The new Honda Civic Tourer is set to give the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra estates a run for their money, but it’ll have to be good to take on the class-leading VW Golf Estate and Skoda Octavia Estate.
So, to give it a leg up, Honda’s fitted it with adaptive suspension on its rear axle only, the first production car to do so (a somewhat odd claim to fame). It’s supposed to make the Civic Tourer a better load-carrier when you’re lugging stuff, and a sharper steer when you’re not. We’ve driven the diesel-powered Civic Tourer to see how it stacks up.
Let’s get straight to the Honda Civic Tourer’s tuneable suspension
The Adaptive Damper System (ADS) can be cycled between comfort, normal and dynamic modes by one push of the dash-mounted button. That's easy when you’re in in second, fourth, or sixth gear – the rest of the time it’s obscured behind the manual gear lever.
To be completely frank, we couldn’t feel a marked difference between the modes. Flicking between dynamic and comfort as you spot a nasty bump looming ahead doesn’t switch the Civic Tourer’s ride comfort from stiff ‘n’ sporty to ’50s Cadillac cushy in a split-second.
If you really, really concentrate, there is more hop from the rear axle in dynamic mode over a bumpy road, but we’re splitting hairs. Fortunately, the all-round ride comfort is good, so there’s no need to fiddle. Honda has learnt its lesson from the unforgivably brittle and poorly damped previous-gen Civic.
Nothing much to report dynamically then?
It’s up there with the Golf Estate certainly: the Honda has accurate steering, admirable refinement and a well-sorted manual gearchange. There’s enough grip, decent brakes, and, as we found with the 1.6-litre DTEC CR-V, the little Honda diesel four-pot is a peach.
So I shouldn’t hold out for a revvy VTEC then?
We’ll be testing the 1.8-litre petrol Civic Tourer soon on CAR Online, but it’ll have to go some way to beat this little derv. The 221lb ft 1.6 DTEC revs smoothly, and has adequate in-gear grunt, though if you’ve sampled the VW Group’s 148bhp diesel motor you might find its extra shove just too useful to ignore.
Nevertheless, the Honda will return an easy 45mpg in everyday driving, remains hushed, and because it’s got an aluminium block, making it the lightest diesel engine in its class, you don’t get the sense that the headlights have been weighed down with lead, like you do in other diesel front-drivers.
On to the practicality…
You might think that bootspace innovation isn’t that hip or cool – a box on wheels is just that. But the Civic Tourer has a few little touches that show the design and engineering team were on speaking terms when this car was being developed.
The Civic Tourer a massive tailgate opening, and although the means a massive and potentially cumbersome tailgate, the Tourer’s is well supported by strong gas struts, and no more difficult to open or shut than a city car’s bootlid.
The loading lip is a huge 137mm lower than the Civic hatchback’s. That could be the difference, over a five-year ownership period, between your wife running off with the chiropractor you’ve had to hire, and no back pain whatsoever. Should the missus choose to pack her things, there’s up to 1668 litres on offer: the biggest load bay in the class. It’s completely flat too, thanks to Honda positioning the Civic Tourer’s fuel tank further forward, to avoid pinching precious litres from the boot.
Honda has been a dab hand at clever seats for ages now – its ‘Magic seats’ can flip up like a cinema chair to carry tall items, or curl up flat when required. They’re light and easy to lob about too – keeping the chiropractor at bay once again.
Though it’s up to the racing BTCC Civic to make the Civic Tourer exciting, that shouldn’t detract from this comfortable, intuitive car being a highly recommendable family wagon. Prices start at £21,375 – bang in the middle of Golf and Octavia wagon prices.
As long as you’re not planning on using that adaptive suspension to set the Nürburgring record for ferrying a chest of drawers, the Civic Tourer is a solid choice. Where it keeps things simple (read: not the gimmicky suspension), it excels.