31/01/2014 17:15 | By Tim Pollard, managing editor, MSN Cars

Honda Civic Tourer estate review (2014 onwards)

We test new British-built Civic estate - with an echoing 624-litre boot


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Honda Civic Tourer: summary

What: Honda Civic Tourer
Where: Northamptonshire, UK
Date: January 2014
Price: from £20,265
Available: now
Key rivals: VW Golf Estate, Ford Focus Estate, Vauxhall Astra

We like: big boot, clever touches, solid quality, good driving manners
We don't like: weak petrol engine, punchy prices

The new 2014 Honda Civic Tourer (© Honda)

Honda Civic Tourer: first impressions

Honda didn't build an estate version of the last Civic, but the wagon version is back for 2014. Called the Civic Tourer, the estate looks smart and modern - if a little Japanese in its style. The current-generation 2014 Civic is a curious mix of the avantgarde vibe from its predecessor combined with a more cautious tone. You almost get the impression Honda didn't quite know how to follow-up its space-age forebear.

The petrol 1.8 feels seriously underpowered for an estate this size

But climb inside and you'll be struck by the modernity on offer. There's a sweeping dashboard with digital displays and some clever touches; the rear seats flip up without any lever-tugging, like cinema seats. The resulting space can swallow pot plants or a bicycle. Clever stuff - and a taste of things to come.

Honda Civic Tourer: performance

The performance on offer in Honda's new estate is very much a tale of two halves. Only two engines are offered in the Civic Tourer: a 1.8 petrol and a 1.6 diesel.

The former is a perfectly well-mannered petrol car, but it feels seriously underpowered in a car this big. The Civic wagon weighs in at 1,280kg in its lightest form (ballooning to beyond 1.3 tonnes in top-end models), and the 1.8's 142hp and 128lb ft of torque struggle to keep up. The gearing is set accordingly low and we sometimes tried to move up to an imaginary seventh gear to lower the revs at a motorway cruise.

So we'd recommend choosing the 1.6 i-DTEC with its punchier 120hp and, more importantly, 221lb ft of pulling power - nearly double the torque output of the 1.8. Performance is brisk, economy admirably frugal (more of which later) and - best of all - refinement is first-rate. Honda knows a thing or two about building engines, but it's still remarkable what they've achieved on only their second-ever diesel engine for Europe. You'd be hard pressed to tell this is an oil-burner most of the time.

Cabin of Honda (© Honda)

Honda Civic Tourer: ride and handling

The Civic Tourer has one clever detail up its sleeve in the chassis department: it's claimed to be the first production car to feature active dampers on just one axle. Honda contends that an estate car's suspension works hardest at the rear wheels where heavy luggage may be stowed, so it's cut costs by fitting electronically managed dampers just at the back rather than at all four corners. They replace conventional, oil-filled dampers.

These active items are clever since they stiffen for firmer, sportier body control through corners or soften for better bump absorption along an open road. They work pretty well, too. While some active dampers have an indistinguishable effect on ride and handling, you can feel the difference when you cycle between comfort, automatic and dynamic settings. It's not a massive change, but not enough that you'll notice.

Note, however, that these dampers are only standard on SR and EX Plus trim and above (it's a £550 option on SE Plus models). The Civic rides well, but sportier drivers will be better served by a Ford Focus or VW Golf, which both offer more steering feel and a generally more agile feel.

Big 624-litre boot of Honda Civic Tourer (© Honda)

Honda Civic Tourer: interior

Lots of brownie points here. The Civic Tourer's single biggest draw will be its boot capacity. At 624 litres, the luggage bay is huge and shades rivals such as the Golf, Focus, Astra and Ceed estates. But it's worth noting that all manufacturers have started quoting the hidden compartment beneath the floor (remove the 117 litres underfloor, in the Civic's case, for a more everyday boot size).

The Civic's boot is enormous for a vehicle of this size

So the Civic's boot is enormous for a vehicle of this size. But what's cleverer still are the practical details built in: the underfloor stowage area can swallow two in-flight overnight bags, the tonneau cover stores neatly in a cubby and the carpet is claimed to repel dog hair and other detritus. The boot floor is also usefully low for hauling animals and luggage into.

Your bags may be well accommodated, but what about you? The cabin of the Civic Tourer is an interesting mix of futuristic design (think sweeping dashboard borrowed from the edgy last-generation Civic) and plain materials (like the cheap-feeling plastics and aftermarket-looking touchscreen stereo/sat-nav). It's wholesome and sturdy, but lacks the finesse of some German interiors.

Honda Civic Tourer: economy and safety

The diesel Civic estate has very impressive figures - its CO2 rating stands at just 99g/km (meaning you'll pay nothing for your tax disc) and it averages a parsimonious 74mpg. Honda says you can drive a fulsome 817 miles on one tank of fuel. Impressive stuff.

Pick the petrol and the wallet-affecting numbers decline, as you might expect. The 1.8 averages a claimed 45.6mpg and 146g/km. All models come with a five-star Euro NCAP rating, airbags galore and lots of (mostly optional) electronic systems to monitor blindspots, traffic signs and other traffic to keep you safe.

Honda Civic Tourer estate review 2014 onwards (© Honda)

Honda Civic Tourer: the verdict

This is another solid effort by Honda. The Civic Tourer makes a very compelling case on account of its gargantuan boot, frugal engines (particularly the excellent diesel) and rock-solid build quality. That it's built in Britain at Honda's Swindon plant may prove an extra boon to many patriotic buyers.

Four stars

The only chinks in its armour are the slightly anonymous styling, interior finish and high-ish prices starting at £20,265. You can pick up a rival compact estate from Vauxhall from just £16,000. Which might explain why you'll be unlikely to see many Honda Tourers around. Honda predicts it'll sell just 3,800 Civic estates each year in the UK. It's a shame more people don't consider switching from a crossover into one of these.

Honda Civic Tourer spec and data

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