The Honda Civic Tourer made a piece of motorsport history in April 2014 when it became the first estate to take a podium finish in the British Touring Car Championship.
It turned out to be a disappointing season by Honda’s high standards, but the Tourer still took 13 podiums and four wins. How does that racing success contribute anything to a very sensible family car on the road?
For the last decade or so, the Honda Civic has been, err, distinctively styled. The current generation continues the theme. There’s a bit of origami, an element of Manga and some European curviness. It doesn’t quite hang together.
The Tourer is identical to the hatchback up to the C-pillar; beyond that the designers simply added the extra metal that encompasses the boot. The rear is better resolved than the hatchback, and doesn’t have the spar that bisects the back window, so you can actually see what’s behind you.
The interior looks like the flight deck of the Enterprise, with extra display screens supplementing the traditional instruments. It feels really futuristic, until you see the decidedly dated graphics. Some of the minor controls are a bit old hat too, though material quality is excellent.
Our test car had the 1.8-litre i-VTEC petrol engine. It’s a fine motor, delivering it’s 140bhp and 128lb/ft with creamy smoothness. 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds and a top speed of 130mph are respectable, and the claimed average fuel economy of 44.1mpg is almost achievable.
But it just doesn’t suit the Civic Tourer. With the capacious boot fully loaded, it starts to feel strained. The 1.6 i-DTEC diesel has a much more useful 221lb/ft of torque, so is the better bet for load-lugging. It does over 70mpg, as well.
Ride & Handling
Its racing success shows there’s a talented chassis underneath the Civic Tourer and you can feel it out on the road. It corners keenly and there is little bodyroll. But there’s a remoteness to the sensations that smothers any involvement in the process.
The SR model tested here comes with adaptive dampers as standard that toggle through Comfort, Normal and Dynamic modes. They make little difference, so you may as well leave it in Comfort and enjoy the supple ride.
As ever with non-turbo four-cylinder engines, the Civic’s motor is rather loud under power but soon settles down to a whisper when cruising. There’s little other noise to notice – it’s a peaceful place to be.
Space & Practicality
By placing the fuel tank under the front passenger seats, Honda’s engineers have given the Civic Tourer the biggest boot in its class, with a giant 624 litres of space with the rear seats up.
That’s not counting the extra cubby under the boot floor, which easily swallowed my weekly shop. Fold the rear seats, which you can do with one finger, and there’s 1668 litres of space, which betters all bar the Skoda Octavia.
Passengers are generously accommodated too, though rear headroom gets a bit tight if you’re much over six feet tall.
Our SR-spec test car comes with dual-zone climate control, rear view camera, satnav, voice activation, and heated leather seats as standard, which is quite generous for £24,000.
As I’ve already mentioned, for outright carrying capacity, the Civic Tourer leads the way in its class. By contrast, the Ford Focus has the smallest boot in the class, but is much more engaging to drive.
The Hyundai i30 Tourer and Keed cee’d SW are better value; the Vauxhall Astra Sport Tourer is better looking. The margins are so fine that which dealer has the best coffee could be the deciding factor.
Fun fact: the most British mid-size estates you can buy are the Toyota Auris Touring (designed with a lot of British input and built in Derby), and the Honda Civic Tourer (designed entirely in the UK and built in Swindon).
If you can live with the styling, the Civic Tourer is a fine family car; it’s certainly the best C-segment estate you can buy. But go for the diesel.
Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC SR Tourer
Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Power/Torque: 140bhp; 128lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 44.1mpg; 149g/km of Co2
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Top speed: 130mph