COAL: 2014/5 Honda Civic Tourer – A Useful Tool And More

About a year ago I published a COAL post of the Opel Astra K, our sole family car at the time. The K replaced an Astra J (also COALed here), which during its term, from 2014 to 2016, there was also a second car- yet another Opel, a Corsa D described here. But in early 2016, well before our first child was born, I saw no financial justification to owning a second car. I could make do with a bus pass, so I sold the Corsa and once replacing the J, the Astra K remained to mostly serve my wife. This went on until mid 2018, when needs necessitated a second car in the family, due to the fast-growing boy. But why the Civic? And why a wagon? Read on.

All the Opels mentioned above were purchased new, but for this second family car I decided to go used, for various reasons:

I wanted to move upwards from super-minis to the Astra’s class, a family hatchback- mainly for safety reasons, but also for larger size and comfort. This required more money, which was out of our set budget. Another reason to choose used is that I wasn’t about to spend much time on detailing and cleaning, as I did with the Opels, so I wanted something that was already less-than-perfect, as most used cars are. This car was to be the “run-around” vehicle, so less (cosmetically) maintained anyway.

But why a Civic? I wanted a car with a mechanically simple running gear; no turbo, no robotic/ sequential gear- just a simple, atmospheric engine with a planetary torque-converter gearbox, in a preferably solid-rock reliable chassis. In Israel, most of the cars that answer this checklist are either Korean or Japanese. The Kia Ceed or Hyundai Elantra, which answered the profile and also fell into my budget, were not to my liking, so this left two Japanese alternatives: 2011/2 Toyota Corolla and 2013/4 Honda Civic.

The Corolla was of this generation:

My father-in-law owned one at the time, and I’m sorry- it was godawful. I mean, in Israel they would usually suffer great abuse serving as leased company cars, but still come out the other side asking for more, which is testament to their strength. But driving the thing, it was never comfortable, felt crammed and filled with hard plastic that used to hurt my knees at various points. It was also gutless, being sold in Israel with a 1.6 petrol only motor, mated to an automatic gearbox tuned for initial acceleration. So it was very fast- provided you didn’t go over 50kph. I shouldn’t mention the ride, or handling, as there weren’t any.

The Civic was, you could say, a Corolla in disguise. It was running along the same lines, as it was sold in Israel only with the aforementioned atmospheric petrol motor and a 5-speed auto running gear, but the package was much more sorted. For a start, the displacement was 1.8 liter, which delivered more horsepower and (a bit) more torque, was better built and felt more solid. Inside it was roomier and a better place to sit in, and you could actually mention a word such as “handling”, which wasn’t bad at all. Of course, everything is relative- the Astra mentioned above could drive rings around the Civic. And although the Civic was always priced a little higher than its rivals in Israel, you cannot deny its sturdiness- previous generations are very common in the country, much more than their Corolla counterparts.

This may be a good place to pause with my personal account of the Civic and add some words regarding the ninth generation hatchback Civic, of which I didn’t find a post on CC. There’s a COAL here by Edward Snitkoff, regarding the US market sedan Civic (also sold in Israel), but the European hatchback is quite different- in fact, keep that linked post open in another tab so you could compare the two. Honda managed to style two very different cars from the same design, and you’d have to be blind not to see it.

Actually it all started from the eighth generation (a post of the US version by Gerardo Solis here), which was a complete departure from previous Civic generations. Honda decided to go “spaceship” and design something that was really radical, compared with its own past or other rivals:

I love that styling, and think it still looks fresh. It has so many marvelous things about it, which I will not go into because it’s not a post about this generation. I will just mention details like the two-tier rear windscreen, the triangular exhaust outlets, the hidden rear door-handles and the front grill, which together with the headlights, stretches almost from wheel to wheel.

For the next, ninth generation Civic, Honda decided to continue with the basic shape but refine it. So much so that you’d be mistaken to think it was the same platform with different styling, but no- the design was new with much better aerodynamics and increased cabin room, even with about 30mm shortened wheelbase. Clever solutions and design cues were carried over from the previous model (more on that later), and the result was, in my opinion, a less effective grown-up version of the eighth generation, but still very unique:

This is one of the earlier models, a 2012/3 hatchback which also sports the upgraded 17″ wheels. You can see all manner of curvature going on, and once again, some small details add to the overall styling, like the rear “light” strip spoiler which divides the rear windshield.

