2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review – Ultra-Practical Stylish Estate

Smart exterior design, plenty of innovative storage areas & a roomy boot, comfortable seating, superb reliability

Bland & uninspiring interior, 1.8 i-VTEC engine lacklustre

Honda Civic Tourer?

The Civic has been around for a staggering 40 years now, and they've always been practical and roomy - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

The Civic has been around for a staggering 40 years now, and they’ve always been practical and roomy. The first Civic Aero Deck (estate) landed in 1998, and was specifically designed for the European market. Today, this new 2014 Civic Tourer is built in Europe (Swindon, UK) specifically for European drivers and the unique road systems. It still adheres to Honda’s rule that it has to be versatile, practical and roomy whilst still being compact enough to be well manoeuvrable. We were sent the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual to review and find out if it ticks all those boxes…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Honda wanted the Civic Tourer to 'have its own distinct identity... with a sophisticated design... and  sleek aerodynamics'.  - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Rear Light Cluster

Honda wanted the Civic Tourer to ‘have its own distinct identity… with a sophisticated design… and  sleek aerodynamics‘. Distinct it is, certainly, and there’s nothing on the market that looks familiar to it, so Honda have accomplished that side of things. Unusually, instead of the flat bonnet most cars have, the Civic Tourer’s front is wedge-shaped.

The bonnet follows the sharply-raked windscreen, and the front is actually deceptively long. Viewed as an image in a photograph, from a front three-quater viewpoint the Civic Tourer’s bonnet looks short, almost stubby, but in reality the tip of the bumper is a long way from the driver. In this manner, the Tourer looks much more compact that it is.

The designers have given the car a surprisingly aggressive and sporty look, and its also very Japanese too. - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

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The designers have given the car a surprisingly aggressive and sporty look, and its also very Japanese too. The narrow upside-down triangle-shaped headlight clusters glare menacingly, and instead of the modern trend of huge grilles, the Tourer’s is compact. Below the lights the bodywork is structured with cheekbone-like pieces, and further down the ‘chin’ of the bumper appears to sit low to the ground, again deceptively so. Build into the lower grille are thin slits housing LEDs for the daytime running lights.

Personally, I believe the Tourer is a way better looking car than the hatchback version. From a side and rear three-quarter angle the bodywork flows superbly well. There are big, swooping swage lines that flow fluidly over the wheel arches whilst above that your eyes are drawn to the windows, which narrow severely from the C to D pillars, the boot area glass meeting with the boot window to create what almost looks like one piece of glass.

From a side and rear three-quarter angle the bodywork flows superbly well with big, swooping swage lines that flow fluidly over the wheel arches. 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

Honda have done a good job with the design of this 2014 Civic Tourer. It's sharp, modern and different to anything out there. 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

The rear doors don’t have door handles placed in the conventional area either and instead they’re in the very corner of the trim next to the window – exactly like they are in the Alfa Romeo 156. Around to the rear, and the design continues to be bold by using sharply-tipped light cluster that poke out, and a strip of red semi-opaque plastic connects the two clusters, harking back to Civics of old. It’s Eighties retro, and I like it.

Overall, I think Honda have done a good job with the design of this 2014 Civic Tourer. It’s sharp, modern and different to anything out there. It much more interesting than the Civic Hatchback, and I’d go so far as to say it’s actually a little bit cool – heck, there’s one being raced in the BTCC, so it must be! My advice would be to go for one of the optional colours to get the best out of its looks: Passion Red Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic, or Twilight Blue Metallic are all good.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review – Ultra-Practical Stylish Estate - front seats HDR 3

Honda interiors have lacked any sort of character, soul or flair on the majority of their models for a long time now. Sure, they’re solidly put together and are renowned for being robust but they are unfortunately, in a word, dull. Has that changed with this 2014 Tourer? Yes and no. You can’t describe the cabin of the Tourer as being ‘fun’ or characterful, but then I guess it’s not aimed at buyers with either of those things in mind.

Sit in the the driver’s seat, close the door and you’re immediately surrounded cockpit style. It’s quite cool, and I like the design and layout of the dash as it’s rather individual. Very much Honda in its execution everything is big and bold, from the three large and highly readable dials and the thick-set steering wheel, to the upper ‘heads-up’ display which stretches out wide across the driver’s part of the dash, and shows a digital readout of your speed in sizeable clear, legible figures.

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This upper display area is a good idea to a degree, but much like the Peugeot 308 – which has a similar system – I found the speed-reading blocked partially by the steering wheel, and the only way to see them fully is to drop the ‘wheel down and pump the seat up to a higher position. Not my ideal driving position, and I hate compromising on it unless it’s totally necessary.

