IT is the model that refused to die. The popularity of the multi purpose vehicle (MPV), or people carrier, was supposed to dig the grave of the estate car.
Pundits expounded the theory, ten or more years ago, that the family-friendly versatility of the new wave of MPVs would end the reign of the estate, which had long been the go-to vehicle for those looking for extra load- or people-carrying capacity (with a third row of seats).
How wrong they were. Can you think of a major manufacturer that doesn’t offer estates in its range? And consider how estate cars have changed, with the designations Tourer, Touring, Sportswagon etc giving a clear indication of their transformation, from pretty humble beasts of burden to really rather handsome, often sporty-looking motors.
Latest among this breed of classy estate cars is the Honda Civic Tourer, and Flush Magazine was there for the UK launch in Northamptonshire. The car, which arrives in dealerships this month, is available with a choice of two engines, a 1.8-litre petrol and a thoroughly economical 1.6-litre diesel.
There are four trim levels, with even the base S model offering a generous specification, including Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB connectivity and 16in alloys, while the SE Plus (the next level up) includes rear parking sensors and 17in alloys. The SR gets you goodies including heated front seats, posh sat nav and privacy glass, while drivers of the top-spec EX can enjoy such features as headIight washers, smart entry and start (no fumbling for keys with hands full of shopping) and interior blue ambient lighting.
The car is certainly a looker, cutting a dash with its dynamic, elegant lines. It has a style echoing that of the Civic hatchback, sharing the ‘face’ of the updated 2014 model, but has its own distinct identity.
Those lines have an economical purpose, too, as their aerodynamic qualities help produce CO2 emissions of just 99g/km for the diesel version, making the car free of road tax.
Cutting a dash style-wise might risk compromising load-carrying qualities, but Honda’s designers and engineers have pulled off the trick of combining eye-appeal with lots of spacious practicality.
The figures speak for themselves. With the rear seats up there’s 624 litres of volume up to the load cover – accommodating three large suitcases, or two golf bags and trolleys, with the cover pulled over. Drop the seats and there’s 1668 litres of capacity up to the roof lining. Figures for the hatchback version are 477 litres and 1378 litres respectively.
Most impressive is the ease of use. Honda’s ‘magic seats’ fold down in one slick movement, and the floor is completely flat. Combined with a wide-opening tailgate and low rear sill, which matches the level of the floor, lugging your flat-pack furniture (if you must) or other bulky items is a cinch. There’s also a large (117 litres) underfloor compartment for extra carrying capacity.
A first for the Tourer is an adaptive rear damper system, allowing ride to be automatically varied through comfort, normal and dynamic modes depending on driving conditions.
The launch day gave the opportunity to drive both petrol and diesel versions of the car, the latter capable of 74mpg (combined) says Honda. Certainly, it’s a smooth unit with plenty of power, despite it’s fuel-sipping set-up. The larger-capacity petrol engine delivers 45mpg (combined) and feels as though it just edges the diesel in the get-up-and-go-stakes. Both are well-mated to the six-speed manual gearbox.
Honda’s engineering prowess is legendary, and the car has the marque’s built-to-last quality about it. Cabin trim is high quality, with soft-touch plastics and tasteful highlights, and test cars had leather upholstery with contrast stitching, enhancing the comfortable, supportive seats.
The driving experience is thoroughly satisfying. Our day’s route included country lanes, A roads and motorway stretches, the Tourer feeling at ease in all conditions. My only niggle was the digital speedometer – a personal dislike – but I was getting used to it by the end of a day’s motoring.
Far from being on its deathbed, the estate lives on – and in the Honda Civic Tourer it’s in splendid, stylish health.
Prices start at £20,765 on the road.
For more info visit www.honda.co.uk