What is it? The Civic Tourer is the load-lugger version of Honda’s UK-built hatch
Key features: Sleek profile, big loadspace, strong eco credentials
Our view: An assured performer, giving no hint of the extra metal behind the rear wheels
Downsizing has been a big deal in the motor industry for a while now. Drivers are abandoning big family cars for something more compact and perceived to be more efficient. It’s notable that the large car segment, populated by the likes of Ford’s Mondeo, the Vauxhall Insignia and the Honda Accord, provided the only negative score in the latest very upbeat set of UK sales figures.
Some owners of compact cars still need lots of carry space, however, so for manufacturers such as Honda, whereas previously making an estate version of the Accord was a given, there is now a business case for producing a load-lugging Civic.
And now we have it, the first estate – or wagon as it’s known in the industry – version of the Civic to go on sale since 2001. It’s a car designed in Europe and built at Swindon in the UK for primarily European audiences, and Honda believes the car’s flexibility, carry capacity and particularly impressive eco figures should make it a winner.
On hearing that the Civic Tourer – as the new model is called – has the same wheelbase as the hatch but a length extended by some 235mm, some might be concerned that this exercise has simply comprised hanging an extra lump of body shell out the back. Such concerns are dispelled the moment one first sees the Tourer.
As far as the front door pillars, it is exactly the same as the hatch. Then the extended shell flows backwards in a sweeping style, the shape of the glass giving the impression of a slight downwards tilt. Overall the car presents a pleasing wedge profile that to be honest is rather more attractive than the hatch.
Such visual satisfaction does not come at the expense of practicality. Honda claims to beat all rivals with the Tourer’s loadspace, measuring 624 litres with the rear seats up. Thanks to the fuel tank being under the seats rather than the boot, a useful 117 litres is freed up under the boot floor. Drop the highly-adjustable rear seats down and the result is a huge flat floor, that will take 1,668 litres. That’s a lot of suitcases…
The practicality continues at the very back. Open the tailgate and the loading space is wider, taller, and closer to the ground than either Focus, Astra, Golf or Auris can manage. And Honda claims to have thought of the little things too, right down to using a carpet with sheared-off-fibres that don’t catch dirt particles and are thus far easier to keep clean.
The interior will be familiar to anyone who has driven the Civic hatch, though there have been some detailing changes for the Tourer. It’s practical but stylish too, with its two-part arrangement mounting the vital dials ahead of the driver on a steering column pod, and the others beyond in a panel rising from the fascia. The seats are comfortable, and despite the Tourer’s sleek exterior there is plenty of room for occupants front and back.
Just two engine choices are on offer, the 1.8 petrol of 140bhp and a 1.6-litre diesel offering 119bhp. Both are highly efficient powerplants as we expect from today’s Honda units but in all honesty the only reason you would buy the petrol is for the extra pace – and even that only takes the car through 62mph in 9.2 seconds, just nine tenths faster than the diesel. Choose the latter, however, and you will go almost 30 miles further on a gallon of fuel – combined cycle economy is quoted at an impressive 74.3mpg. And you get CO2 emissions sliced by some 47g/km, just squeezing under the tax-removing 100g/km barrier.
The diesel also scores on general performance, feeling smoother and a little more refined than its petrol sibling when pushed on – the latter’s engine note can become the more noticeable at speed.
Tourer add ons to ensure handling prowess have included extra body stiffening just behind the rear doors and retuned dampers, with the option of Honda’s rear Adaptive Damper System (ADS). Claimed as a world first by its makers, it boasts three modes – Comfort, Normal and Dynamic – and automatically adjusts its response dependent on load and driving conditions.
Even without the ADS, the Tourer is an assured performer, giving no hint of the extra metal behind the rear wheels. Okay it’s no finely handling race car, the suspension instead concentrating on offering no surprises at any time, while smothering any road imperfections.
Prices for the Tourer start at £20,265 for the 1.8 i-VTEC in the lowest of the four trim levels, with an extra £1,110 buying the cheapest diesel variant, and Honda has bold ambitions for the car.
The brand is looking at taking 10 per cent of the market for compact wagons, aiming for 3,800 sales a year, of which 2,300 will be diesels. And despite the car’s eco credentials placing it squarely in the sights of fleet buyers, it’s expected that sales will be split 60-40 in favour of private motorists.
Helping that will one extra useful marketing element – we mentioned racing cars? Honda’s team in the UK’s biggest motor sport series, the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), has chosen to dump its Civic hatches in favour of Tourers in 2014. The last time an estate raced in the series was two decades ago, but unlike the boxy Volvos of 1994, Honda expects with the Tourer to secure itself a fourth consecutive manufacturers and teams title in the BTCC.
The Civic Tourer has many plus credentials, and is also a superb-looking race car. For Honda it really could be a case of ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’…
Honda Civic Tourer – key specifications
Model Tested: Honda Civic Tourer 1.6i-DTEC
On the road: February 2014
Engine: Petrol 1.8, Diesel 1.6
Power (bhp): 140, 119
Torque (lb/ft): 128, 221
0-62mph (sec): 9.2, 10.1
Top speed (mph): 130, 121
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 45.6, 74.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 149, 99
Key rivals: Ford Focus Estate, Vauxhall Astra Estate, VW Golf Estate
Test date: February 2014
* all figures with manual gearbox