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purely cosmetic. If you like the way it looks better without it then take it off. I myself like to see an engine when I pop the hood.
 

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Several members have painted their engine covers (like myself) you can "make it your own" this way, or just take it off if you want.
 

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This. I wanted an engine cover for my 1.6 but I changed my mind. I even removed the plastic piece that goes over the core support. :D
that piece actually may serve some purpose. By the looks of it, it will direct air flow through your radiator and AC condenser. Without it air will take the path of least resistance and blow up top over it. I could be wrong in how it's designed though since I never actually seen one removed.

BTW if you change your mind about an engine cover for the 1.6 they are available in other countries. I've seen them before. I'm unsure if mounting points are the same as the USDM engine though.
 

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I like it on for protection because that intake manifold under it is just made out of plastic, and I figure the more protection from the elements it gets the better.
 
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