Car reviews - Honda - Accord Euro - sedan
Performance, handling, styling, quality
Room for improvement
Naming, through-loading system, seat padding
6 Oct 2003
GETTING your head around Honda’s strategy with its double-tiered Accord range is not difficult as long as you realise we are talking here about two entirely different four-door cars, one bigger and the other smaller. It’s just that both happen to carry Accord badges.
The little version is the Accord Euro – a car that fits somewhere between the Civic and the full-blown Accord in terms of size, if not in price. In fact, the Euro starts at exactly the same price point ($32,450) as the daddy Accord, although the bigger model stretches a little above it in ultimate, V6-engined Luxury form.
Perhaps the Euro is best seen as a direct competitor for the new Mazda6. From the front, it even looks startlingly similar and stays within millimeters of the Mazda in terms of overall body dimensions. The powertrains are also similar, except the Honda has a slight edge on capacity and power.
The Euro badge implies, not at all subtly, that this is an entirely different style of Accord. The message is that if you are attracted to the idea of a compact European sedan, the Accord might have something for you.
Certainly the style has a nice, restrained balance to it, inside and out, and there’s a quality to the suspension that is quite new in a Honda of late. It has that slightly firm-edged feel that implies faithful and accurate road manners while still retaining a degree of suppleness that allows it to cope with sharp-edged bumps quite adequately.
And the steering offers a bit of weight and feel, which is something Honda has never been really strong on in the past – although there are a few exceptions today, like the Integra Type R and S2000.
That the package size is virtually identical to the somehow larger-feeling Mazda6 sedan is a bit of a surprise at first – in fact, it has you thumbing through Honda Civic data to see whether there’s any connection. Dimensionally that proves not to be so, with the Euro out-stretching the Civic by substantial millimeters in all directions.
But it certainly doesn’t feel as big inside as we’re normally accustomed in an Accord, bringing more to mind the original Integra sedan that was also sold as a Rover 416 in the 1980s.
The Luxury version, which costs a good deal more than the base model with a manual-transmission pricetag of $40,880, clearly aims to convince that it’s more aligned with the likes of a Lexus IS200 than your regular, run-of-the-mill Japanese compact.
At this level cowhide seats are a standard part of the deal, as is electric adjustment and heating for both front passengers, a power sunroof, Xenon lights and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
The sound system has an in-cabin multi-disc function and belts out a clean, deep sound through its six speakers. Like most cars with similar upmarket aspirations it includes supplementary radio controls on the (leather-trimmed) steering wheel.
Both Euro Accords get dual front airbags as well as sidebags for front passengers, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and an electronic stability control system. The Luxury version also picks up full-length side "curtain" airbags. There’s not a lot missing, but then again it’s not a cheap four-cylinder car.
The engine, by the way, is slightly bigger than the Mazda6 with a displacement of just over 2.3 litres, and winds out a decent 140kW along with 223Nm of torque. Once again the Euro Accord’s availability with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission, in both standard and Luxury versions, implies that some people may actually enjoy driving this car.
The all-alloy four-cylinder uses Honda’s VTEC technology in that it alters not just the camshaft timing but also switches between two profiles on the inlet camshaft to weight the power delivery towards strong high rpm or strong low rpm performance, depending on the circumstances.
This means the Euro is a relatively flexible performer even if its weight is on the higher side of the scale at around 1400kg (the Mazda6 averages out at around 70kg lighter).
Four passengers will find the Honda quite a comfortable conveyance, with enough room for back seat shins provided those in the front aren’t unreasonable in their quest for legroom.
The seats are well shaped too, although after more than two hours at the wheel some drivers will begin to find fault in their ability to provide general, comfortable support – a not-untypical phenomenon in Japanese cars. You can’t rely on finishing a long, up-country stint feeling totally refreshed.
On the other hand, the Euro’s engine delivers smooth, easy performance and is quite miserly in its use of fuel. The five-speed automatic is among the smoothest-shifting of its type and incorporates hill-logic electronics that help minimise up or downshifts on undulating terrain.
Sound levels inside the cabin are appropriate for the class, with only a mild swishing noise coming through from the conservative-size 205/55 medium-profile tyres.
The steering is very nicely weighted among the best Honda has managed, and helps the driver point the car accurately on corners. The ride is good, too, absorbent without being too soft, yet controlled enough to maintain a feeling of comfort and security.
There’s a certain utilitarian nature to the Euro too, with a split-fold rear seat helping out the boot when it’s not quite accommodating enough – although the opening is disappointingly small.
The quality is only marred here by the cheap-looking straps that release the backrests. They are located in the boot, though, which generally proves to be a more logical and easy to use location than the common in-cabin seatback arrangement.
But quality is not something lacking in the Accord Euro. In fact, the overall impression is of a particularly well put together car with a good choice of quality trim materials, the odd touch of tasteful (but nevertheless fake) woodgrain and a solid feel to all the controls. The supplementary indicator lights in the side mirrors are a nice, Benz-style touch.
Honda’s littlest Accord proves to be a tasteful, handy-sized prestige sedan with a sense of refinement and no glaring shortcomings. This might sound as if the Accord Euro experience might be a rather bland one – it is not.
The Honda comes across rather as something to be enjoyed at leisure. It’s a car that still feels good long after you’ve become accustomed to it.
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