- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

Mainstream-minded Honda, frequently referred to as a something-for-everyone manufacturer, has added two models to its popular Civic lineup for 2003, and they could hardly be more different.
The gasoline-electric Civic Hybrid is a think-green vehicle capable of 50 miles per gallon in city traffic, while the Civic Si is a sporty coupe capable of rattling the cages of costlier performance-oriented cars despite having a teeny 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
The not-so-secret trick here is that the Si benefits from trickle-down technology, in this case Honda's continuously variable timing control and valve timing and lift (VTC for Variable Timing Control and VTEC for Variable Timing and Lift Electronic Control).
The upshot is 160 horsepower and 132 foot-pounds of torque in a coupe weighing about 2,500 pounds.
That means jackrabbit starts are easy driving a Civic Si with the typically smooth continuously variable automatic transmission or five-speed manual.
The shifter is mounted in an unusual spot, in the center and low on the dashboard.
The test Si, a five-speed model, quickly established its "pocket rocket" credentials with wheel-spinning takeoffs and third-gear sprints capable of obliterating speed limits.
The test car, which had absolutely no optional equipment, totaled $19,460 and had everything from air conditioning to CD stereo to real-world drink holders.
Base prices for the Civic line start at about $13,000 and peak on an option-loaded Si.
The Si's target may be weekend performance-minded drivers and younger folks, but few drivers who aren't too large to fit comfortably into the compact Civic Si are going to call it dull and boring. That maybe can be said of the gray cloth and plastic interior, but the exterior is reasonably hip with blackout trim, a fancy headlamp package and front and rear spoilers.
A sport suspension and anti-roll bars front and rear help the handling and the ride, which can be surprisingly smooth.
Just don't expect to escape engine and road noise, however.
The interior is pleasant enough with a generous amount of glass providing good but low, this is a compact, remember visibility.
The Si even has some neat sporty touches, including red stitching on the upholstery and equally bright red plastic inserts inside the front headrests.
The silver-face instrumentation looks good and boosts the reading-ease factor.
It's surprising what you can get in a Civic these days, except, of course, when it comes to passenger and cargo capacity.
Those factors are pretty much a given, but the Civic is moving on in visible and easily appreciated areas.

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