Vijay Pattni27 November 2013

First drive: Honda Civic Tourer

Need a family hatch to carry exactly 2873 tennis balls? Step this way…

What's that?

It's the new Honda Civic estate - sorry, Tourer - a refreshingly honest car interested in one thing: space.

How much space?

A whopping 624 litres with the rear seats folded up. The Tourer sits on the same platform as the Civic hatch, though with a longer rear overhang to accommodate that massive boot. Fold the back seats flat and you'll get 1668 litres of storage, while the rear seat squabs can also fold up to carry tall items in the back.

Very versatile - we're told you can transport 2873 tennis balls with the seats up, which will surely come as good news to tennis ball fetishists worldwide - and more space than you'll find in the new MQB-platformed Volkswagen Golf Estate we tested earlier in the year, itself larger than the Focus and Astra boots. Which means this Civic has the biggest boot of them all.

If you need any more space, consider a Transit van. Or a lorry.

How can I transport my 2873 tennis balls then?

Via a 1.6-litre diesel, or a 1.8-litre VTEC petrol engine. The former gets 118bhp and 221lb ft of torque for a quoted 0-60mph time of 10.1 seconds, while the 1.8-litre petrol gives is a touch quicker: 140bhp and a 0-60mph time of 9.2 seconds. You can't get Honda's 2.2-litre diesel in this estate, though that 1.6-litre returns 74.3mpg on the combined cycle (which is lots) and emits 99g/km of CO2 (which is little). That gives it a tax-free range of 817 miles on a single tank.

What's it like to drive?

Very comfortable. Though there are three driving modes - Dynamic, Normal and Comfort - the changes only apply to the steering and rear suspension. Pootle around in Comfort or Normal mode, and it's a supremely refined, relaxing and stress-free way to drive. And we do mean stress-free. The steering is light - too light - and there's zero feedback from the front wheels, though Dynamic adds some artificial weighting.

On the move you feel well isolated from the road surfaces, which probably bodes well for us in the UK. Body control is decent, but if you decide your tennis balls need to be dispatched with more haste, you'll find yourself piloting something a bit aloof.

The diesel - expected to make up 80 per cent of Tourer sales - is punchy and smooth for the most part, though doesn't appreciate being ragged to death, while the petrol is noticeably quicker and more eager to redline. But this isn't that type of car. On the whole, it's very calm, and unruffled.

Should I buy one?

If you value space above everything else, then you should consider it. The reason we mentioned that MQB-platformed Golf Estate is because it's a more involving drive - and has a far less cluttery, buttony cabin that exudes a bit more class. Still, the Honda's more relaxed attitude to things could appeal to a certain buyer, and we admire its honesty.

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