A small product line-up the last four years has seen Honda fall behind, leaving brands such as Nissan and VW to race ahead in terms of overall sales. But according to the marque's MD Phil Crossman, the new Civic Tourer will help jump-start demand.
What is it?
One quick glance and you'd think it's the standard five-door hatch you see gracing the roads every day. But if you take a closer look, you'll notice the Civic Tourer benefits from a larger 235mm rear overhang. It's not much on paper but it makes all the difference when you step inside. The British-built Civic doesn't pay much attention to exterior design features, but instead focuses on interior space. With more than 600 litres of boot room and 'magic' fold-flat seats, the main quality the Civic Tourer has to offer is masses of storage. But when it comes to desirability, it doesn't quite live up to its rivals, of which we'll chat more about later.
What's under the bonnet?
The Civic Tourer will be built alongside the hatchback at Honda's Swindon factory, which also means it will come with the same 1.8-litre i-VTEC petrol and 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engines. Only the petrol will come with the option of an automatic gearbox, while diesels will be mated to a six-speed manual. Out of the two, the diesel is the one to go for – it's noticeably more refined and produces enough torque to pull you along at low revs. The petrol tends to generate an intrusive engine note as well as pedal vibration at high speeds, making motorway slogs a bit of a headache.
The Civic Tourer comes in five different trim levels – S, SE Plus, SR and EX Plus. The entry level S models start at £20,265 and come with all the essentials you'd require in a family estate, including: 16-inch alloy wheels, a CD player, steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, fold-flat seats, hill start assist and electric windows. Step up to the SE Plus at £22,450 and you gain gadgets such as front fog lights, automatic headlights and wipers, a rear-view camera and 17-inch alloy wheels. For drivers who fancy a little more luxury SR models come with satellite navigation and a DVD player, while top-end EX Plus models feature keyless entry, push start and interior ambient lighting.
The Civic Tourer will go up against a number of rivals including Volkswagen's Golf estate, Ford's Focus estate and Seat's Leon ST. Despite the Civic Tourer boasting its trademark bold and angular styling, in comparison to the Leon and the Focus, it's certainly not the best looking of the bunch. It isn't the cheapest, either. Volkswagen's Golf estate is priced from £18,175 while the Seat Leon starts at £16,675 - almost £4,000 cheaper than the entry level Civic Tourer.
What's it like to drive?
Honda has revised the steering and tuned the suspension to provide drivers with more confidence behind the wheel and for first time on any Honda, drivers have the option of adaptive rear dampers. The setup on the rear suspension is designed to help the Civic handle better when carrying heavy loads and prevent body roll during cornering. The driver has the option of three driving modes - Normal, Dynamic and Comfort. Normal is for everyday runs into town, Dynamic is for sporty outbursts that require stiffer suspension and sharper steering. Stick it into comfort and the Civic Tourer will attempt to iron out every pothole in the road with softer suspension but the difference is hardly noticeable.
The AOL Cars verdict
As a standard estate car, the Civic Tourer does what it says on the tin. It offers class-leading, practical boot space as well as enough head and legroom for three people to squeeze comfortably into the back. What's more, the entry-level S model comes well equipped, so it's no wonder it will make up a large percentage of Honda's UK sales. However, in comparison to the Seat Leon ST and Volkswagen's Golf estate, the Honda has a much heftier price tag. Both rival cars come with similar economy figures (the Seat matches them) and impressive levels of spec, making it slightly difficult to justify the extra cost. But if space is your absolute priority, the Tourer might be worth the extra outlay.
Model: Honda Civic Tourer EX-Plus
Engine: 1.6-litre i-DTEC
Max Speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Emissions: 99g/km CO2