Thursday, December 18, 2008

Honda Accord


The 2008 model may not look too different to the previous Accord, but under the surface, it is indeed all-new. The styling isn't a radical departure, but this car is wider and lower-riding, and it comes with revised petrol engines, a new diesel, much-modified suspension, improved body rigidity, a thoroughly overhauled chassis and improved safety features.

Developed to be a more rewarding drive and to feel more upmarket - Honda engineers have been checking out the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class in their attempt to get close to the class leaders - the new Accord is a more expensive car than its predecessor - and it does feel like a quality product. It is refined, quiet and smooth-riding, with a modernised cabin, high levels of equipment, gadgets and devices, and well-designed, comfortable seats.

As before, saloon and Tourer estate bodystyles are on offer. Sadly, the new Tourer - although now more elegant-looking - is nowhere near as cavernous as the outgoing model, nor is it as versatile.

Prices start from £19,260 (2.0 ES saloon) with diesels from £21,060 and Tourer estates from £20,560. Deliveries begin in the UK on 1 June 2008 (saloon) and 1 September (Tourer).

Reliability and Quality

The Accord has generally been very reliable: problems reported with the outgoing model have been relatively minor.

Beyond the odd electronic or electrical issue, the main complaints were that the paint was prone to chipping and the diesel was prone to drink oil, which should have been addressed with the new engine.

There were also a few cars with faulty transmission (manual and automatic) and recalls to address turbo problems and glow plug faults with the diesel.

Not perfect, then, but Honda owners have generally been pleased with their cars and with the service they have received from dealerships. The Accord, in particular, has also scored well in reliability and customer satisfaction surveys.

On the road

Honda may not have created an ultimate driving machine here - and there are no plans for a Type-R version, apparently - but the Accord is still a pretty fine drive.

The steering has more feel than before, with quicker ratios lock to lock, and the car is better balanced and more agile thanks to a lowered centre of gravity, wider track, improved body rigidity and new suspension layouts (double-wishbone at the front and multi-link at the rear).

The Accord's not necessarily an easy car to drive, however: there are several blind spots (the rear windscreen is shallow and strangely angled in both saloon and Tourer) and the new dashboard layout is confusing and over-complex. The driver is faced with banks of switches, LEDs, dials within dials, display screens, electronic gauges and levers - it's a case of information overload. The integral sat nav is quite simple to fathom, thankfully.

The diesel engine (150bhp/258lb-ft) is the most appealing option by a considerable margin. It delivers 131mph and 0-60mph in 9.6 seconds (9.8 for the Tourer) and has loads of mid-range strength; it pulls well in every gear, yet always remains quiet and civilised. It's particularly good at motorway speeds, but it's fun for fast B-road progress as well. Now with a particulate filter, its emissions have been much-reduced, too.

With the diesel so good, there's little cause to choose a petrol: the 2.4 (200bhp/187lb-ft) is clearly initially quick off the mark but it sounds rough and coarse when pushed, and it lacks the flexibility of the diesel. The 2.0 (156bhp/142lb-ft) is adequate, but not terribly inspiring. Both petrol engines can be ordered with an automatic gearbox; this seems to work better with the 2.0-litre for relaxed cruising than with the 2.4, which is best enjoyed with the six-speed manual 'box.

The automatic gearbox is a straightforward five-speed auto; there are steering wheel-mounted paddleshifts, but the transmission software doesn't allow for anything too imaginative or daring - the 'manual' gearchanges are only a kickdown-type function to shift down a gear for extra revs when desired, rather than an imitation of the stick-shift experience. An auto 'box will be optional with the diesel engine from early 2009, too.

Safety and security

The last Accord scored a now-mediocre four stars for overall occupant protection in the Euro NCAP crash tests (2003), though this one does feel more solid and substantial.

All models now have stability control, trailer stability assist and a system called Motion Adaptive EPS (giving steering inputs at moments of instability) as well as front seat active head rests, seatbelt pre-tensioners, side and head-protecting full-length curtain airbag and Isofix child seat mounting points. There is also a new advanced driver assist system optional in EX-grade versions, which combines lane-keeping assist (a warning and input to the steering if you stray out of lane on the motorway), collision braking mitigation (an audible warning and tug to the seatbelt, with stronger braking and tensioned seatbelts if a collision is judged to be inevitable), adaptive cruise control plus xenon headlamps. You can also set a warning bleeper which sounds briefly if you accelerate over the speed limit (as detected using the sat nav system).

Security-wise, there are deadlocks, a rolling-code immobiliser, locking wheel nuts, and a Thatcham Category 1 alarm.

Running costs

Fuel economy from the 2.0-litre is nothing special: 39.2mpg with manual gearbox, 37.7mpg with auto. The 2.4 returns 32.1mpg/32.8mpg, so it's the diesel that clearly scores the best here - it does a much more creditable 50.4mpg.

carbon dioxide emissions are 170/178g/km (2.0 manual/auto) and 209/204g/km (2.4 manual/auto) with the diesel coming in at a much lower-tax 148g/km.

Insurance isn't too bad for the Accord, however - they're not thief-magnets - and Honda dealers generally charge reasonable prices for servicing and maintenance. This car is initially expensive, however...

Comfort and Equipment

The engines (apart from the 2.4 when worked hard) are impressively quiet, particularly the diesel, with the excellent sound insulation also filtering out intrusive road, tyre and wind noise. It'll vary according to your choice of wheels and tyres, of course, but the ride is good, with the suspension coping well with broken road surfaces, potholes and even cobbled streets.

The well-shaped seats help, too, giving plenty of back and under-thigh support for longer journeys. The steering wheel is adjustable in more directions than before, the seats are multi-way adjustable in most models, and it's easy to find an ideal seating position.

The dark dashboard and its design mean that the Accord doesn't feel as spacious and airy as some rivals, but there is plenty of room up front. There's plenty of rear legroom, too, and three can sit comfortably in the back.

The Tourer's rather disappointing, though: the previous-generation model had up to 1,707 litres of load-space with the rear seats folded flat, but this one can't get close: it can carry up to 672 litres loaded as far as the rear window-line, compared to the 921 litres of the outgoing model. The boot is much shallower, with intrusions from the wheel arches (an effect of the new suspension design), and the sportier-looking tail end has also traded style for substance. And with the rear seats in place, the Tourer actually has considerably less load-space than the saloon.

Equipment levels are good - as they should be, at these prices. Entry-level ES models have 16" alloys, cruise control, electrically adjustable/heated door mirrors, climate control, front and rear electric windows, rear centre armrest and a CD player with Aux input socket.

ES GT models add 17" alloys, lowered suspension, front fog lights, body kit, and Bluetooth phone kit, and have different upholstery and trim.

EX versions have front and rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, driver's seatback pocket, leather upholstery and DVD sat nav with voice-recognition controls, rear-view camera and six-CD autochanger. Options include 18" wheels and the advanced driver assist system.

The Accord's good reputation for reliability, and the relatively small numbers sold in comparison to cars such as the Mondeo and Vectra, help to keep residual values strong.

Diesel models will be most in demand second-hand and Tourer estates will also be popular.

There won't be as many takers for the thirsty 2.4 petrol, however, and with initial new purchase prices high, there may not be as good a return back on the investment as in the past.

Price Range: £18,893 to £24,422

Great diesel engine; comfy seats and smooth ride; much-improved and more dynamic to drive than ever before.

Uninspiring petrol engines; confusing and fussy dashboard layout; dull looks; more expensive; Tourer less spacious and versatile than before.

A good car, but not a great one.

No comments:

Post a Comment