2013 Honda Civic Tourer prototype drive
* Estate driven in prototype form * More than 600 litres of boot space * On sale early 2014...
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 more than 600 litres of boot space (with the rear seats in place), the Tourer's loadbay is big enough to worry rivals such as the class-leading Skoda Octavia Estate.
Honda has also revised the steering to give less assistance, which should provide the driver with more confidence when cornering.
Furthermore, for the first time on any Honda, there's the option of adaptive damping. While not self-levelling, the new suspension set-up has been designed to help the Civic cope better with heavy loads and when towing over challenging road surfaces.
The Civic Tourer will be built alongside the hatchback model at Honda's factory in Swindon, and will use the same 1.8 petrol and 1.6 diesel engines.
What's the 2013 Honda Civic Tourer like inside?
Our camouflaged test cars were far from the finished article, but gave some indication of what to expect.
Boot capacity hasn't been finalised, but Honda is adamant there will be more than 600 litres with the rear seats in place.
Honda also says the Civic Tourer's boot floor will be closer to the ground than any of its rivals'. The loadbay is a usefully square shape and there's a wide opening, which should make it easy to load bulky items.
Those not opting for a full-size spare wheel will get a variable-height floor, which in its highest setting and with the rear seats folded down, gives a completely flat loadbay.
Honda has decided not to offer boot-mounted levers for folding the rear seats like the ones fitted to the CR-V. However, the Tourer does come with the same cinema-style 'magic seats' as the Civic hatchback, which have bases that can be folded up.
The front of the Tourer's cabin is likely to be much the same as the hatchback's. That means some drivers might find the steering wheel blocks their view of the speedo, while most will struggle to learn the Civic's complicated dashboard layout.
Rear passengers get a better deal than in the hatch, though, because although the amount of legroom remains unchanged, headroom has been improved; six-footers will have no cause for complaint on long journeys.
What's the 2013 Honda Civic Tourer like to drive?
We drove two prototype Tourers on German roads. Both were 1.6-litres diesels and both had standard 17-inch wheels, although one was fitted with Honda's new adaptive rear damping system.
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 likely to be an option, but its three modes 'Normal', 'Comfort' and 'Dynamic' provide a noticeable change to the way 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.
However, selecting 'Comfort' gives more vertical travel to improve comfort on the motorway, and soaks up lumps and bumps impressively enough around town, too.
Switching to 'Dynamic' stiffens things up to noticeably to reduce body roll in tight bends. The driver is more aware of larger and high frequency imperfections in the surface of the road, but never enough to be uncomfortable.
Even on our test car without adaptive damping, the ride was never harsh and the body roll was kept neatly in check through corners.
Complementing the impressive ride of both cars is the Tourer's revised steering. It's less vague than the hatchback's around the straight-ahead, and its more consistent weighting inspires greater confidence on twisty roads.
Should I buy one?
The Civic Tourer certainly shows promise. We've yet to try it in the UK, or have access to economy and emissions figures, but it's certainly spacious and surprisingly good to drive.
Prices should be competitive, too, because Honda says it will charge roughly the same premium over the Civic hatch as competitors do for their estate models around 1000.