Honda Mugen CR-Z driven

* Hybrid hot hatch tested * 1.5-litre supercharged petrol engine and electric motor * Not on sale yet - production version could cost £30k...

Honda Mugen CR-Z driven

What is it?

Honda's tuning partner Mugen has been charged with demonstrating what can be achieved with hybrid technology by turning the eco-focused CR-Z sports coupe into a proper road rocket.

What's it like to drive?

Although power output from the electric motor is unchanged, by strapping a supercharger to the 1.5-litre petrol engine, power has been boosted from the standard car's 122bhp to 197bhp.

Select sport mode and the Mugen will hit 60mph in just 6.5seconds, but it's more the integration of the supercharged engine with the electric motor that impresses.

Power delivery is most unusual for Honda: there's a distinct absence of the rather flat take-up followed by the distinct kick that its V-TEC engines are famed for.

Instead, there's so much torque - 50% more than in the standard car - from just above 1000rpm that the power is delivered almost instantly and climbs towards the 6500 rpm redline with a strong linear thrust.

Equally beguiling is the duality of the Mugen CR-Z. Put it in eco mode and it will return the low emissions output and an identical cruising fuel consumption of the standard car.

How does it handle?

Superbly, but with one enormous caveat: the only car Honda provided for us to assess was a £150,000 development mule, fitted with track-oriented suspension, super-sized brakes, weight-saving carbonfibre bonnet and doors, and a free-flowing big-bore exhaust.

Even more extreme were the ultra-sticky slick tyres, which proved brilliant on the tight bends of the Rockingham speedway's touring car circuit, but hardly practical on a slimy, rain-soaked high street.

Should I buy one?

Actually, you can't. Mugen is waiting to see if press coverage is positive and if there is a strong enough customer demand before it commits to production.

If it goes ahead, you can expect the sticker price of the road-going Mugen to be closer to £30k, and for that you will get the bloated bumpers, front and rear side skirts, aerodynamic undertrays and large roof-mounted spoiler.

Inside it'll feature two sports seat - the rear seats will be binned to save weight - a bank of extra gauges displaying water and oil temperature, a separate gauge indicating oil pressure and a heavily weighted gearknob to aid fast shifts through the six-speed manual gearbox.

However, although power and performance will be similar to those of the car we drove, the carbonfibre components certainly won't see the light of day and chassis modifications will be far less track oriented.

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What Car? says