If there’s one problem with running our Honda Civic Tourer, it’s that I never seem able to get my hands on the keys. Since it arrived on our fleet, the practical estate has been whisked away by members of the team needing to move house or go to the tip.

And now staff photographer Otis Clay has commandeered the Civic while his Mazda 3 is undergoing repairs after it was sideswiped by a lorry. As I organise Otis’ schedule, you would think it would be easy to grab the keys back, but appearing in the photo shoot for this report is the closest I’ve got to the Honda in the past few weeks.

Still, this does mean the car is being given a thorough test. In my hands the Civic was mainly used for my 20-mile daily commute into the office and weekend chores around my south west London home. However, in the space of a week or so Otis has already racked up more than 1,000 miles, the majority of which were on the motorway.

And Otis is as impressed with the Honda as I’ve been. The vast boot easily swallows all his camera equipment, while the rear seats provide enough space for my three adult children.

Fortunately, none of us has suffered the same aches and pains as Carbuyer site producer Richard Ingram encountered after a long stint behind the wheel (below). In fact, Otis has praised the Civic’s comfort on long trips, claiming the seats are more supportive than his Mazda’s. And my only niggle with the chairs is that the small button used to adjust the lumbar support is fiddly to use.

One aspect of the car that’s been universally praised is the 1.6-litre diesel. Not only is it smooth, refined and punchy, it’s also remarkably efficient. Over the past few weeks, the economy figure has crept up to an impressive 47.1mpg, which in combination with the Honda’s 50-litre fuel tank means a range of around 500 miles. The rest of the driving experience is just as good, with the only real criticism reserved for the brakes.

While the all-disc set-up is responsive at speed, in town there’s a confidence-sapping dead spot at the top of the pedal travel. It could be something we have to ask a dealer to look at. If only I could get my hands on the keys so I could drive it there...

Honda Civic Tourer: report 1

Mileage: 1,558 miles
Real world fuel economy: 47.2mpg

There's no such thing as an easy introduction to the Auto Express fleet, as our new Honda Civic Tourer discovered when I pressed it into service as a makeshift removal van days after it arrived in our car park.

With a rented room full of stuff to transport six miles across London to my new pad, the Swindon-built estate proved to be perfect for the job, as most of my belongings fitted in the gigantic and well-shaped boot.

In fact, with the seats in place, the vast 624-litre luggage area is not only bigger than those in the VW GolfFord Focus and Vauxhall Astra estates, it even eclipses the previously class-leading Skoda Octavia’s. What’s more, the Civic’s rear seat bases flip up independently of the seat backs, revealing another huge storage area, which proved perfect for picture frames and suitcases.

However, in an attempt to de-clutter (and because my girlfriend turned her nose up at my countless model cars), I used the house move as an opportunity to throw a load of stuff away and dump the rest at my parents’ house in Devon.

This involved not only moving and organising my things in London, but also a 500-mile round trip down the A303 – all within 48 hours. The Civic’s big boot made light work of the task in hand, and my large bedside chest was squeezed in without the need to fold the back seats. There was even enough space left over to pack in a load of cushions, bedding and clothes.

The Civic’s 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine still feels a little tight, but even with only a few hundred miles on the clock and a boot full of kit, it felt responsive and capable on the motorway. We hope to see the average fuel economy of 47.2 mpg improve over the coming months, but for now we’ve got very few complaints about the rate at which it’s drinking diesel.

One niggle, however, is the Tourer’s long-distance comfort. In top-spec EX Plus trim it comes with all the toys, including sat-nav, cruise control and leather trim, but the lack of lower-back support in the front seats meant I was unable to complete the 250-mile London to Devon slog without a stop to get out and stretch. In fact, it got so bad on the way back that we had to swap drivers to combat the back pain. And at £27,460, the price isn’t exactly comfortable – you can get a 3 Series Touring for less.

Price aside, the Civic’s a spacious and economical family estate that swallowed everything I threw at it – from full- length mirrors to motorway miles. There are one or two things we’ll watch over the next few months, but for a hectic 48 hours, the Civic Tourer was very nearly all the car I could’ve hoped for.

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