Honda's improved Civic Tourer offers buyers in search of a compact yet immaculately-engineered estate an inriguing option. It's now smarter and more affordable. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Honda Civic might just be at its best in sleek Tourer guise. With 642-litres of luggage room with the rear seats in place and the cleverest seat folding system in the business, it's well worth a look.
Small estate cars are usually horrible. The styling never quite works, the cars looking like a hall of mirrors version of a bigger car, too high, not long enough and with an uncomfortable afterthought of glazing squiring the back end. Every once in a while, an exception slips through the net, forcing you to wonder why car manufacturers find it so difficult to style what should be a longer and sleeker version of a supermini or family hatch. Here's one to join that exclusive list, the Honda Civic Tourer. This estate version of the ninth generation Civic is built in Britain and doesn't come saddled with huge expectations. The compact estate car market has always been a bit of a backwater niche over here, so perhaps it's time for one model to get a solid run at it and turn things around.
Civic Tourer buyers are offered the choice of two engines; a 120PS 1.6 i-DTEC diesel or a 142PS 1.8 i-VTEC petrol unit with the choice of manual or automatic transmissions. The introduction of an Adaptive Damper System (ADS) will help to enhance stability and comfort under varying load and driving conditions. The driver can select between Dynamic, Normal and Comfort modes to suit the roads or their mood. Otherwise, it's much as you'd get with the Civic hatch, which means a simple yet space-efficient torsion beam rear suspension with clever fluid-filled compliance bushes to improve overall ride and handling. A lot of resource has been poured into improving ride and refinement on this car, with particular emphasis placed on reducing wind noise and improving the cabin noise insulation. You'll have to do without pokier diesel engine options, which seems a bit of a shame, but the 1.6 i-DTEC unit has a reasonable turn of pace and delivers some 300Nm of torque, which should be more than enough to shift a Civic Tourer with some alacrity, even when loaded to the gunwales. For reference, that engine will make 60mph from standstill in a fraction over 10 seconds in hatchback form.
Design and Build
There have been a few exterior design tweaks to this Tourer estate in recent times. At the front end, those familiar with the car will notice revised headlight units with integrated daytime running lights and a more rakish front bumper assembly. The Civic hatchback also features a slicker design for the rear bumper, side skirts, a rear spoiler finished in black, plus LED rear lamps. Otherwise, aesthetically, things are much as before, which means a design with a genuinely cohesive front-to-rear flow. The rear end doesn't look like a hasty addition. Its styling is defined by a bold line that runs continuously from the front A-pillar to the D-pillar, creating the impression of a floating roof line. The glass of the rear quarter window has been extended to cover the body work of the D-pillar and the rear door sash has been raised by 17mm compared to the Civic hatchback to create this bold styling line. Inside, you get probably the best one-handed seat folding operation in the business - Honda's Magic Seats system. Granted, it probably wouldn't impress David Blaine but it'll impress your neighbour. The interior boot floor of the Civic Tourer has been raised compared to the hatchback to create a completely flat area when the seats are folded down. The rear seat cushions can also be flipped up to reveal ample floor space for carrying tall objects. A 60:40 split in the seat base offers even more options for carrying both people and cargo and provides an alternative load area if access via the tailgate is limited. You get 624 cubic litres of boot volume with the rear seats in place and up to 1668-litres when they're folded. There is also a very handy hidden compartment perfect for storing the tonneau cover when it's not needed. Furthermore, there is additional under-floor storage in the boot, which makes carrying tall objects in the boot easy, plus the height of the loading lip has been reduced by 137mm compared to the Civic hatchback. It's all been very well thought through.
Market and Model
The premium Honda is asking for this car over a normal Civic hatch has dropped with this facelifted version - to around £1,000. Prices as a whole have fallen too - they now start at just under £19,000 for the base 1.8 i-VTEC petrol model. As before, there's a choice of two engines, a 142PS 1.8 i-VTEC petrol with auto or manual transmission and manual gearbox 120PS 1.6 i-DTEC diesel. Diesel pricing starts from around the £20,000 mark. All of this means that you'll no longer pay more for this Civic than you would for a comparable VW Golf Estate. And that's despite the fact that this Honda comes with a onger warranting, covering ou for 90,000 miles, rather than Volkswagen's 60,000. Civic equipment levels are higher too. On the subject of the kit tally, even the entry level S grade includes features such as Bluetooth Hands Free Telephone (HFT), DAB Radio, USB connectivity and 16 inch allow wheels. In addition to these items, the SE Plus, the next level up, has rear parking sensors and 17 inch alloys, whilst SR customers will benefit from the new world first rear Adaptive Damper System (ADS), front heated seats, HDD sat nav and privacy glass. Those who opt for the top EX grade will receive headlight washers, smart entry and start capability, a sunglasses holder, interior blue ambient lighting and Bi-HID headlights with auto levelling.
Cost of Ownership
The 1.6-litre diesel might at first seem to be the poor relation to Honda's old 2.2-litre unit in terms of power but it aces the larger capacity engine when it comes to running costs. Consider this. You'll get almost 75mpg from the astonishingly economical 120PS 1.6 diesel on the combined cycle. That's better than a diesel Volkswagen Golf estate that packs a measly 105PS. And CO2 is a mere 99g/km. For a company that once swore off diesel engines as a bad idea, Honda has really stolen a march here. The petrol engine doesn't do too badly either but a combined fuel figure of around 44.1mpg and 149g/km of CO2 looks rather profligate compared to the diesel. You'll pay around £1,100 extra, model for model, for the diesel engine but if you're covering the sort of mileages that mean you get the best out of Honda's warranty, the diesel is always the better pick.
This improved and more affordable Honda Civic Tourer will suit a very specific kind of customer. If you're after the best handling small estate in the class or one with the most up-market interior, then it might not be your ideal choice. But it has plenty of other equally important virtues. The diesel engine is an absolute gem and safety and security are top drawer. Plus the Civic Tourer's styling is bold, clever and successful and crucially, there's plenty of space inside. Honda's folding seating system is the best in the business too. In summary, this car turns an average hatchback into a surprisingly effective and desirable estate. It's not without its caveats, but right now this is the Civic body to choose and by quite some margin.