Honda sent us the second-from-top ‘SR’ spec Tourer, which features leather seats (heated in the front), HDD navigation system with integrated Bluetooth, DAB radio, voice activation and a DVD with video jacks, reverse camera, plus dual-zone climate control. The touchscreen system is user-friendly and the sat nav straightforward with good directions and map graphics.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review touch screen

The trim includes a fair amount of soft-touch pieces and it’s all solidly built too. However, there are a few thing to consider: while this new wrap-around design is all good, the cabin still seems to be behind the competition with regards to the styling and materials used. Manufacturers with cars in the same price-range – and less-expensive, even – offer stylish and visually-pleasing trim finishes such piano black, satin and brushed faux aluminium, soft-touch or rubberised switchgear and more of the same sort of thing.

Heating and climate controls on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

The non-driver-friendly controls for the heating and more, which are small, low-down and a bit of a pain to use.

Honda meanwhile, still insist on swathes of varying shades of dull grey, with only flicks of silver hints here and there and even then it’s almost as if Honda’s interior designers have begrudgingly used something other than grey. Something very un-Honda that I was surprised about were the non-driver-friendly controls for the heating and more, which are small, low-down and a bit of a pain to use when you’re trying to concentrate on the road ahead, especially if the weather is bad. It contradicts the handy heads-up type display, which is strange.

One more moan, and that’s the blanking plate over where the starter button is situated on the top model: it looks cheaply and lazily done and because of where it’s situated (just behind the steering wheel), it’s a constant reminder that you’ve brought the cheaper model. Blanking plates look ugly and Honda should’ve at least tried to make it look less flipping obvious.

Right, that’s the negatives out of the way and it’s onto the positives. The front seats are really comfortable, and any who sat in them noted this. The rear seating is a little firm, but I think it’ll get better the more it’s used. The main point I like about the Civic Tourer is the practicality of the car. Honda says the Tourer is aimed at families with you kids who are upgrading from a smaller-size car, and customers with children who’ve left home are are now downsizing their vehicle, but still expect a high level of equipment and comfort.

Front leather seats on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

Rear leather seats on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

Versatility and practicality are the Honda’s trump cards, and I love all the handy storage areas around the Tourer’s cabin. Two things stand out though: firstly, the boot is HUGE for a car of this segment, and indeed Honda say it has the largest in its category with 624 litres rear seats up (measured up to the boot cover), and a whopping 1,668 litres with the seats down (up to the roof lining).

Open the boot hatch, and you’ll see a large square lid. Pull this up, and a large compartment is revealed. Even with the lid back in place, you can stow a huge amount of gear in this – so much so that it was all I used during the entire test period! I put in a large dry-bag, a camera bag, a tripod, a pair of boots, a couple of jackets plus carrier bags with more equipment in them, and still had room to spare. You can fold the lid into the area and easily slot 3 large suitcases inside so they don’t slide about. A brilliant feature.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review boot space and safety net partition

The rear seat fold completely down to the floor, so when you’ve done this you’ve then got an entirely flat and cave-like storage area. Aside from that there are two places for a cargo net to be hooked into place (one behind the rear seats, and one behind the fronts), which is handy if you have a dog or want to stop your gear from sliding into the seating area. Finally, there are Honda’s famous and unique ‘Magic Seats’ too: the bench sections of the rear seating fold up, providing an extremely useful storage area behind the fronts.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual review magic seats hdr

Honda’s famous and unique ‘Magic Seats’ too: the bench sections of the rear seating fold up, providing an extremely useful storage area behind the fronts.

Something else to point out is that the Civic Tourer comes with a high level of safety tech as standard, such as front, side and curtain airbags front and rear. The Civic hatchback achieved a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, with adult and child occupancy areas scoring highly, as well as its safety assist systems.

All said, whilst I believe the Honda Civic Tourer offers a cabin that is devoid of character and rather dull thanks to an insistence on the designers using grey for everything, there’s a fairly funky cockpit surround for the driver, comfortable seating and huge practicality and versatility aspects to take into consideration.

Engine & gearbox

Honda offer the Civic Tourer with a choice of two 4-cylinder engines; 1.8 litre petrol i-VTEC with SOHC (single overhead cam) , or a 1.6 litre i-DTEC turbo-diesel with DOHC (double overhead cam). We were sent the 1.8 i-VTEC engine, and it was a rather underwhelming experience in all honesty, but I’ll talk more about that in the next section.

Firstly, here’s the low-down on the i-VTEC manual: 140 bhp @ 6,500 rpm, 128 lb ft (174 Nm) @ 4,300 rpm, 0 – 62 mph in 9.2  – 9.6 seconds depending on spec (auto: 10.9 – 11.4) and 130 mph at the top end. Fuel economy (UK mpg) stats read as: urban: 36.2, extra urban: 52.4, combined: 44.1, and 149 g/km CO2 (auto: 155).

