The Honda Civic Tourer concept has a low, wide stance, a cab-forward design and a "floating roof."
DOUGLAS A. BOLDUC

Honda shows its European side

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Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.
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Honda is showing its European side with the Civic Tourer concept for a station wagon. The car was designed by a German specifically for Europe with the aim of being sleeker than BMW's wagons without sacrificing on functionality.

"If you look at the 3-series wagon, I think we pushed the design a bit further than that. I hope the customers recognize that," said Helge Wagner, a 17-year Honda veteran who played a lead role in the Civic Tourer. "I think it's one of the sportiest looking wagons in the C-segment."

Though the Civic Tourer called a concept, Wagner said it is very close to the production version that will be shown in September at the Frankfurt auto show. The wagon goes on sale in Europe in early 2014, marking Honda's return to a segment that the company quit in 2001 because of falling sales.

Honda is targeting a sector that has long been dominated by wagon versions of European cars such as the Skoda Octavia, Opel/Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

Wagner, who is based near Frankfurt, said that Honda is counting on design to make its entry stand out from the Europeans' cars. "The Golf wants to look practical and it plays on that. By putting the cabin over the fenders the Civic Tourer looks sporty. The difference is I can drive this car and not just move things with it."

Other Asians are joining the segment. Toyota is launching its first wagon version of the Auris compact this year, joining the Hyundai i30, Kia Cee'd and the Korea-built Chevrolet Cruze wagons that are sold already.

One of the features Wagner is proudest of is the Honda concept's so-called "floating roof," which comes from stretching the roofline. One of the biggest challenges he faced while creating the car's look came when he removed the rear spoiler. "This resulted in a sharp corner, which makes pressing a nightmare," he said today.

The good news, he added, is that the company's manufacturing side likes the car so much that Honda's plant in Swindon, England, is willing to take on the challenge.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.

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