Revised Civic features sharper looks, new kit and chassis tweaks, but its rivals remain cheaper and more compelling

What is it?

This year is unquestionably an important one for Honda. Firstly, the high-performance Civic Type R and the flagship NSX are due to be launched.

Secondly, the company is busy revamping every model in its line-up – including this, the Civic Tourer. It benefits from a range of upgrades in an effort to keep it on buyers' radars alongside estate versions of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

So on the outside you'll find redesigned bumpers, a tweaked grille and more elegant daytime running lights, while inside the Civic benefits from new door trims and seat fabrics, and a new Android-based infotainment system.

The Tourer's chassis has also been fettled, with adjustments made to the responses of the electronic power steering, a new stability system, which is claimed to boost traction and grip, and new dampers and bushes. These changes have, reputedly, created a more enjoyable experience for the driver. Each Civic gets active city braking as standard now, too.

Furthermore, Honda has cut up to £1600 off the price of the facelifted Civic in a bid to make it more competitive with less costly alternatives.

What's it like?

It remains an unquestionably practical car. In standard configuration it offers a whopping 624 litres of storage space, which is 99 litres more than the larger Ford Mondeo

This useful nature is echoed in the design of the rest of the interior. There's plenty of space in the front and lots of decently sized cubbyholes. Three can sit abreast in the second row, in part thanks to a low-slung central tunnel, and even taller passengers can be accommodated without difficulty in the back.

It's not all good, though. The Honda's seating position is rather perched, the dash is overly cluttered and frequently fiddly to interact with and some of the materials - for example the tops of the door cards - leave a lot to be desired.

These foibles detract from what is otherwise a comfortable, smart cabin. While the new media and sat-nav system works very well indeed, it too could do with a little polish. For example the buttons down the side are flimsy and lack the quality you might expect.

Out on the road the Civic has the kind of long-legged demeanour you'd look for in a car like this. The ride can be patchy on rougher surfaces, but it corners well and cruises along with minimal fuss.

The controls are light and their responses well judged, further reducing driver workload, but there's little in the way of steering feel or additional weighting when cornering. As an effortless family hack it's perfect, but those seeking something offering a little more will be left wanting.

The quiet 1.6-litre diesel proves to be a good match for the practical Civic, however, providing enough motive power to stop it feeling like a mobile obstruction. The 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in a relatively prompt 10.5sec and the engine responds quickly and willingly. 

Predictably, it doesn't have the in-gear punch of a 2.0-litre diesel, but what it lacks here it makes up for in outright economy. Honda claims an average of 72.4mpg for the Civic, which in conjunction with its 50-litre tank will grant it a nigh-on 800-mile range.

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During our test we easily returned an indicated 54mpg, which bodes well for some impressive real-world figures - and also means a realistic range of around 600 miles. You'll only pay £20 a year in VED, too, while its low emissions make it a good candidate for company car drivers.

Should I buy one?

As practical and as likeable as the Civic is, it remains quite an expensive choice. A similarly specified Ford Focus Estate would set you back £24,295, for example, saving you £1845 compared to the Honda.

The Ford is also far more rewarding to drive, its driving position superior to that of the Civic, and - as a final twist of the knife - it's similarly economical and exempt from VED. If a cavernous boot isn't a must, take the practicality hit and opt for the Ford.

Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC 120 EX Plus manual

Location Swindon; On Sale Now; Price £26,140; Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, turbodiesel; Power 118bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1440kg; Top speed 121mph; 0-62mph 10.5sec; Economy 72.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 103g/km, 18%

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xxxx 15 April 2015

Not so stupid advice

"But to recommend the Focus based simply on the premise that it's more fun to drive? Come on, Autocar." they also mentioned the not to little £1,800 price difference
Mini2 14 April 2015

Stupid advice

This review completely fails to mention the Civic's clever seating. The Focus is, in comparison, far less cleverly packaged. Estate buyers aren't just after a big boot. Folding the Ford's seats requires more effort, too. It's just a shame that the Civic's dashboard remains a complete mess after the futuristic previous model, and there are indeed some horribly naff plastics lingering. But to recommend the Focus based simply on the premise that it's more fun to drive? Come on, Autocar.
LP in Brighton 14 April 2015

Needs a new name or something

I don't think the Civic badge is doing this car any favors. To me, Civic conjures up images of previous cheap, smallish Japanese hatchbacks, not the commodious 1440kg British built estate described here. It's a pity that Honda couldn't distance this car from the hatchback by reviving the Aerodeck name. That might make the car sound a bit more special, rather than the Astra / Focus alternative it appears to be. Incidentally I don't think either of these models are true rivals to the Civic: I think Honda customers will have made a conscious decision not to buy these familiar mainstream models, and will instead be looking at Toyotas, Nissans, Hyundais etc.