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7314

We were sent the 1.8 i-VTEC engine, but aside from the manual petrol being a few hundredths of a second faster in the 0 – 62 run (the auto is slower though), being 10 mph quicker at the top end, and having 18 bhp more, the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel beats the petrol in every other way. It’s way more frugal on fuel (by almost 30 mpg combined), produces considerably less CO2 emissions (2014 tax rates per year: i-VTEC:  £145.00, i-DTEC: £20.00!), and has a stonking 93 lb ft (126 Nm) more torque than the i-VTEC, so I guarantee in-gear acceleration from the i-DTEC will be significantly more punchy. Until Honda release a turbo’d version of the VTEC, the choice is overwhelmingly in favour of the diesel.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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Fire the 1.8 i-VTEC into life and you’re greeted with a very quiet engine. The in-line 4-cylinder VTEC has always been a smooth unit, producing low noise and vibration, and this version continues to be the same. A blip of the accelerator shows the same, with the rev counter rising and falling fluidly before settling onto a perfectly even idle. Ah yes, if there’s one thing Honda offer with their petrol engines it is that they have absolutely bombproof reliability.

You can have absolute peace of mind that each and every time you walk out the door and turn the key that your Honda will, without fail, start. You can leave one sat for months through the worst winter weather, go out to it after all that and (aside from perhaps a flat battery) it will fire up the first second you turn the key.

Driver's cockpit on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

That’s great, but it’s just one element and there’s obviously the ride, handling and performance to look at. The manual gear shifter is precise and slick, and alongside a light clutch pedal makes for easy shifting up and down the six gears, and non-tiring in heavy stop-start traffic. On that note, the Civic Tourer manual comes standard with Idle Stop to save a bit of fuel. It works decently well but I did find a couple of times that as I rolled to a stop in neutral and the engine cut, and then the traffic starting moving as the engine stopped and I needed to get going again (pushing in the clutch re-starts it) that the system got a little confused, reusing to start, and I’d have jab at the clutch pedal again to get it going.

The naturally-aspirated 1.8 i-VTEC doesn’t add up to make the Tourer a quick car, and I found myself having to get the rpm needle up high to get any real speed up. To me the 1.8 litre petrol engine felt weedy, almost underpowered, and a little dated considering the sort of power, torque and low emissions many manufacturers are getting from small capacity engines now. It’s also not cheap on tax either, as the CO2 emissions are fairly high, especially if you go for the automatic where you’ll be paying a hefty £180 per year (correct: July ’14).

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Sure, the 1.8 i-VTEC pushes the Tourer up to motorway limits without any problem, but whenever I needed to join a fast-flowing section at any sort of decent speed, I found myself having to really push the engine hard to extract the the power needed to do so, and even then the acceleration left me unimpressed. Once up to speed the 1.8 petrol Civic Tourer cruises fine, but 6th gear felt short and the engine more unrelaxed than I’d like at 70+ mph. It’s decently quiet though, and the comfort level enough to do long distance driving without issue.

On that point, there’s an Adaptive Damper System on the Civic Tourer SR (optional on the SE Plus and SE Plus-T models), which automatically adjusts the rear suspension damping force stiffness, adapting to different driving conditions. Doing this through the rear shock absorbers is a world-first apparently. Honda’s explanation of how this system works: “The rear dampers are equipped with a solenoid valve which controls the oil flow in the damper, which controls the damping force… [and] the ECU control unit calculates body movement by using the signals from the integrated three-axis body sensor. In addition the ECU control unit uses the information supplied by the vehicle CAN bus system and controls the rear axle damping force – varying between soft and hard – by applying more or less current to the damper.’

 Very much Honda in its execution, everything on the driver's side is big and bold, from the three large and highly readable dials and the thick-set steering wheel, to the upper 'heads-up' display which stretches out wide across the driver's part of the dash - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

Very much Honda in its execution, everything on the driver’s side is big and bold, from the three large and highly readable dials and the thick-set steering wheel, to the upper ‘heads-up’ display which stretches out wide across the driver’s part of the dash.

There are three settings to choose from on the system: Comfort, Dynamic, Normal. Regardless of the setting selected though, the rear adaptive damper system will adjust the damping force according to driver input and driving conditions. Does it work effectively? In short, yes. Down a rough Victorian cobbled road we switched between the settings and Comfort took away a surprising amount of the heavy vibration, and a few runs down winding country roads saw the Dynamic setting providing a firmer ride with less roll – just don’t expect hot-hatch-like handling though, as 140 horsepower doesn’t exactly make for a thrilling run through the twisty sections.

There’s an ECON button to allow for more economical driving, and turning it on slows acceleration and shows how economically you’re driving through both the usual live mpg reading, but also a coloured display (green = good, blue = uneconomical) via the upper ‘Intelligent Multi Info Display’ (i-MID). This is okay for city driving, but should you need any type of decent acceleration up hills or to overtake, it’s best to switch it off.

