Space tourism in the Honda Civic

Having been roundly skewered by the US automotive press, the US-market Honda Civic recently underwent a series of expensive mid-cycle enhancements to address deficiencies in fit and finish, power delivery and appearance.

The European-market Civic faced similar, though not quite as extreme, straits. Instead of wholesale revisions, Honda has augmented the Civic range with a tidy-looking wagon, the Civic Tourer. Unlike the perfectly average Civic hatch, this is the kind of car that stokes the resolve of Honda loyalists.

Its styling harks back to the original Honda Aerodeck of the 1980s, with an appealingly boxy profile. It may wear the most dramatic rear wheel arches outside the supercar wing here in Geneva’s convention centre. The plunging rear glass is also distinctly shooting-brake in style, and the rear lights would flatter a concept car. Disclosure: this is a concept car, mind, but the production version, expected to make its official debut in Europe this autumn, will not deviate greatly from it.

A bystander may think those bold lines may eat away at storage space, but Honda has not released any figures to confirm. We do know the Civic hatch trades heavily on practicality, though, even moving the fuel tank forward to free up space in the back. A simplified torsion-beam rear suspension also creates a deeper storage bay. Rest assured, Honda is a clever company, and it does not suffer sacrifices in practicality for style’s sake — at least thus far.

Engines include the smaller-capacity 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre gasoline engines favoured by European motorists, plus the diesels it loves: the 2.2-litre motor is established, but the 1.6-litre i-DTEC is new and likely to feed the bulk of sales. A 300-horsepower 1.6-litre gasoline turbo, discussed in hushed tones at the Honda stand in Geneva, would take far fewer sales. Type-R Tourer, anyone? Watch out, Ford Focus ST Estate.

It is a foregone conclusion that Honda will leave its US customers in the cold. Honda would see little return in sending over Civic Tourers from England, where they are built, to the land of the SUV. The brand reckons the eventual Tourer will comprise 20% of the Civic sales mix in Europe, although that seems low. A Civic that sugar-coats its practicality with a dose of personality has the makings of a sales leader.