Good: massive boot, high build quality, economical 1.6-litre diesel.
Not so good: front seats not all that spacious, space-age dash not to all tastes.
Those of you with lifestyles, please forsake SUVs and take our advice: you should consider one of the new raft of compact estates on the market. It really is a burgeoning sector right now, not, you understand, in terms of actual sales of new estates in Ireland, but in terms of the number of brilliant options available. This new Honda Civic Tourer has to take on the (soon to be significantly enhanced) Ford Focus Estate, Kia cee'd Sportswagon, Hyundai i30 Tourer, (brand new) Peugeot 308 SW, Opel Astra Sports Tourer, SEAT Leon ST and the Skoda Octavia Combi. Even Toyota is in on the game with its Auris Touring Sports.
Have you actually compared boot sizes of the latest crop of trendy crossovers with this batch of humdrum estates? There's no comparison. And if boot size was one of the categories in Top Trumps then all the kids would want the Honda Civic Tourer card in their hand. In fairness, the forthcoming Peugeot 308 SW does appear to win outright, and the Skoda Octavia Combi holds more with the rear seats folded away. The Honda's boot carries 624 litres with five people in the car, or 1,668 with the rear seats folded flat. There's also a cavernous hidden storage area under the floor, though this is at the expense of a spare wheel.
Honda continues to label the chairs in the rear 'Magic Seats' and you'll feel like a magician on stage as you reveal to friends and family what they can do. With the least effort imaginable the seat bases hinge about their rear and stow vertically upwards, leaving a huge space for carrying all kinds of things, separated from the boot. Passengers will find there's plenty of room for them in the rear too (with the seats back in place I hasten to add) and even the middle seat occupant isn't short-changed as too often is the case.
Given the surfeit of room aft of the driver it's a little surprising to find his space best described as cosy. This is partly down to the cocooning design of the multi-layer dashboard, but the seats themselves are quite narrow too. At least the ergonomics are spot on, with everything easy to hand and the switchgear is highly tactile. It feels bombproof as well. The three-spoke steering wheel is lovely to hold and the six-speed manual gearbox as sweet as they come.
The only Honda engine that matters to Irish motorists right now is the company's relatively new 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel, and it's a good unit. There's some gravelly diesel noise at times, but nothing too intrusive; in general it's very refined. However, its party trick is marrying performance that surprises with economy that really impresses. We managed an average of 5.7 l/100km (49.6mpg) over the week of mixed driving and we know others have exceeded 60mpg with a little more effort.
But it's no point telling the hordes all this, as you all apparently want a compact crossover, and hang the boot space or real practicality. Probably why Honda has one up its sleeves too. Until that arrives, give the humble estate car a chance.
Ford Focus Estate: wait for the facelifted model, but better to drive, if not as spacious.
Kia cee'd Sportswagon: understated, but very high quality, economical, great value.
Peugeot 308 SW: the new kid on the block is stylish and should be economical too.