Although Japanese, of course, you could consider this a British car. Not only produced in GB, but mostly designed and styled there, as well as tested on British roads during its development. If it counts for something- I don’t know, but it’s there.

The Civic underwent two facelifts during its life; the first, which was more of an update, was in 2014, and included slight cosmetic changes inside and out but more importantly, improved suspension and re-tuned electrical steering. Also, quite essential to this COAL, the hatchback-based Tourer was born (and benefited from said improvements right away). The second update in 2015 was a complete facelift, and included new fascia and rear (with new lights all around), again revised steering and collusion prevention as standard, plus more cosmetic accents and improvements. Production of this version lasted until 2017, by which time the tenth generation Civic was introduced as a new model. There’s one on my street:

There are those who will see a resemblance to the ninth generation, but I see it as something totally new with, much like its predecessors, a strong identity. Besides new styling there’s also new running gear, ready for the current world; 1.0 and 1.5 liter turbo-petrol engines mated with CVT gearboxes (in Israel). This white Civic is the lower spec 1.0 liter turbo.

Back to the COAL story; Once I decided upon a Civic hatchback, I also decided I would not waste my time with private sellers- I’ve had enough of running around between them, discovering the gaps between a car’s description and the actual vehicle. Lets just say there were always gaps (chasms mostly). So my only choice was to turn to used car dealers, and best go to people who deal with Honda. Through an Israeli cars forum member, who worked at the importers of Volvo and Honda, I went to their trade-in center, which usually caters for customers wanting to trade-in their used Honda or Volvo, and leave with a new one.

The only Civics in the lot were ex-importer cars, serving its employees. They were all serviced by the head service center, and treated to whatever needed replacement, without skimping (another reason why I went there in the first place). The cars themselves varied in condition, presumably according to the driving style of their various drivers. At the time there was one 2014 hatchback Civic, but that was immersed in cigarette smoke, despite the air-fresheners littered in the car. Mechanically it also had had better days, having clearly led a hard life.

I wasn’t really in the budget for a 2015 model, yet they suggested I’d have a look at these:

Two Civic Tourers (station wagon in Honda’s jargon) were parked next to each other, and you can see nobody had come to see them in quite a while. Although carrying the mid-life-updated 2014 fascia (same as the original but piano-black instead of dark-gray), these were both registered as 2015 models. Clearly the importers- being the importers- licensed the 2014-produced cars in 2015 and deleted a year out of their MOT-registered lives (hence this post’s headline). Also note the license plate numbers; those are out of sequence special numbers, again done by the importer, undoubtedly saving special numbers to its own use rather than dealing them to random customers. Remember, these cars were registered in the importer’s name and served employees.

I never set out to buy a station-wagon, but after they lowered the price to what I was comfortable with, I drove both cars and settled on the silver (light-gray?) car, which apparently served one of the employees’ wife rather than being used to serve the workers. It drove so much better than the white Tourer, which had more kilometers done under its belt and felt like it. Within a week after first seeing the car, it was mine and I drove it home.

The above photo is where I park when at work. The photos clearly show how the Tourer differs from the hatchback; although I prefer hatchbacks, it must be said that the Tourer’s styling was done tastefully, and is cohesive with the rest of the car. If anything, the Tourer deals with two shortcomings the hatchback has: its sloping roof hampers headroom space for the rear passengers, which, of course, is no problem for the continuous roof in the Tourer. And the hatchback’s rear divided-in-two-glass, although it completes its styling, is harder to see out of. The Tourer has an non-obstructing one piece unit.

Here’s another side view. Note the black plastic wheel arch garnishes- those tend to fade in time and go gray, which is clearly seen in this photo. I managed to sort those out later, with proper detailing stuff.

Two more photos around work, showing the front better, with that black fascia. And notice this generation nine’s LED DRLs hiding above the fake intakes either side of the front bumper.

Here’s a photo back at home, showing off the rear tailgate, and opposite you can see a neighbor’s post-facelifted (after 2015) Civic, with different fascia. Note also a seventh generation sedan in the background.

