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Honda SiR-vice with a smile High-zoot Civic has hatchback body style

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

Yes SiR! Although Honda's 2001 Civic lineup lacks either a hatchback body style or a sports/performance model, the absence of these will be short-lived.

Both will be back early in 2002, combined in a single vehicle — the reincarnated SiR.

Unveiled at the New York auto show last week, the new SiR (called Si in the U.S.) will be built at Honda's plant in Swindon, England, the sole global source for Civic hatchbacks.

A unique mesh grille, roofline spoiler, and oversize alloy wheels complement the hatchback's clean lines, giving the SiR a distinctly sporting appearance.

It is powered by a 2.0-L, DOHC, four-cylinder engine with i-VTEC — the latest variation of Honda's variable-valve timing mechanism. Now incorporating variable cam phasing, it permits continuously variable valve control, rather than just the two-step change of previous VTECs.

Peak power output is 160 hp and maximum torque is 130 lb-ft.

Torque is increased throughout the speed range, promising improved all-round performance and drivability.

Compared to other Civics, the SiR features more powerful four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake distribution.

EBD preserves directional stability by distributing braking force differently to the wheels.

Buyers will also get firmer springs and dampers with front-and-rear anti-roll bars.

Inside, this seventh-generation Civic is differentiated by sports seats with red stitching, white gauges and a novel five-speed shifter located at the base of the centre stack for quick gear changing.

The split rear seatback folds flat to provide a continuous load floor.

Honda Canada applies the Si label to the 2001 Civic coupe with a 127-horseVTEC engine, known as an EX in the States.

As well, the SiR label is used in Japan for higher-output Hondas, a tradition the Canadian firm is following. Honda offered an SiR coupe here in model years 1999 and 2000.

The return of the SiR is good news for compact performance-car enthusiasts, and there is potential for even more.

In Europe, Honda offers a limited-production, Type R variant, with 200 hp and a six-speed transmission — the same as in the Acura RSX.

Gerry Malloy can be reached by e-mail at: mgmalloy @ aol.com

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