Even in a cooling market, this $40K Civic doesn’t shock us
Though Honda’s pivot to turbocharged engines for its sporty offerings took place over six years ago, enthusiasts still fondly remember the company as a manufacturer of screaming, 8000+ rpm four-pots. In fact, the lust for these mellifluous engines and their peaky, naturally aspirated powerbands only seems to increase with time. That’s why, even in a cooling market, this week’s very strong sale of a low-mile 2008 Honda Civic Mugen Si for $42,525 (including fees) on Bring a Trailer didn’t entirely surprise us.
Back in 2008, Honda fans in America were used to getting short shrift. Sure, the Acura Integra Type R made it stateside, but more than a decade had gone by since the raucous Civic Type R debuted abroad, and U.S. buyers had to make do with the entertaining but less-capable Si model. In an effort to meet some of that pent-up enthusiasm, Honda sent a limited-run tuner car our way in the form of the Honda Civic Mugen Si.
Mugen is a household name among those who modify Hondas. For those not in the know, it’s an engine tuner and parts manufacturing company co-founded in 1973 by Soichiro Honda’s son, Hirotoshi, and racer Masao Kimora. Since its inception, Mugen has been closely linked with Honda, and the partnership has built a rich auto- and motorcycle-racing history as well as several special-edition cars (almost all of which have become very sought-after in the collector market). Mugen was a natural choice, then, to co-create a special car for an American market that was brimming with excitement for anything performance-oriented from Japan.
The Mugen Si wasn’t a powerhouse by any stretch. Though equipped with a throatier cat-back exhaust, power figures held steady at 197 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter K20Z3 engine. Mugen’s tuning instead focused on handling: re-valved dampers, shorter and stiffer springs, lighter wheels, and grippier tires amplified the little Civic’s roadholding and made it much more capable. A body kit and exclusive Fiji Blue Pearl paint added some tuner-car flair to the package.
“The Mugen Si wasn’t any faster than the standard Civic Si sedan, but it sure looked and sounded like it was,” says ’08 Civic Si owner and Hagerty Price Guide editor Greg Ingold, who is also a regular contributor to this site. “Essentially, the Mugen Si was a glimpse into what a quality ‘tuner’ could be like. In 2008, the Japanese tuner world was still coming off of the gaudy ‘auto salon’ era that everyone associates with the Fast and Furious movies. Buyers were likely going to perform these upgrades to their Si anyway, so getting all the tweaks from a name like Mugen right at the dealership was a great selling point.”
The $29,500 MSRP did give a lot of potential buyers pause, however, and quite a few of the 1000 made ended up sitting on dealer lots.
Fifteen years on, the eighth-generation Civic Si remains a well-rounded and engaging car to drive in just about every aspect. Headlined by an engine that begs to be revved all the way to its 8000-rpm redline, it’s also the final generation to make its power that high—the redline dropped to a mere 7200 revs with the introduction of the ninth-gen car in 2012.
The regular Civic Si isn’t in the Hagerty Price Guide, but clean, lower-mile examples are plentiful and can still be had for under $15,000, with top-flight cars coming in around the $25K mark. With that context, the fact that this Mugen Si sold so well is likely to make plenty of eighth-gen Civic Si owners perk up.
“This potentially points to the future collectibility of the eighth-generation Civic Si as a whole,” says Ingold. “I don’t expect the market to explode for these cars overnight, but it may be an indication that the generation is gaining attention.”
Indeed, this sale does highlight the healthy outlook for certain modern front-wheel drive cars as collectibles (one look at the record for an Integra Type R, set earlier this year, is enough to confirm the strength of this sub-segment). It also took place at a crossroads of an ascendant Japanese segment and a slowing market. As we’ve noted recently, strong sales of in-demand cars are no longer a given, but this Mugen Si is a reminder that great-condition cars mixed with a little rarity can still make for an impressive number when the clock runs out. If you’re a fan of high-revving front-wheel drive Hondas, the Si is the one to modify and enjoy, while the Mugen Si looks like it may have begun to be the one to collect.