From £18,3408
Late-stage prototype proves Honda’s seriousness about extending Civic’s appeal. Still quirky, but now extra sensible with it.

What is it?

A prototype of the forthcoming Honda Civic Tourer, bound for UK showrooms in early 2014. And it’s aimed directly at the market-leading compact estate – the Skoda Octavia Estate. Alright, maybe the Octavia isn’t actually so small – but it does have more than 600-litres of boot space under the parcel shelf; something that European buyers are responding to in large numbers. Target number one for the Civic load-lugger, then, was to match that boot volume.

And thanks to the Civic’s space-efficient torsion beam rear suspension system, they’ve hit the bullseye. Seats up and tonneau in place, you get more than 600 litres of storage here, rising to more than 1500 litres with everything folded: numbers that could put a BMW 3-series Touring in the shade. And all that from a car you wouldn’t guess belonged at the capacious end of the class by the way it looks outwardly.

What's it like?

The Civic Tourer is on the same wheelbase as the standard five-door hatchback. It will be built at HMUK Swindon, and uses the hatchback’s engines and major mechanicals – with one addition: adaptive dampers sourced from Sachs. Uniquely, they’re offered as an option for the rear axle only – Honda’s justification being that by dropping the adaptive units on the front they can produce an adaptive chassis with 80 per cent of the functionality of a four-corner system but at half the cost, weight and complexity.

Makes a pragmatic kind of sense typical of Honda – and it works quite well. At a steady state cruise in any car, the greater proportion of ride control flows from the rear axle, and you become very aware of that fact when flicking between ‘Comfort’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Dynamic’ modes on the Civic’s centre stack and perceiving plenty of difference. Not as much as you’d feel in magnetorhelogically damped Audi, or even a Volkswagen Golf with adaptive dampers – but enough to make the system worth having. 

Our test allowed drives in both a standard passively damped Tourer and an adaptively damped one. The standard car’s a little on the firm-riding side; has to be, says Honda, to provide decent body control with max load onboard. It’s fine – just not quite as roundly impressive as the five-door Civic 1.6 i-DTEC we drove earlier this year.

‘Comfort’ mode on the actively damped car, however, adds a more supple, loping motorway compliance that the passively damped Civic wagon can’t quite match. It also seems to take little precision or feel away from the steering, nor allows the car’s body to wallow. Because the dampers are active, they automatically compensate for load and for a tortuous road surface, firming up in both compression and rebound when necessary. Their function feels a bit like the air-sprung rear-end of a Mercedes E-class Estate, without the automatic self-levelling. 

The car rides quietly too, and has pleasing weight and feedback through the steering wheel rim. Handling balance is very decent; rounded, with a slight stability bias, which is exactly as it should be in a car like this.

The engine range will include Honda’s 1.8-litre i-VTEC petrol and its low-emissions 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel. The latter powered our test prototype, and again showed impressive refinement, flexibility and economy, and very respectable performance for an engine of its kind. 

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Should I buy one?

If you’re happy enough shopping at the low-emissions end of the family car class – downsizing, perhaps, from a larger wagon and keen on saving a few quid on your monthly outgoings without giving up much on space – you should probably consider the Civic Tourer.

There will be no 2.2-litre diesel version, and there’s no sign yet of a higher-output version of the 1.6 oil-burner to add breadth of appeal to the range – so those looking for a sprinkling of performance feel should look elsewhere.

But warmer versions can follow on. Honda’s starting at the right place here, with a competitive compact family car that should sell to fleets, and adds generous practicality to a mix of real-world sensibleness and quirky design appeal. It isn’t perfect, but still very creditable.

Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC

Price from £21,000 (tbc); 0-62mph 11.0sec (tbc); Top speed 125mph (tbc); Economy circa 70mpg; Co2 sub-100g; Kerbweight 1400kg (tbc); Engine 4cyls, 1597cc, turbodiesel; Power 118bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Add a comment…
fadyady 24 July 2013

At last...

... Honda made a 1.6L diesel. Now its gonna put it in every little car it makes. It may be okay in the Civic and this estate version but is an underkill in the CRV. Is underkill even a word as the antonym of overkill?

Andrew 61 24 July 2013

regarding boot space

The Skoda Octavia 4x4 estate has a multi link rear end and still keeps the boot space of its torsion beam rear suspension sisters? So when you say "And thanks to the Civic’s space-efficient torsion beam rear suspension system, they've hit the bullseye" regarding boot space, it seems that the suspension
design doesn't have much effect on space efficiency? it looks more like Honda
making 'torsion beam' sound like a great engineering solution when they are actually just saving money.

Old Toad 24 July 2013

LIke the look of this

Not form the above camouflaged photos but from previous renderings .

Would like to give it a try when it comes out . Think this looks much better than the hatch but its pricy compared to the new Octavia Estate .

In fact Im so interested by it Im going to get a second hand car to tide me over till it comes out in 2014 .