Road test: Revitalised Honda Accord is fighting back
TUBTHUMPING must have been playing loud and clear at Honda headquarters when preparing for the new Honda Accord.
The "I get knocked down but I get up again" song from Chumbawamba has been the catchcry for the Japanese marque in recent years.
Everything that could have gone wrong, did. Floods, tsunamis and earthquakes took their toll on manufacturing and supply, but Honda is now well and truly up and about. Entrenched in Australia's top 10 brands, sales are up more than 7000 units compared to the same time last year.
And part of that is due to the ninth generation Accord. While 37 years old, the Accord has been revitalised with a new skin and improved powerplants.
Despite a more compact length and wheelbase than the Accord's predecessor (although it is slightly wider), Honda has managed to deliver a spacious and well finished cabin.
Previous Accords had an ability to look somewhat stodgy and elderly-focused but this variant has a more modern appeal with dark wood-grain inserts and leather trim.
Rear legroom is good, having increased by 33mm, and there is enough head room to accommodate two burly adults.
The driver has three clear and nicely legible analogue gauges, the largest and most prominent is the speedometer. Within the speedo is the trip computer and other information which you can toggle through via a steering wheel mounted button.
On the road
This four-cylinder is focused on easy, smooth driving.
The cabin is well insulated with little road or tyre noise and it comfortably cruises in varying conditions as long as you don't become too aggressive.
Strong acceleration can take some encouragement and steep hills can test the four-potter as it trims back through the six-speed automatic and starts to sing as you climb into the rev range.
More high strength steel is used during the Accord's construction and the dividend is improved cornering. You can now attack a bend with some speed without excessive body roll and it takes some effort to scrub wide for typical front-wheel understeer.
The steering is light but reasonably direct, while the large turning circle can make u-turns and parking challenging.
Employ the ECO button and it dulls the acceleration response to improve efficiency. It also provides a green hue around the gauges while "coaching" is available via illuminations around the speedometer (white is bad and green is good) to highlight when the Accord is being driven at its most economical.
We also sampled the latest safety gizmos on offer. Honda has included some impressive technology, equipment which has been creeping into the high-end European machines in recent years.
One of the best features is radar cruise control which keeps you at a set distance behind upcoming traffic.
There is also a collision warning system which alerts the driver with a yellow light and features "brake" in the instrument cluster if a possible frontal impact is detected.
It can also brake automatically to avoid or lessen the collision.
Lane assist helps you stay within the lines in case of poor concentration, but we found this made the steering feel too artificial.
The Accord also has an automatic high-beam function which we had to turn off after it failed to dim on several occasions and blinded oncoming traffic.
But the highlight is the blind spot assist function.
We found the more time we spent in the Accord the more useful it became. When the driver indicates it projects vision from a side mirror camera with indicative space lines to the centre colour screen which is a brilliant ally in traffic.
What do you get?
This derivative gets all the kit and the latest safety suite.
Specification highlights include a 20cm colour screen and smaller touch-screen, sat nav with hard drive, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, dual-zone air-con, sunroof, auto wipers and lights, seven-speaker CD stereo, 18-inch alloys with a full-size spare along with keyless entry and push button start.
Safety gizmos incorporated in the Advanced Drive Assist Systems kit are lane keep assist, a collision mitigation function which can automatically apply the brakes if a crash is detected along with radar cruise control, while the givens are six airbags (including full-length curtain) and stability/traction control.
Fuel efficiency has been improved by 7%, although our test proved about one litre thirstier per 100km than the official figure of 8.1. That's still reasonable return for a car of this size.
Tyres should be reasonable to replace (far cheaper than an SUV), and servicing is about mid-scale although maintenance is required every six months.
The biggest segment seller is the Toyota Camry, the highest specced variant is the SL ($39,990), while also worth considering is the Mazda6 GT ($43,220), Hyundai i40 Premium ($42,990), Volkswagen Passat 118TSI ($38,990) and the new Holden Malibu CDX ($31,990).
Dual cup holders in the centre console, along with bottle holders in the door and a deep storage bin with a USB port and a 12V plug in the console provide a practical environment. The boot space is wide and reasonably deep, enough for about three suitcases, although carting home furniture or other awkward-sized items is impeded by back seats which do not fold.
A button at the boot would be also handy, rather than just relying on the internal lever and key fob.
Design changes have delivered more contemporary lines and early showroom feedback is that it has inspired a younger audience.
This new Accord is attracting buyers who traditionally would have opted for the Euro variant.
Offerings in the mid-size segment do a lot of things well without breaking any boundaries. The new Honda Accord has made some impressive steps forward with improved drivability and modern appeal.
New safety technology is a boon for those who like the latest gizmos, which the Accord has at a good-value price-tag.
Buyers can be confident of a product with solid resale, reliability and all-round performance.
Model: Honda Accord VTi-L with ADAS.
Details: Four-door mid-size front-wheel drive sedan.
Engine: 2.4-litre in-line four-cylinder generating maximum power of 129kW @ 6200rpm and peak torque of 225Nm @ 4000rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters.
Consumption: 8.1litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: $44,990.
What matters most
The good stuff: Quiet and refined ride, luxurious interior feel, lane watch camera technology, full-size spare.
What we'd like to see: Better turning circle, more punch from the four-cylinder, improvements to the automatic high beam system, foot-operated park brake banished.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km.