The Honda Civic Tourer is the all-new estate version of the popular five-door hatchback, and is the first Honda to be developed in Europe.
With 624 litres of boot space (under the load cover, with the rear seats in place), the Tourer's load bay is big enough to worry rivals such as the class-leading Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon ST estates.
Honda has also revised the steering to give less assistance, and tuned the front suspension to provide the driver with more confidence when cornering.
For the first time on any Honda, there's the option of adaptive damping on the rear suspension, too. While not self-levelling, the new set-up has been designed to help the Civic handle better when carrying heavy loads and towing over challenging road surfaces.
The Civic Tourer will be built alongside the hatchback at Honda's factory in Swindon, and will use the same 1.8 petrol and 1.6 diesel engines. An automatic gearbox will be available on the petrol.
What’s the 2014 Civic Tourer like inside?
At the time of our previous drive in a prototype Tourer, Honda couldn’t give us an official boot size, but now it has been confirmed, it’s no surprise the figure is so impressive.
The boot is a consistent square shape, has a lower loading lip than any of its rivals and has a usefully wide opening. As long as you don’t pay extra for a spare wheel, there’s also enough underfloor storage for two overhead locker bags.
Practical touches such as storage nets and dedicated underfloor storage for the load cover make living with the Tourer easier, too.
The rear seats fold completely flat, but Honda has decided not to offer boot-mounted levers like those fitted to rivals like the new Volkswagen Golf Estate. However, the Tourer’s lightweight rear seatbacks are easy to fold, and the Tourer gets the same cinema-style 'magic seats' as the Civic hatchback, which allows the bases to be folded up.
The front of the Tourer's cabin is the same as that in the recently revised hatchback. That means there’s a generous amount of head- and legroom and plenty of levered wheel- and seat adjustment on the driver’s seat. Forward visibility remains good, while the view over-the-shoulder has been vastly improved over the hatchback.
However, some drivers will find the steering wheel blocks their view of the speedo, while most will struggle to get to grips with the Civic's complicated dash. Despite having its lower section devoted to climate controls and upper to infotainment, there are too many poorly labelled buttons to get your head around.
The same problem exists on higher-trimmed models with sat-nav, such as our test car. The sat-nav unit looks decidedly aftermarket, and while everything from the radio to your phone is controlled via the one unit, the buttons are too small and fiddly to hit quickly on the move. That said, using the larger touch-screen icons is easier.
Rear passengers get a better deal than in the hatch, because although the amount of legroom remains unchanged, headroom has been improved; six-footers will have no cause for complaint on long journeys.
Those on board will enjoy the Tourer’s standard kit, too; 16-inch alloy wheels, a USB socket, DAB radio and Bluetooth phone connection come on every car.
Honda has also introduced two new optional safety packs; the first costs £780 and features technology such as city braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and high beam support.
Top-trim EX cars get the option of an additional pack (£2500), featuring all of the above except city braking, which is replaced by a more advanced collision avoidance system, and radar-guided cruise control.
What’s the 2014 Civic Tourer like to drive?
The 1.6 diesel is certainly strong, pulling eagerly from low revs. It does get noisy when worked hard, though, and higher revs also cause some buzz at the pedals, and road noise becomes quite boomy at motorway speeds.
The petrol engine is smoother and quieter than the diesel, but it has to be revved harder to make decent progress. Ultimately the diesel’s greater torque makes it easier to drive in and out of town, and will prove the more useful when carrying heavy loads.
The front suspension is passive on all models but has been revised slightly compared with the hatchback's set-up.
The adaptive rear damping system is standard on more expensive SR and EX models and optional (£550) on SE Plus trim. Its three modes – 'Normal', 'Comfort' and 'Dynamic' – provide a noticeable change to the way the Tourer rides and controls its body movements.
Whichever mode you select, the system analyses that car's speed, acceleration, braking and steering angle to automatically maintain the best balance between comfort and control.
Selecting 'Comfort' results in more pronounced body movement, but it does a really good job, managing to soak up even big, sharp-edged ruts and potholes.
Switching to 'Dynamic' stiffens things up to noticeably to reduce body roll in tight bends. The driver is more aware of sharp creases and cracks in the surface of the road, but it's not uncomfortable.
We also tried a Tourer without adaptive dampers, the standard set up on entry-level S Tourers. The ride is never harsh and body roll is kept neatly in check through corners.
Complementing the impressive ride of both cars is the Tourer's revised steering. Some drivers will still find it a bit twitchy at motorway speeds, but otherwise the light steering makes the Civic easy and predictable to drive.
Should I buy one?
The Civic Tourer excels as an estate, offering a huge, practical boot, a good drive and enough room for a family of four to get comfy inside. It also provides a decent amount of standard kit, and the diesel will prove cheap to run.
However, it's up against some very strong competition. The Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon estates both offer more refined 1.6 diesel engines, and are cheaper to buy. Furthermore, the Seat matches the Civic’s CO2 and fuel economy figures and in 1.6 TDI Ecomotive form, it beats them.
Still, the Honda is a little bigger and more clever with its space, so if that's your main priority, then the higher cost could be justifiable.
What Car? says…
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £21,375
Torque 221lb ft
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg
Engine size 1.8-litre petrol
Price from £20,265
Torque 128lb ft
Top speed 130mph
Fuel economy 45.6mpg