TAKE two Hondas. One is the classic Civic hatchback launched more than 40 years ago and a model that has notched up more than 20 million sales worldwide. The other is the Honda Civic Tourer, a version by comparison with its hatchback sister very new to the scene, having made its debut on the world stage as recently as the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.
I do not usually review two cars in one article, but I have just road-tested both the hatchback and new Tourer versions of the Civic and thought it instructive to write about them together.
One thing is for sure: you would be wise to consider either one of these well-made cars if you are looking for modest-sized family transport.
The only real question is the power source you select when you buy either car, for I discovered with the Civic this factor is crucial to customer satisfaction.
I tested the hatchback first, a Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SR Manual in an energising Passion Red Pearl colour. This engine has been dubbed “the best small diesel on the market” by one respected motoring website, honestjohn.co.uk and I can see why.
It had excellent torque (pulling power) and a total willingness to perform whether on motorways or around town. But it was also in real terms very economical. Based on figures submitted by thousands of drivers the diesel-powered Civic scooped the prize for Best Real MPG of 2014 scoring an average mpg of 66.2.
As one would expect from a car that has been 40 years in the making, so to speak, the 2014 Civic hatchback is not only a rounded performer but also accomplished in build and cabin ergonomics.
This 2014 generation displays the kind of comfortable ride of more expensive and bigger cars and looks much better these days. I am glad to see that Honda is streamlining the look of its range, making its cars more desirable firstly on their appearance alone to potential customers.
There is no faulting either the new look of the Civic Tourer: it is sleek and smart and quite 21st Century.
There may be naysayers who believe Hondas are still too conservative looking to attract that all-important bevy of young, new drivers. But these new motorists are not fools. They may want the style but they also want reliability, performance and good economy in a car just like the rest of us.
I am sure that those people who buy estate cars do so deliberately: they want load space to lug things around. The Civic Tourer has room aplenty. With its split seating at the back — so a double seat folds down while one remains in use — this weekend I successfully moved my son from one flat to another through a hot and humid London.
The Civic Tourer did its job: it swallowed all the life baggage of a typical London flat dweller and we delivered him easily across town to his new habitat. Along the way the Tourer’s simple to operate SatNav system got us through the maze of the capital’s East End with consummate ease.
I think though that I would recommend the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel engine option on the Tourer rather than the test car’s 1.8 i-VTEC petrol power unit. This is based on a long drive in the petrol-driven Tourer. Although it had an engine with bigger cubic capacity than the diesel version, it did not have the torque of the latter. You do need this pulling power, especially in an estate or tourer: you are presumbably going to be hawking loads around, possibly quite heavy stuff, with perhaps two passengers as well as a driver as we did across London.
The petrol-driven Tourer was slow to respond. I drove it as carefully and economically as I could, flipping into the ECON (green) mode whenever possible to make sure I was getting good miles-per-gallon. In fact the petrol version of the Civic Tourer does record around 45mpg on the combined cycle but this pales by comparison to the Civic diesel hatchback’s combined MPG in the 70mpg bracket.
But to me this was not totally about fuel economy. If you are going to go for the Civic Tourer then I would go for the diesel version for its ability to perform and give greater driver satisfaction than the petrol version.
However, whether your choice is for Civic hatchback or Tourer you can be assured with Honda of buying a quality built car. Simple as that.
• Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SR Manual — on-the-road price: £24,860. 20 million models sold worldwide
• Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual — 0n-the-road price: £24,855
• Choice of two impressive safety packs
• Innovative rear Adaptive Damper System has dynamic, normal and comfort settings