, beauty has its price, right?

Inside, the CR-Z Mugen looks and feels more like the run-of-the-mill CR-Z. With the exception of the special floor mats, it’s pretty much standard CR-Z fare in here. The Mugen MT does get a unique carbon fiber shift knob, but for the CVT, it’s the very same CR-Z—but why fix it if it isn’t broken? Like any CR-Z, or any Honda for that matter, the ergonomics are simply spot on perfect. It’s got an excellent driving position and all the controls from the steering wheel to even all the minor ones fall within arm’s reach. Despite the large rear wing, it doesn’t impede rear vision and is actually unseen from the inside. There’s little to gripe about the CR-Z’s interior except for two things. First is the oddly positioned air conditioning vents which cause temperature-sensitive people to complain that there isn’t enough adjustment to be comfortable; and second is the joke rear seats which don’t fit anyone with a head or legs. Honda should simply do the inevitable and remove the rear seats for the parcel shelf as seen in other markets.

With a body kit that screams “kazillion horsepower” from a mile away, it’s sad to know that the changes to the CR-Z Mugen is limited to just that, the body kit. Mechanically, the CR-Z Mugen is no different from any other CR-Z—there’s no turbocharger, no special coilover, not even a token strut tower bar. The lighter forged wheels are supposed to translate to better handling, but without back-to-back testing, it feels the same if seat-of-the-pants experience is the judge. The only thing Honda added to spice up the CR-Z Mugen is an axle-back muffler system which everyone knows adds a sportier (louder) exhaust note with no increase in power. Thus, the CR-Z Mugen develops the very same 135 horsepower and 171 Nm of torque as other CVT-equipped CR-Zs. With that, expect the same on-road feel and performance which is pretty good, but not explosive. It handles tidily with quick steering and a responsive suspension. It’s also economical, but not stratospherically at 12.1 km/L—figures in line with other CVT-equipped CR-Zs. In fact, the Mugen exhaust system actually deters from the driving fun as the bass-filled note is great for 30 minutes, but since this is a CVT, the droning sound becomes close to unlivable after a week. Unless you’re used to driving riced-up Civic SiR, a word of advice to save your ear drums is to go for the CR-Z Mugen MT or any other CR-Z model without this exhaust system.

Priced at P 1,950,000, the Honda CR-Z Mugen sees a significant jump of P 390,000 over the next most affordable CVT-equipped CR-Z, the Modulo. That’s a lot of cash given you’re essentially paying for the body kit, the forged wheels, and the exhaust kit. But after all’s said and done, the CR-Z Mugen is indeed the most complete CR-Z experience, given this is the amount you’re going to spend on anyway if you’re going crazy on aftermarket stuff. Plus if you’re fidgety about warranty, going for the CR-Z Mugen still gives you the same 3-year/100,000-kilometer warranty. Of course, this is all assuming you like the way the CR-Z Mugen looks, drives, and most importantly, sounds. Others will spend the P 390,000 and blow it off a supercharger kit and a set of alloys, while others will go for a set of coilovers. As it is, the Honda CR-Z Mugen is an undeniably great sports car—it’s not perfect by any stretch, but at least it’s memorable. However, it’s best to steer clear of the CVT and save a P 90,000 chunk of change and opt for the Mugen MT instead.

2014 Honda CR-Z Mugen
Ownership CR-Z Mugen CVT
Year Introduced 2013
Vehicle Classification Sports Car
The Basics
Body Type 3-door hatchback
Seating 2+2
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5 + IMA Hybrid System
Aspiration NA
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 135 @ 6,600
Nm @ rpm 171 @ 4,800
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,099
Width (mm) 1,740
Height (mm) 1,395
Wheelbase (mm) 2,435
Curb Weight (kg) 1,195
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires 205/45R17
Wheels Forged
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Auto Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Fabric/Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. 2M for a 135bhp car? Gt86 is still the way to go, or a little more for the ISF

  2. I'd choose CRZ M/T priced at 1.390M over the GT86... why? Simply because I'm a Honda lover and this is a unique hybrid sports car. This is not your usual sports car :)

  3. I'd rather get the new WRX of Subaru priced at 1.8 with a 2.0 turbocharged engine.

  4. Hold ur horses, its a fwd car w/ 135 horses, to call it a sportscar is a stretch. Its more of a fun to drive hybrid than a full blown sportscar.

  5. Hybrid sports car? Maybe it should be called a Hybrid POSER car! A far cry from the old CRX.

  6. more on


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