Mugen. One word that tells of something special.
As Honda's official tuning arm, Mugen Motorsport (or M-Tec) is responsible for taking regular Honda models and making them far more exciting to look at and far more exhilarating to drive.
Recently, Honda Cars Philippines has been bringing in more and more of Mugen to their products. This one is the newest model to get it: the 2014 Honda Jazz.
Let's see how this Mugen-clad Jazz gets on.
Right off the bat, it's easy to spot that this Jazz isn't your run of the mill model. Honda's signature hatch (known as the Fit in other markets) has received the full Mugen treatment from front to back, top to bottom.
Look at the front and you'll see that Honda didn't just fit a chin, they replaced the entire bumper and grille with one from Mugen. The bumper from M-Tec certainly upped the style of the car, and so did the duotone side skirts, the rear lower skirt with a faux diffuser and the rear deck spoiler.
Honda also installed a set of Mugen wheels with wider, grippier tires and even added a pair of carbon mirror covers and finished the car off with a Mugen badge on the tailgate. Overall the Mugen kit turns up the dial on this blue Honda Jazz VX+.
Inside, it's still the VX+ interior, meaning it's identical to the top-spec VX+ variant we drove earlier. The dashboard is still the same and has Honda's touchscreen multimedia entertainment unit. Like previous variants, this one has an HDMI port to mirror the display on your phone, and this one also has the nifty touch panel for the climate control system.
I do wish they changed the steering wheel to one from Mugen (if there is one) as a Mugen steering wheel would do wonders to up the ante. Same would go for the seats if they received the Mugen treatment, but those are personal preferences.
Mechanically speaking, the engine in this Jazz Mugen is the same: a 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC engine. This L15A motor is a carryover from the previous generation, but at 120 PS at 6600 rpm and 145 Nm at 4800 rpm, it's easy to see why; it's still a good engine, and it's matched with a new CVT that is an improvement over the previous 5-speed automatic.
What surprised me is that Honda didn't include any Mugen parts to improve performance. It's common knowledge that Japanese car companies are quite conservative, but I feel that they could have done more for this to car to be truly deserving of the Mugen badge. Nothing drastic, of course, but perhaps a Mugen air filter and a Mugen exhaust would have been apt.
Nevertheless this 2014 Jazz Mugen is fun to drive, even without performance components. The car is smooth, comfortable and well put together. No creaks, no unnecessary noise or other quality issues common in most cars, particularly those with bodykits. There is a bit of noise coming from the tires, as these are no longer the standard eco-oriented rubber usually found in stock models.
As expected, given the wider, grippier tires, the fuel economy has gone down a bit when compared to the showroom stock 2014 Jazz VX+ under similar traffic conditions. In town the Jazz Mugen yielded 8.4 km/l (stock tires: 8.9 km/l) in moderate-heavy traffic (18 km/h average) and 10.8 km/l (stock tires: 11.7 km/l) in light traffic (34 km/h average). On the highway there's also a slight dip in economy at 16.0 km/l (stock tires: 17.5 km/l) at an average of 88 km/h.
If the tires made a bit of a dent in fuel economy, they made a profound improvement in handling. The Jazz Mugen, with those wider wheels and tires, takes on corners noticeably easier than the stock model. The suspension is the same, but you can brake a little deeper and turn in a bit sharper with the tires. Again, I wish there was more attention paid to improving the engine's performance, even by just a little bit.
Overall, the 2014 Honda Jazz VX+ with the Mugen kit is a neat little car, even without significant mechanical upgrades. What was really shocking is the pricing for the Mugen kit: around PhP 400,000 on top of the PhP 958,000 pricetag of the Jazz VX+.
Certainly this 2014 Honda Jazz VX+ Mugen is a fantastic car to look at; a definite attention-getter when driven around the trendier parts of town. However, at an estimated PhP 1,358,000, the price tag could very well be too dear to justify even for Mugen fanatics.
Note: Honda Cars Philippines has just introduced a more affordable 2014 Honda Jazz Mugen Limited Edition with a 5-speed manual gearbox, the Mugen grill, spoiler and rims but minus the original Mugen bumper and skirts. At PhP 908,000, the price of that variant is more like it.