Canada's most popular passenger car - the Honda Civic - has pretty much proven itself over the years. According to Consumer Reports, the Civic "has good crash-test results, handles well, and has outstanding reliability." No surprise then that it posts top of the segment sales figures, year after year.

In 2008, it also had a slightly sportier side in the form of the Si. At first glance, this seemed to be just another Civic sedan, with larger wheels and tires, body graphics and a funky spoiler mounted on the trunk, but propelling this little pocket rocket was a race-inspired, two-litre, four-cylinder Acura powerplant.

Available as either a two-door coupe or four-door sedan, the '08 edition of the Si developed 197 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, and this engine was also found in the Acura CSX Type S, so any comments about the Si pretty much apply to the CSX Type S as well.

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Either way, when you slid behind the wheel of one of these little hot rods, you definitely felt like you were piloting a performance sedan.

You could also expect rock-hard suspension, a limited-slip differential, better-than-average four-wheel disc brakes, a loud-ish exhaust note, and plenty of reserve power - not to mention a nice little power surge above 6,000 rpm, thanks to Honda/Acura's i-Vtec variable valve timing setup. Unfortunately, you have to burn premium gas to take full advantage of this extra performance. Just one transmission choice here: a close-ratio, six-speed manual.

Like all Civics of late, elbow-room in the '08 Si was at a bit of a premium, mainly due to a low roofline, radically raked windscreen and high side bolsters on the front seats. These seats were exclusive to the Si/Type S, incidentally. 2008 was also the year Honda introduced its new "eyebrow" dash layout, with a digital speedometer mounted in a binnacle above the tachometer. Unfortunately, the steering wheel interferes with your line of sight here and this could have been a case of change for its own sake.

Trunk space was 340 litres, and the Si featured a 60/40 folding rear seat for additional carrying capacity. By way of comparison, one of the Si's direct competitors, the Mitsubishi Lancer, had 328 litres, and the Toyota Corolla was good for 390 litres.

Fuel consumption was decent but inferior to the garden-variety Civic. Natural Resources Canada rated the 2008 Si at 10.2 litres/100 km in town and 6.8 on the highway. A regular Civic DX with a manual five-speed, for example, delivered 7.4 city/5.4 highway and a Mitsubishi Lancer 9.7 city/7.0 highway. This was the price you paid for performance, but the Si was still reasonably thrifty.

Just one safety recall to report, and it actually affects all Civics of this year. Apparently, a fuel hose connector bracket could be improperly secured, possibly leading to a fuel leak and, in an accident situation, a fire. Dealers can fix this, gratis, in no time flat.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has 12 technical service bulletins on file, and they cover the entire Civic range. Some include: recalcitrant defogger/defroster controls, engine coolant issues, "popping" noises from the manual gearbox, low-speed steering response issues, and sketchy synchromesh into third gear.

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As far as Consumer Reports is concerned, the Civic - in all its forms - is a "good bet." The 2008 version gets this organization's highest marks in every category, right across the board. That said, the Si gets a mere "better than average" overall rating, compared to "much better than average". The different suspension and drivetrain may account for this.

Market research firm J.D. Power gave this year of the Civic its "Highest Ranked Compact Car in Initial Quality" award, and it receives "about average" or "better than most" grades in all departments. No real black marks here, but not exactly an over-the-top, ringing endorsement either. Vehicle dependability for the '08 Civic is slightly above average, according to J.D. Power and, presumably, that applies to the Si as well.

From a base price of about $26,500 in 2008, the Si has dropped to between $16,000 and $17,000. Depending upon extras, the sedan version appears to be fetching slightly more than the two-door coupe. The Acura CSX Type S, meanwhile, is going for between $18,000 and $19,000.

Tech specs

2008 Honda Civic Si

Original Base Price: $26,680; Black Book: $16,500-$16,975; Red Book: $15,925-$16,425

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Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 197 hp/139 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.2 city/6.8 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Toyota Corolla XRS, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra SE-R, Acura CSX Type S, MazdaSpeed3, Mini Cooper