Honda Civic Tourer review
The Honda Civic Tourer is a hugely practical estate, with low CO2 emissions, a comfortable ride and class-leading boot space
The Honda Civic is now in its ninth generation, but this isn’t the first time it’s been sold as an estate. The MkVI model was offered as an Aerodeck estate, although that car wasn’t a whole lot roomier than the hatch. However, Honda claims the new Civic Tourer’s 624-litre boot is the biggest in this class.
The Civic is already a very practical car, but the company’s European arm has spotted a trend in the market for compact, spacious estates that sit just below cars like the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia estates in terms of price but actually offer more room inside.
To do this, Honda had to heavily reengineer its five-door hatch, and has increased the length by 235mm, as well as totally redesigning the rear of the car to make it more practical while keeping the same futuristic design. At launch there will be just two engines to choose from, one petrol and one diesel, and four trim levels.
Top spec ‘SR’ and ‘EX’ models also benefit from a new adaptive rear damping system that makes the Civic Tourer more comfortable and adjusts the handling when carrying heavy loads in the back.
Our choice: Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC SE Plus
Opinion has been divided over the latest Honda Civic hatchback’s styling, and the Tourer is likely to provoke a similar reaction. It’s 235mm longer than the five-door, with all the extra length at the back of the car.
Up front, you get the same short, rising bonnet, large wheelarches and distinctive nose as the hatch, while the A-pillars arc into the roof, which has been enhanced by flush silver rails. The roof flows elegantly into the tailgate, and the windowline tapers down towards the tail-lamps. Those large light clusters wrap around the back of the carand are joined by a red bar, while a relatively small rear screen and spoiler finish it off.
Overall, the Civic Tourer looks rather fussy, and the large gaps around the tailgate are at odds with the tight shutlines you’ll find on the SEAT Leon ST. Elsewhere, the Tourer’s cabin is identical to the hatchback’s. So the two-level dash is carried over, complete with the digital speedometer and multifunction display on top, plus a central rev counter ahead of you.
The driving position is high, in contrast to the low steering wheel, but the split in the dash means you can read the dials without the wheel getting in the way. On the centre console, there’s an array of buttons for the various functions. These take some getting used to, but are easy to use on the move.
The 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine is definitely the highlight of the Civic engine range. It’s a real gem, as it’s smoother and punchier than the 1.6-litre TDI found in the SEAT Leon ST and Skoda Octavia Estate. A six-speed manual gearbox makes the most of its performance thanks to a clean, precise shift action.
The petrol option is a 1.8-litre i-VTEC unit that revs freely, but feels a lot slower than its diesel counterpart. It does come with a choice of either manual or automatic gearbox but has to be worked hard to match the same easy in-gear grunt of the diesel, which spoils refinement. It struggles up steep hills too, and would not cope well once it has been fully loaded up with passengers and luggage.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Civic Tourer package is a letdown in comparison to the diesel engine. It stays relatively comfortable when cruising, and has a softer edge than its rivals. But it’s still unsettled by bumps, and soft suspension means there’s significant body roll in corners.
The steering responds quickly, but it’s light and provides very little in the way of feedback. Push on, and soon the Honda will understeer, while the inside front wheel has a tendency to spin up if you accelerate with even a modest amount of steering lock applied.
In town, the Civic is relatively smooth, but the stop-start system is surprisingly rough. Every time the engine cut out or restarted, it sent a noticeable shudder through the cabin.
If you want peace of mind, then the Civic will deliver rock-solid reliability. Like most Japanese manufacturers, Honda has a good reputation for building cars that last, and the Tourer should be no exception. It’s built at Honda’s UK factory in Swindon, Wiltshire, so you’ll be able to fly the flag for British manufacturing with pride, too.
Honda’s dealers also performed well in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey. They finished in fourth place, three positions ahead
of Skoda, so expect first-class customer service.
The Civic hatchback has a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, although it only has six airbags compared to rivals’ seven. Honda’s new Driver Assistance Safety Pack, which adds city braking, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, a blind-spot monitor and more, is only available as a £780 optional extra on SE models and above.
The Civic Tourer has the biggest boot in its class, at 624 litres, and this increases to 1,668 litres with the back seats folded. If your priority is maximum space, then that’s fine, but delve a bit deeper and you find some compromises.
There are four lashing eyes in the floor, and a deep bin underneath. Yet while the Honda has a 12V power socket, there are no bag hooks, the load cover is fiddly to use – although it can be stored under the boot floor when it’s not needed – and you can only fold the back seats from the passenger compartment. Still, they fold in one move, while the Magic Seats also flip up to create a second boot area in the back.
Return them to a seating position, and the Honda has less room than in rivals, while the angled door pillars make it feel more enclosed. Still, storage is decent, with a deep armrest bin and sunglasses holder, a big glovebox and reasonably sized door bins, although they’re smaller than those in the Skoda Octavia Estate.
The longer roof of the Tourer means rear headroom is better than on the hatch back, and the only irritation is the awkwardly high driving position, which makes it hard to get comfortable at the wheel. Another slight issue is the seat adjustment - which is done with a stepped lever rather than a wheel - which forces you to either sit too upright or too reclined, without any middle ground.
The Honda Civic Tourer comes well equipped, with all models getting Bluetooth, digital DAB radio and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Sat-nav is a reasonable £545, but you have to move up to higher-spec SE or SR trims to get goodies such as leather or xenon lights. The list price means the Honda will be a fairly expensive company car choice, too.
Go for the diesel and you’ll get a car with a range of over 800 miles that returns an official economy figure of 74.3mpg and emits just 99g/km of CO2 – which makes it road tax exempt and should keep running costs very low indeed. Only the SEAT Leon ST Ecomotive and Toyota Auris Sport Tourer are cleaner.
The petrol is less impressive, with a combined 45.6mpg and emissions of 146g/km - not bad but roughly the same as a four-wheel drive TDI version of the new Skoda Octavia. However if you opt for bigger alloy wheels of the high-spec models then the CO2 figures do creep up slightly. Honda is famed for its mechanical reliability but does not offer the same long warranties as some of its mainstream rivals like Hyundai and Toyota. Depreciation will also be slightly higher than cars like the VW Golf Estate, even with the small fuel bills.