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Motornet: Honda's A for effort Accord

Honda's A for effort Accord

While not exactly the newest kid on the block in the on-going medium sized sedan stakes, Honda's ever green Accord continues to achieve a consistently good report card...

I have very fond memories of Honda's Accord. Some years ago, when I was young and stupid and didn't have the responsibilities of a full-time job, a bunch of us hired a rental car and drove it from Wellington to Cape Reinga and back in 24 hours. Some might call us crazy, but I say it was worth it just to see the look on the face of the rental agent when we returned the car!

More to the point, the car we hired was an Accord, and it never missed a beat the entire trip even though we only turned it off to gas it up and to watch the sun rise at Cape Reinga. Since then, Honda have replaced that car with not only a new model but now, earlier this year, also released a face lifted model * though some punters might be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Most noticeably, the facelift brings a bigger flashier front grill, while the rear taillights also get a very subtle reworking. Otherwise, exterior changes are largely cosmetic. From a visual point of view, what it does do, is freshen what was already a good design so that it remains competitive in a market that now boasts the Mondeo, and a host of other cars all doing their best to vie for the mid-market buyer's dollar.

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A clear advantage that the Accord has over its direct competitors is size. This places the Accord clearly across the divide of the 2.0 to 3.0 litre bracket - which is why it's not surprising to find it comes with a four cylinder and six cylinder option. The test car carried the base model 2.3 litre four, while a 2.3 litre VTEC engine four is also available, as is a 3.0 litre VTEC.

Despite the 'big car' approach to their mid-fielder, Honda's price compares favourably with mainstream competitors. In fact, at a list price of $32,900 for a four-speed automatic ($31,400 for the five-speed manual), the Accord significantly undercuts many other mid-sizers - but it's worth keeping in mind when price shopping that Honda have a flat-pricing, non-discount policy that most other importers do not. A VTEC four-cylinder auto will set you back $38,400 (the same dollars as a base model six cylinder), while the top of the line VTi-L six is $44,900.

In an effort to press the price advantage home, Honda is currently offering an LSi model. Essentially, it's the same car as the standard LXi, but with a few extra goodies, such as a spoiler and alloy wheels and some additional treats for the interior. The improved spec would normally set buyers back more than a couple of grand, but the chaps at Honda have only added $1,000 to the price.

In terms of equipment, even the entry-level LXi shoppers do pretty well. Standard kit includes a sophisticated ABS system, twin front passenger airbags, remote locking and engine immobiliser, air conditioning, single slot CD player and electrics all round including electric height adjustment on the driver's seat. Also included is Honda's bankable build quality, not to mention resale value. Plastics are first rate, fit and finish excellent, exterior paint quality top notch and interior upholstery attractive and of a good quality.

The added size of the car translates into plenty of passenger room, which equals greater comfort. The front seats are large and comfortable, while backseat passengers have plenty of leg and headroom. Fitting two sets of golf clubs into the cavernous boot shouldn't cause a headache either.

Unfortunately, Honda's good showing is let down slightly by a somewhat under performing engine. On paper, it looks okay producing 103kw at 5400rpm and maximum torque of 195nm at 4500 rpm. But a not especially trim 1375kg (the price you pay for all that extra size) combined with an engine that is reluctant to rev hard means performance is a little disappointing. Determined drivers will find they can rev hard and keep the power on, but others might be a little under whelmed by its lack of go. Fortunately, it still performs well in most real-world driving situations and drivers are not going to find themselves caught out in tricky overtaking manoeuvres or anything similarly serious.

Where the Honda does instil confidence is in the handling stakes. Its wide track and refined suspension mean cornering is a breeze. Pushing in hard to a corner results in predictable understeer that is easily manageable and easing off the gas is all that's needed to bring the nose back in to line. At all times the car remains supremely relaxed while the ride is rarely compromised and not unduly unsettled by our rough and ready roads.

While the handling is faultless, the steering is not as crisp as I remember from previous models, feeling a bit vague in the straight ahead and a little woolly at the exact time you're looking for some clear road feedback. It compromises an otherwise impressive package, while the steering wheel itself is unfashionably thin * not a big thing, but definitely not as desirable as the meaty wheels which are now pretty standard on similar sized Europeans.

In the final analysis, the Honda does most things very well, and everything else pretty well. It may not be perfect, but then few vehicles are * especially when they are nearing the end of their model life. I can say in all honesty too that I have never met a Honda driver who wasn't extremely satisfied by their car. A sentiment that is clearly true of the Accord, and one thing at least that is most unlikely to change.


Price - $32,900 LXi Auto ($33,900 LSi Auto)

Engine - 2.3 litre four cylinder engine producing 103kW at 5400rpm and 195nm of torque at 4500rpm

Weight - 1345kg

Performance - N/A

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