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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 5, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

    Geneva LiveBlog: A nice little estate in the country

    Neil Briscoe

    You know that thing where Irish car buyers don’t really like estates? We kind of shun them, certainly compared to our British and European cousins. We consign them to the pile marked ‘brewery rep’s car’ or ‘commercial traveller trasnport.” Years ago, I once suggested to my wife that we buy an estate car, and showed her a photo of a prospective purchase. “And where” she inquired “exactly will I be selling shoes, wholesale?” You get my drift.

    Well, we might, as a car-buying nation, want to start throwing off those estate car image shackles, else we’l be missing out on some of the best new models being shown at the Geneva motor show.

    Take the new Honda Civic estate (above), or Tourer Concept as it’s being called for now. Technically, this is a concept, as the final production version won’t be shown until the Frankfurt show later this year, but you can pretty much take it as read that the version that hits showrooms early in 2014 will look basically like this. Nice isn’t it? Very swoopy, and the extra metalwork and glass really gives the Honda designers some much-needed real estate to flesh out the Civic’s occasionally controversial design. It’ll come with the new 1.6 i-DTEC diesel engine, so emissions will be lower than 100g/km, and Honda is targeting best-in-class interior space, thanks to the Civic’s clever packaging that sees the fuel tank mounted under the front seats and a space-saving torsion bar rear suspension setup. Given Honda’s reputation for reliability and the fact that even as a hatch, the Civic is pretty remarkably practical, this could be a good ‘un.

    It will have to deal with an estate version of the Volkswagen Golf though. Fresh from last night’s crowning of the Mk VII Golf as European Car Of The Year, VW didn’t waste any time in showing off this, the Golf estate. It’s a much more harmonious design than previous Golf wagons, and it’s a full foot longer (307mm to be precise) than a standard Golf hatch. That means a massive 605-litre boot (seats up, 1,620-litres with them folded flat) and all the sophistication, refinement and comfort that the seventh generation Golf has been wowing us with since it was launched late last year. A Golf, still handsome, but with a much bigger boot? Sounds like a winner.

    Well, it would do if it weren’t for some in-house rivalry from the Skoda Octavia. Revealed before the show, but getting its first public outing in Geneva, the Octavia Combi could well be the sin qua non of compact estates. It’s only got a slightly larger boot than the Golf (610-litres, seats up) but the extra length in the wheelbase has instead been turned over to rear-seat passengers, meaning truly limo-like stretching room with an extra 73mm for your knees.

    Evict the passengers and fold down the seats and you get 1,740-litres of space – enough to swallow half of IKEA’s stock, and all of that will be combined with the Octavia’s usual levels of quality and comfort.

    Golf, Octavia or Civic? A tough choice, and one not made any easier by the fact that Toyota is launching the Auris Sports Tourer (better looking by far than the hatchback) at Geneva and we’ve already checked out the impressively spacious (and ridiculously cheap) Dacia Logan MCV estate.

    So, car buyers of Ireland. It really is time to throw those old pre-conceptions in the bin. Embrace the estate, and an estate will embrace you right back.

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