You wouldn’t think there could be much heritage in a car like the Honda Civic Tourer, but you’d be surprised.

In 1998, Honda unveiled the Civic Aerodeck, a model designed for Europe and built at the company’s manufacturing plant in Swindon.

Sixteen years later, and with some of those same engineers working on the project, the estate body shape returns to the Civic range in the form of the new Civic Tourer.

The new Tourer gains 235mm in length, much of it behind the rear wheels, but it remains one of the more compact estate models in its segment.

The Tourer also gains the same updates as the 2014 Civic hatchback such as the black trim on the front bumper, but to our eyes the shape is somehow sharper, with a disguised D-pillar hidden behind the window line, a subtle roof spoiler, and a sleek tailgate that allows greater rearward visibility than in the hatch.

The cabin is much as we’re used to, with an excellent range of adjustment to both seats and steering wheel, and a handy number of storage spaces for everyday clutter, including a useful phone holder on the underside of the central armrest.

The dash wraps appealingly around the driver and the controls are all sited where you’d generally expect them, although the optional satnav of our test car does feel a little dated in comparison to that of, say, a Mazda3.

The chunky steering wheel feels great in the hands, and the instruments – which continue the split-level theme of a centrally-mounted rev counter and a high-level speedo – remain a model of clarity.

Rear seat passengers should have little to complain about, and Honda’s famous Magic Seats carry across from the hatchback to the Tourer: fold the seat backs forward, and the seat base drops down to form an almost completely flat floor. Alternatively, flip the seat bases up and tall loads like mountain bikes can be carried easily, an arrangement made possible by the fuel tank’s location underneath the front seats.

Of course, as an estate car, cargo space is the headline act, and here the new Tourer doesn’t disappoint. The boot features a low sill and wide aperture to make loading easy, and there’s an underfloor compartment that’s been increased from the hatchback’s 75 litres to 117 litres. There’s also a separate compartment to store the flexible load cover when it’s not in use.

With the rear seats in place the Tourer gains 147 litres over the hatchback with 624 litres, rising to 1,668 litres with the seats folded and loaded to the ceiling. That’s an increase of 290 litres, and a useful 48 litres more than a Golf Estate.

Two engines are available in the Tourer starting with a 1.8-litre petrol unit 142PS, while diesel arrives in the form of the company’s new 1.6-litre unit with 120PS and a chunky 300Nm of torque. The smaller 1.4-litre petrol isn’t offered in the Tourer, and only the 1.8 is available with automatic transmission.

The diesel’s the one to go for, though, and although it’s marginally behind in terms of its 0-62mph time (10.1 seconds vs. 9.2), it’s substantially more economical with government figures of 74.3mpg on the combined cycle versus the petrol’s 45.6mpg. The diesel’s also free to tax, with CO2 emissions of 99 g/km placing it in VED Band A, while the 1.8’s 146 g/km wedges it into Band F with a £140/pa road tax bill.

On the road the diesel is the more flexible of the two, too. It is a little laggy off the line, a trait we noticed on the hatchback, and at idle it’s a touch too loud, but once on the move it settles down well.

It’s also equipped with an exceptionally fluid gear-change from its six-speed manual ‘box, and this makes snicking from one ratio to the next a pleasure.

The Civic Tourer is the first Honda to be fitted with the company’s new adaptive damper system, and this uses a computer-controlled valve in each of the rear shock-absorbers to soften or stiffen the damping response as conditions dictate.

The system also provides three selectable modes – Comfort, Normal and Dynamic – that alter the baseline the system works from. Each offers a clearly distinct character, although we found we left the system in Comfort for much of our time with it, as in this mode the Civic soaked up most road imperfections supremely well, yet there didn’t appear to be much in the way of a trade-off in terms of handling.

The Tourer turns-in and corners much as its hatchback brother does, with body-roll initially well resisted and enough feedback through the wheel to be able to enjoy yourself on a favourite back-road.

It can still get a little ‘pitchy’ over larger undulations, although this is usually reserved for poorly-maintained dual carriageways. At speed, it remains stable, making long motorway journeys a pain-free affair.

Indeed, we can imagine Civic Tourers departing these shores on a week-long trans-continental trip, loaded to the gunnels with a family of five’s luggage, just as much as we can see them taking a boot-full of garden waste to the local rubbish dump on a Saturday morning.

Much of this stems from the Tourer’s seemingly infinite sense of practicality. Need to collect a new freezer from the superstore? No problem, just drop the rear seats and slide it in. Carrying a pair of mountain bikes and a week’s worth of luggage? Easy, just flip up the rear seat bases. Bought a tree from the garden centre? Drop the lid on the boot’s underfloor compartment and you’ve got almost a metre to play with. This is the kind of amiability that makes a car easy to live with.

Perhaps the only fly in the Civic Tourer’s ointment is that it’s a touch pricey. Prices start at £20,270, with the diesel kicking off at £21,375, and while that does include niceties such as alloy wheels, Bluetooth and climate control, most will prefer to walk up to the £23,460 mid-range SE Plus to gain front fog lights, parking sensors and a rear-view camera.  Our top-spec EX Plus test car, meanwhile, weighs in at a hefty £28,460.

That aside, however, the new Civic Tourer has a lot going for it. It rides superbly, is incredibly economical – we averaged 59.6mpg during our time with it – and has an unflappable sense of practicality.

Dare we say it, but compared to the Civic hatchback, we think the Tourer’s the better looking, too.

Entry-level Price £20,270 Price as tested £28,460
Engine 4-cylinder petrol, 1597cc Transmission Six-speed manual
Power 120PS @ 4,000rpm Torque 300Nm @ 2,000rpm
0-62 10.1 secs Top speed 121 mph
Economy 74.3 mpg CO2 99 g/km
Dimensions 4535 x 1770 x 1480 (LWH) Kerb Weight 1430 kg

Alex Kefford

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.