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Car reviews - Honda - Accord Euro - sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, refinement, engine, gearbox, equipment, value, economy, safety
Room for improvement
Larger size, numb steering feel, poor rear vision

18 Jul 2008

THERE is no question that Honda was under intense pressure to come up with a worthy replacement for its overachieving Accord Euro Mark 1, which proved to be a welcome return-to-form for the Japanese carmaker after a depressingly prolonged period of dull Accords.

When judging the all-new Accord Euro’s looks, we recommend you let the styling ferment on you, because you might eventually see the taut and athletic ‘whole’ rather than the fussy detailing. And, thanks to Honda Australia’s decision to fit biggish 17-inch alloys as standard, the weedy-wheeled look of the old car has narrowly (no pun intended) been avoided.

We initially experienced some difficulty reconciling the larger-in-all-areas (except height) dimensions since the old car’s pertness was part of its appeal. But Accord Euro II – with its new platform and wider track – is now rubbing shoulders with the sporty Mazda 6 and Ford Mondeo, and so grows as far as being an accommodating vehicle is concerned.

Indeed, it is inside where the most radical visual (and interior room-related) changes have taken place.

In the current Honda fashion, the dash is a sweeping, multi-layered affair with 3D-style instrument housings, a recessed information screen and prominent ventilation outlets to ensure climate-controlled comfort.

The ideal driving position can be found for most people thanks to the dual efforts of a telescopic and tilting steering wheel and a multi-adjustable seat – which, with its contours and generous size, provides impressive levels of support over extended periods.

The Accord Euro’s inner environment is brilliantly executed and remarkable for the perfect placement of virtually every switch and button.

Our only concern – and its pettiness reveals how much of a complete job Honda has done inside – is that the prominent radio tuning knob should be swapped around with the smaller volume one, since it is too easy to tune away from a station instead of adjusting the sound level.

And, despite boasting large exterior mirrors, the sedan’s rising window line and thick rear pillars conspire to make parking difficult. How many more times must we point this out in new cars before carmakers start taking note?

The rear seat is really a two-plus-one affair (you wouldn’t want to be over 160cm and stuck in the middle), but the backrest angle is inviting, and knee, head and legroom sufficiently clear for a sedan as swoopy as this. And, like the front-seat area, the rear quarters exude an air of quality.

The base Accord Euro’s interior is finished in contrasting black and grey metallic-look plastic, with a technical grainy edge. The fascia looks and feels more expensive than you might expect in a five-seater family sedan at this price.

Along with six airbags to back up the VSA stability and traction control, the standard car includes cruise control, heated and motorised exterior mirrors, an in-dash CD stacker, remote audio controls, a trip computer, a driver’s seat lumbar support and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Yet it’s the plethora of pleasing details that further sets the Euro apart as a strong value proposition.

Honda has fitted climate control air-conditioning with a large cooled centre console storage box topped by a nifty sliding lid (that is sadly too low to be an effective elbow rest for the driver) all four windows have a one-touch auto-down/up function with the rear ones lowering right under the window line there’s a spring in the ash/coin tray so it pops up when you need it the cloth material feels nice, like velour, and not coarse like most rivals’ base-model trim, which seems designed to make you spend more for leather we love the small and smooth six-speed manual gear change … and there are no rattles or squeaks or bits of dodgy build quality – just lovely consistency in the way this car is made.

We are left with a dilemma about the 467-litre boot, though, wide and long as it is.

The base model brings with it a full-sized spare, but at the expense of a flat boot floor, so we are inclined to go for the $40,000-plus Luxury models, but this brings the larger 18-inch wheel pack and a smaller space-saver spare, and the lower-profile rubber may upset the finely balanced ride/handling formula.

Utilising Honda’s well-used double wishbone front and rear suspension arrangement, and wearing 17-inch wheels, the poor person’s Euro takes most bumps and road irregularities in its stride, with a wealth of sound deadening to boot.

On rougher roads, the Honda is remarkable for its smooth and controllable ride, steady steering feel, effective dirt-surface braking and overall noise suppression – even at speeds of 80km/h.

Larger speed humps do reveal fairly limited suspension travel, but overall the car feel does feel well tied down and adequately supple.

However, if you’re a very keen driver, you may find yourself in another Euro-related predicament. Do you overlook the lifeless-feeling EPS electronic power steering and enjoy the poised and involving handling? Do you revel in the flat, progressive, smooth, safe and predictable turn-in, even though the feedback is blunt?

The reality is, you soon forget about tactility and instead revel in the sheer ease and responsiveness of this car. But it isn’t anywhere near the driver’s car that, say, a Mondeo is.

A noteworthy high-tech feature of the EPS is its ability to help correct a situation that the stability control system (which it is connected to) deems dangerous by initiating steering inputs in the ‘right’ direction. Frankly we couldn’t notice it but perhaps that is the point.

Bulging with computer-controlled efficiency, the low-emission 2.4-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol engine achieves an 8kW and 11Nm improvement in power (148kW at 7000rpm) and torque (234Nm at 4400rpm) while delivering outstanding fuel economy.

Even with barely 1000km on the odometer, it will rev a few hundred revs beyond the 7000rpm redline and deliver sweet and tractable performance from the idle end of the range.

But it needs to be revved, so if you’re used to lazy big six-cylinder engines or the low-down torque of a diesel, be prepared to tap hard on that accelerator pedal.

For the size and 1525kg kerb weight, and considering the enthusiasm in which the Euro was exercised, the 9.4L/100km urban average we recorded was quite outstanding.

One of the best bits of the old model was the six-speed manual gearbox, and the same is true for new Accord Euro. The stubby little lever sets the tone for a sporty and involving drive, while the lightness and sureness of the shifter is matched by a well-modulated clutch action.

So would you call this car a sports sedan? Compared to other Honda passenger cars (S2000 excepted), the answer is yes. It has a fluid way of moving about, connecting the driver despite the mute steering, while flattering his or her abilities through its depth of dynamic capability and sheer technological prowess.

But the Euro lacks the sheer dynamicism of a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class. Yet this does not damn the Honda because both Germans cost over $20,000 more. And the dynamic shortfall is not a chasm. Audi’s hugely improved A4, for instance, has a Honda-shaped cloud ready to rain on its sunny sky.

Interestingly, since the advent of the latest Mondeo and Mazda 6, Honda cannot let its guard down for one minute against these equivalently priced mid-sized superstars. Both are exceptionally good, but then so is this base manual Accord Euro II.

Breathe out Honda, the pressure is now squarely on your opponents.

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