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Upmarket Aspirations. Image by Honda.

Upmarket Aspirations
Honda reckons its new Accord is good enough to take on the Germans. Kyle Fortune takes a closer look.

   



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| First Drive | Vienna, Austria | Honda Accord |

The last Accord did great things for Honda. With it, the ambition was to move the car upmarket, and in many ways it achieved that. However good it was though, it was never a genuine contender for the established big players in the premium market. With the new car Honda has come back hitting harder and reckons its new car is a genuine rival to the BMWs, Mercs and Audis that so many people aspire to.

In the Metal

If you've not seen an Accord for a while you could be forgiven for missing the changes in the new car's styling. It appears very familiar, but actually it is pretty remarkable just how different it is. The once clean unfussy lines of the Accord are gone, replaced by a more chiselled, more aggressive look. Bold lines follow the wheel arches, while the feature lines on the flanks and running around the front and the rear of the car are, well, a bit more obvious. It's like meeting an old friend you've not seen for a while who has turned into a gym bunny.

There's an American look to its styling, which is hardly surprising given that the USA is one of the biggest markets for Honda. It's a pretty convincing makeover, the Accord no longer the shy retiring type in the styling stakes, being far more assertive. Add GT trim and the effect is even greater, Honda likening the changes to those you'll see on an S-Line Audi, Sport model Mercedes or M Sport equipped BMW. What's remarkable is just how much bigger the new car is, it being 80mm wider than its predecessor and sitting on a longer wheelbase. The benefit is clear when you get inside - the cabin feeling almost as roomy as cars from the segment above.

What you get for your Money

With those premium aspirations comes a small hike in price. But Honda is realistic; on a like-for-like basis, the Accord comes comprehensively equipped. Oddly though, Bluetooth preparation is omitted on the entry-level models - an oversight given Honda's business user aspirations for the Accord. For the sector, the Accord offers a good number of technological firsts. Though only offered optionally, the Accord boasts some seriously advanced safety kit. Bundled under the heading Advanced Driver Assist System, the Accord will help steer you between the lanes of a motorway with its Lane Keep Assist System, while Adaptive Cruise Control scans the road ahead to keep you a safe distance behind any vehicles. Also among that lot is Collision Mitigating Braking System, a feature first demonstrated on the Legend that not only gives an audible warning and tugs the seatbelt if it thinks a collision is imminent, but also applies the brakes to reduce the effect of any impact.

Engine choice is limited to just three for now. There are two petrol options of 2.0 and 2.4 litres (with 154bhp and 198bhp respectively) - these mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission - and a 148bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel. Of the three engines it's the turbodiesel that'll take the majority of UK sales. Badged i-DTEC it's a new development of Honda's acclaimed i-CDTi four-cylinder diesel. Turning it 180 degrees in the engine bay has allowed Honda to fit an integrated diesel particulate filter and catalytic converter, enabling it to achieve its very low, Euro 5 NOx and particulate emissions. But it's the turbodiesel's official combined cycle figure of 47.8mpg that's the most important in these days of ever increasing fuel prices.

Driving it

The diesel is the best all-rounder on the road too. It's astonishingly quiet, particularly when on the move, and its thumping 258lb.ft of torque shifts the Accord convincingly whatever the gear or revs. The petrol engines impress too, particularly the 2.0-litre with its eager, responsive performance, but the easy nature of the turbodiesel's delivery suits the Accord's gait perfectly. Despite aiming the Accord at the premium market Honda seems to have focussed on comfort rather than outright sporting ability. The ride is nicely composed (rougher roads dealt with very effectively) and the body control is also impressive. That's perhaps due to the increased wheelbase and track, the latter growing by a not insignificant 75mm.

The steering is pretty light on information, and in cars fitted with that fancy Lane Keep Assist System the helm feels even more remote - that is until you activate it when cruising and it writhes about in your hands. Clever as it is, the Accord seems to steer better where it's not fitted. If only Honda could give its steering the accuracy and beautifully engineered feel of the gearshift. The stubby lever shifts across its short throw with real precision. The driving environment reflects Honda's high technology approach, the cabin littered with buttons and a big protruding multi-function controller for the numerous entertainment, communication and navigation systems on offer. Like the exterior, the interior's lines are more fussy, almost distractingly so, and although the materials are much improved Honda needs to look at Audi's interiors if it's serious about its upmarket goal.

Worth Noting

Although Honda is pushing hybrid technology, there'll be no hybrid version of the Accord - at least not in the foreseeable future. As previously though there'll be a Tourer, or estate to you and me. It's a good-looking car, the more sporting lines of the boot over its rather hearse-like predecessor making it a far more appealing choice if you need a load-lugger. Honda has made big improvements in the quality feel of the interior materials, it being one of the goals for the car, but it has missed out on one of the key points of contact - quite literally. The flick key doesn't operate with the pleasing action of those offered by VW and Audi, and the plastic feels cheap.

Summary

Honda's Accord has always impressed against its more obvious mainstream competition in the D-segment and it continues to do so. It's a bold firm that goes chasing the big premium players here and impressive as the Accord is it's not quite there. It's closer than ever, but then so are much of its rivals. As a rival to the likes of the VW Passat, Mazda 6, Mondeo and forthcoming Vauxhall Insignia it's a serious, more mature feeling contender. But even a big shot of technology and significant improvement in cabin quality isn't enough to convince us that it'll be troubling sales of the German premium machines - for now at least.

Kyle Fortune - 18 Apr 2008



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2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.



2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 

2008 Honda Accord. Image by Honda.
 






 

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