Safety-wise, aside from top 5-star marks in the Euro NCAP testing, the Civic Tourer offers plenty as standard: front, front side and curtain airbags front and rear, ABS, EBD, EBA, VSA, ESS, hill-start, an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, plus optional safety packs that include active things like City-Brake Active, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and more.

Overall, the 1.8 i-VTEC offers a decent ride quality, a comfortable, roomy and safe cabin, and some innovative driving tech. The manual gearbox is a decent thing with slick changes, but sixth gear needs to be longer for more relaxed motorway cruising. While the 1.8 i-VTEC petrol engine will no doubt be utterly reliable for the life of the car, I found it to be lacklustre and dull, surprisingly high CO2 emissions and in need of way more low-down power and torque.

Overall, the 1.8 i-VTEC offers a decent ride quality, a comfortable, roomy and safe cabin, and some innovative driving tech. - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7267

To keep up with other manufacturers who offer good-power, decent fuel returns and low-emissions from engines of a similar size (Volvo, for example), Honda need to update their 1.8 i-VTEC. Possibly, they already know this as the next Civic Type R comes as with a VTEC Turbo powerplant.

Whilst I’ve yet to test it, there’s a lot of praise for the 1.6 i-DTEC engine, which offers great torque and good miles per gallon, and it’s the engine that I’m going to recommend you choose as it makes so much more sense in the Civic Tourer. Good car, but for now I’m advising you test the diesel too if you’re looking at buying one.

Price

(figures correct July ’14) The 1.8 i-VTEC manual Civic Tourer is priced between £20,270 and £26,255. Expect to pay around £1,000 extra for the 1.6 i-DTEC and the automatic version of the i-VTEC. Our 1.8 petrol manual SR-spec test car was £24,855 including the £500 option for metallic paint.

If you’re not bothered about having the Adaptive Damper System, leather seating, or sat nav, my recommendation would be to go for the mid-spec SE Plus model with the 1.6 i-DTEC engine for £22,960, as it still features a good amount of tech and goodies such as dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth for calls and music and more.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual verdict & score

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Let’s start with the stuff I did not like. Whilst the interior is a marked improvement over the previous-gen Civic’s, it still feels behind the competition with regards to styling and the materials used. They’re not cheap or badly-made, but they are bland and uninspiring. The small controls for the heating etc, are low down and harder to read than I’d like, which is frustrating while you’re trying to concentrate on the road ahead. The naturally-asirated 1.8 i-VTEC lacks low-down power and torque, and now feels almost outdated next to today’s standards of low-capacity, high-output, low-emissions offerings. Will Honda do a turbo version of the VTEC on their normal cars, and not just the Type R? Let’s hope so.

Positive stuff: I’m really liking the exterior design – it’s interesting and different to the usual estate styling, and ever-so-slightly cool somehow. The wrap-around dash and centre console for the driver is neat, as is the compact and comfortable steering wheel. The interior trim is solidly-built and of the usual long-lasting Honda build quality. The front seats are well designed and notably comfortable, regardless of the fact they lack lumbar adjustment of lower models. The Civic Tourer makes the best of the space available with well-executed and innovative storage areas, a low-load boot and the ever-impressive rear ‘magic’ seats. The touchscreen menus and sat nav are fool-proof, ergonomic and straightforward to use. The car rides and handles decently enough for the tyre of car you’re buying, but I recommend the i-DTEC diesel over the petrol engine.

Do you own a 2014> Honda Civic Tourer? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7.5
Interior  6
Engine (i-VTEC)  5
Gearbox  6.5
Price  7.5
Handling & ride  6.5
Drive  5.5
Overall Score  6.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, leather seats with heating in fronts, cruise control with limiter, dual-zone climate control, touch screen with sat nav, rear-view camera, voice activation, Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB & Aux, Adaptive Damper System, auto headlights and more. See website for more info
Options you should spec  Best-looking paint options: Passion Red Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic, or Twilight Blue Metallic (£500)
The Competition  Ford Focus estate , Skoda Rapid Spaceback, Toyota Auris Touring Sports, Kia CEE’D Sportswagon, Hyundai i30 Tourer, Peugeot 308 SW
Price  (July 2014) All models: £20,270 – £27,460
Engine  petrol, 1.8 i-VTEC, naturally-aspirated, 4-cylinders in-line
Power, Torque  140 bhp @ 6,500 rpm | 128 lb ft (174 Nm) @ 4,300 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 130 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 9.2 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 36.2, Extra urban: 52.4, Combined: 44.1 | CO2: 149 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  1,340 (2,954 lbs)
Websites  Honda UK, Honda GermanyHonda France, Honda global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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