Now I think it’s time to show you inside the cabin and some of the Civic Tourer’s features, which are mostly inherited from the hatchback on which it’s based, of course:

Although underneath they are the same, the Tourer’s dashboard and instrument panel are styled completely different to the US derived sedan. Yes, it’s still a two-level arraignment, but styled more sporty and driver-engulfing, which is much more apparent when you shut the door. This is a low-level spec, so don’t expect much- there isn’t even Bluetooth on the multimedia system (Ok, radio-disk). But at least there’s climate control, of a single zone.

Passenger’s side, and as basic as they are, those seats are very comfortable. Also, look at the base of the seat, under the retaining bolts. Can you see?

There’s a raised floor (also under the driver’s seat). That’s because both generations eight and nine have been designed with a central fuel tank, placed right under the front seats. Traditionally the fuel tank would be placed under the rear seats, but in the Civic there’s an unused space:

At first glace it looks like any other rear seat, and you can bet the seat backs drop down in the usual 60/40. But hold on- welcome to what Honda calls “magic seats”:

The seat bases go up and lock, so you get a tall loading area. I mean, look at this:

You can also see in the video, that because of clever design, the seat-base pivot moves forward when dropping the seat-backs, so you get a really flat floor as an extension of the boot. However, for me the use of this system is minimal, to say the least. For one thing, there’s this:

Once the child-seat is in place, there’s no moving of the Civic’s seat, either back or base. And because the child-seat is placed over the “60” part of the rear bench, you’re left with the “40” free to fold, and that’s not really useful. Besides, I’ve never had the need to transfer something so tall as to need all the space between the floor and the roof. But the empty space under the seats is still useful for shopping bags or similar. And it is a cleaver system- I like clever systems done wisely.

Onward to the boot, and just like any other station-wagon’s boot, it’s BIG. Honda wanted to create the biggest boot in class, and from what I’ve read they’ve succeeded. The Tourer is some 23cm longer than the hatchback, which of course went towards the rear of the car- and the boot.

There’s yet more space under the boot floor which is quite generous, even with the spare wheel in place.

at the end of the boot there’s another cubby space, which is deep enough to hold a lot more than the wheel replacement tools seen in the photo. It’s also the designated place for the fold-out boot cover, seen in the next photo:

Once retracted, it can go under the floor in that cubby you’ve seen above. And once again I like how they’ve designed its retraction mechanism; you simply press where it says “press” (da) on the handle and the cover rolls in, unlike other cars where you have to release the cover and retract it yourself. Not a deal breaker, of course, but a nice touch.

Here is the Tourer in a recent photo- not much has changed, as it continues its faultless service in the family. The black plastic wheel arch garnishes are black again.

I didn’t expect this, but I must say I’ve grown fond of the Civic. The Astra K is a better car in almost every way; it’s more equipped, more spacious inside, performs better, and its only shortcoming is the small boot space (obviously). Somehow, I like the Civic better. Yes, the performance is lazy, especially once you got used to a modern turbo, but I did want the old layout so I can’t complain. Also, both cars have the basic seats but the Honda’s are better. It feels like it could go on for years, a lot after the Astra’s failed. For instance, the sign markings on the Astra’s switch-gear (on the column stalks or the steering wheel buttons) are already starting to fade, but the Civic’s white markings are bold and true, despite it having had a much harder life as a company car.

We call it “the second family car”, but in reality, it’s the first. We use it a lot more than the Astra, for short or long drives. So much so that I had my dash-cam testings and installations performed on it, and even drove it recently to the edges of Israel, up to the Golan Heights:

Australians should recognize the music on the stereo.

North Israel in late summer might be brown, but I had a great time driving the Civic up and down that winding road in the video, despite the Astra being the better choice for that. I swear there’s good handling in that Tourer.

For me, the only way to improve the Tourer is if I could instead have a 2017 post-facelift Civic, with improved bits and bobs, plus a decent multimedia system. I’d even take a hatchback, as the Tourer is an overkill for my family’s needs. Spacious, yes, but still an overkill for us as we never carry all that much. It is still a great family car, and I fully recommend it as such. The Tourer is one good thing.