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Touring Japanese, Honda-style. Image by Mark Nichol.

Touring Japanese, Honda-style
Carrying lots of stuff isn't just a necessity these days - it's a 'lifestyle choice'. Here's Japan's best sub-executive lifestyle car.

   



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| Week at the Wheel | Honda Accord Tourer |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Saloons with massive boots and a hatchback - or 'estates' as they're still sometimes called - are one of a few traditional segments under attack by the proliferation of niche cars. It's no longer enough for an estate to merely be capable of swallowing twice its bodyweight in furniture; it must also drive like a sports car and cosset like a luxury barge. Oh, and look good, too. In other words, it must excel at a bunch of things that tend to oppose each other. Honda reckons the Accord Tourer manages just that.

First impressions are good. In contrast to criticism levelled at its saloon counterpart, the Accord Tourer's lines flow coherently from front to back, endowing it with a sleek, almost wedgy profile. Its steeply raked rear hatch is one of the handsomest big backsides there is - but as soon as you clasp eyes on it you just know it's at the expense of outright space. And it is: 406-litres is one of the smaller lifestyle trunks - a good 100-litres down on some of its peers'.

Inside, the Accord smacks of atypical Japanese tactility; it's screwed together with monolithic stability, but predictably lacks much visual pizzazz. It's not without some charm, though, and it's actually a very agreeable place to sit, but it can all get a bit too black and buttony in places. Still, the seats are among the most comfortable your bottom will enjoy and the switchgear turns and recoils with Teutonic solidity.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Surprisingly, the engine is this Accord's Achilles' heel. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the 147bhp 2.2-litre i-DTEC oil burner, but its torque delivery is so smooth that it feels flat. The fact the chassis is so well resolved - and could cope with much more power - probably exacerbates that feeling. It's quiet and impressively rattle free, but then it's not that quiet - certainly not enough to circumvent the mild frustration of its tangible pace deficit. It's not as if it is lacking pulling power, either: it's got 258lb.ft of shove at 2,000rpm. But its power peaks just 2,000rpm later, then before you know it you're reaching for another gear. Thankfully, the six-speed manual box is as well weighted, precise and as satisfying to fondle as the switchgear is.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

Again, Honda's gifted engineers have honed a machine that feels taut, precise and accomplished on the tarmac. Without recourse to trick damping, the Accord manages to ride comfortably while staying nice and level around corners, all the while maintaining a bit of weighty steering feel. It's front drive so it's not the last word in chassis balance - and nowhere near the ubiquitous BMW executive Honda's engineers benchmarked it against - but it out-handles an Audi A4 while being as comfy as you could hope for. It's equally at home on a motorway as it is on a back road. Or over a speed hump, for that matter.

On top of that, the driving position is an ergonomic delight: the gear stick is set high and close to the wheel, the pedals are spaced just right, and the seat sinks down far enough to make the driver's space feel like a cockpit - a feeling ably assisted by the veritable banquet of buttons squeezed onto the wheel and dash.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Ok, this is where the Accord Tourer fits into a little box of its own. In vociferously setting such lofty benchmarks as Audi, BMW and Lexus for it, Honda has pitched its mid-level saloon/Tourer dangerously close to premium and priced it significantly higher than the mainstream pack to hammer that point home. The problem is, despite pejorative use of the word 'mainstream', the cars that occupy that particular group are far from also-rans; the Ford Mondeo Estate is practical, high quality and brilliant to drive; the Mazda6 Estate is very accomplished; and the forthcoming Insignia Sport Tourer is a banker for goodness too.

So, while the 24k list price of our Accord wouldn't buy anything remotely as well equipped with a German roundel on the front, it will buy a top-whack Mondeo with enough change to keep it in fuel for months and months. Of course, very few buy a car with cash these days, but the point stands. Is the 'H' badge as premium as Honda thinks it is? We're not so sure. Mind, that doesn't mean the Accord is poor value by any means: for 24k you'll be buying 17-inch alloys, satnav, a rear parking camera, half leather seats, a cracking stereo with a bass bin, tinted windows and a sporty body kit.

Running costs aren't going to give you a lot to complain about, either: 47.9mpg, 155g/km CO2 (145 per year VED tax) and insurance group 10E. Still, we can't help but feel that the Accord is priced slightly too high and that Honda could have made greater advances with its diesel unit in terms of both its performance and economy. BMW's 318d, for example, takes exactly the same 9.6 seconds to get from 0-62mph, yet it'll squeeze 11 more miles from a gallon of fuel.

Overall: star star star star star

The Accord Tourer is a genuine feel good estate; it drives well, it's solid and it looks pretty tasty. We'd be more than happy to recommend one to somebody with dogs or an Ikea addiction, but sadly there's the pesky little issue of, you know, other estates and things. See, whether Honda likes it or not, the Accord just isn't a rival for premium cars because here in the UK we're too in love with our badges, and a big 'H' on the bonnet just doesn't cut it. Vain? Of course - but that's exactly why Toyota sells Lexus cars and Nissan will soon be selling Infinitis. All that in mind, we'd still have one over a poverty spec, de-badged German estate - but a well-specced Mondeo - or one that's not so posh but much cheaper - that's a more difficult choice.

Mark Nichol - 19 Mar 2009



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2009 Honda Accord Tourer specifications: (2.2 i-DTEC ES GT with Advanced Navigation Pack)
Price: 23,940 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Top speed: 129mph
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Emissions: 155g/km
Kerb weight: 1559kg

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.



2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2009 Honda Accord Tourer. Image by Mark Nichol.
 






 

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