Honda Accord First Drive
In the past, Honda put the Accord up against the Falcon, Commodore and Aurion, but now they say it’s fighting in the category below. In any event, it makes a viable alternative to the full-sized cars, says Paul Murrell.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the new Accord does not share a single panel with the previous model, although you’d have to stand them side by side to spot the differences. The body is 75mm shorter overall, 50mm coming from the shorter overhangs and the rest from platform modifications. Despite the slightly smaller external dimensions, the interior has remained virtually the same, even managing a little additional shoulder room. Externally, there’s a new face and an updated rear end. LED daytime running lamps are now standard across the range.
Where the Honda really shines is inside. Honda interiors have always, in this category at least, been a class act. At first glance the cabin does not look dramatically different to the previous Accord, but everything has a more premium feel to it. The soft-touch materials and high quality plastics create an inviting ambience. The seats provide an acceptable level of support and since press-on motoring is never on the agenda, the bolstering is sufficient.
Most Accords will be fitted with the four-cylinder engine and this is the one we tested. The 2.4-litre engine would rate considerably higher in our estimation if it was partnered with a better transmission. The five-speed auto is slow to change gears, and a bit of a slug. If the four-cylinder models were attached to the six-speed as fitted to the V6, they would be transformed.
It seems to have become standard in this class for cars to be tuned to American tastes, rather than Australian. While the Accord is by no means below standard, it certainly has not been tuned with enthusiastic drivers as the primary target. While the power steering is very direct and quite accurate, comfort has taken priority over feel and feedback. It is over-assisted and sometimes feels as if there is no communication between the front wheels and the steering wheel. Any attempt at spirited driving is quickly and firmly discouraged.
Honda is persevering with its confusing program of having two Accords, the Euro and the, um, the one that isn’t the Euro. The Honda Accord Euro is built in Japan, unlike this Accord that comes from a factory in Thailand. The Euro is slightly smaller and more overtly sporting to appeal to a younger buyer. We won’t be seeing a replacement for the Accord Euro for about 18 months.
When most manufacturers are crowing about reduced prices and more equipment, Honda has bucked the trend by increasing the price of the entry-level four-cylinder 2.4-litre Accord VTi. Despite having less power than before, the price has notched up by $3,300; you can no longer get into the Accord club for under $30,000. Even so, $31,490 represents good value in this category. The mid-spec VTi-S is $33,990 and the range-topping VTi-L will deplete your bank account to the tune of $41,490. V6 models easily crack the psychological $50,000 barrier and have increased by $4,700. Four cylinder models carry on with the dated five-speed auto transmission; the V6 gets a six-speed auto as standard.
Of course, Honda justifies the price rises by pointing to the higher level of standard spec, as well as additional refinement (would anybody buy a car where the “refinement” had been reduced?) To some extent, the argument is valid, but consumers are becoming used to new models that offer substantial improvements over the previous model, often at the same price or lower. On the other hand, pricing is now more in line with the class leader and major competitor, the Mazda6.
Obvious additional features include the nine-inch full colour screen in every model. It includes a three-mode reversing camera. Inside the cabin are two microphones to detect low-frequency cabin and engine noise and send a cancelling frequency through the audio speakers. It’s a bit of high tech trickery that makes the interior of the Accord quietly relaxing.
One of the main selling points of the new Accord is its advanced safety package, available on the VTi-L for $3500 and standard on the V6L. Once again, it seems entry level buyers can look out for their own safety. The advanced driver assist system is state-of-the-art active safety technology. It includes lane assist, collision mitigation braking and adaptive cruise control. While these technologies are available on other cars, on the Honda they have been further developed. Adaptive cruise control, for instance, will follow the car in front and maintain a set distance. When both it and lane keep assist are functioning, using radar and camera technology, the Accord can literally drive itself as one system controls the acceleration and braking while the other keeps the car in its assigned lane. It is quite eerie to take your hands off the wheel and cede control of the car to its electronic systems, even if only for 15 seconds, at which time it reminds you to put your hands back on the wheel and resume control. Fifteen seconds has never felt so long!
Honda must be fuming that despite the long list of safety equipment, the Accord failed to score the maximum five star ANCAP rating
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS
The Accord is a well-built, stylish car, affordable at the entry level but becoming pricey at the top end. It is more luxurious, more comfortable and more refined than the car it replaces, but we still prefer the better-resolved Accord Euro.