Car reviews - Honda - Accord - V6 sedan
Performance, interior space, comfort, refinement, equipment, value
Room for improvement
Handling, grip, overly light steering, no sequential-shift auto
2 Feb 2004
LET us, for the moment, forget about the fact there are two Honda Accords on the market. Instead, we’ll focus on the latest iteration of what we think of as the real Accord, the one we’ve come to know over six previous generations.
The seventh generation Accord is a bigger, cushier car than the more compact Euro – which is also an Accord, but appeals to a quite different customer.
The latest version’s styling is skewed towards an American understanding of what a mid-size compact car should be (and little wonder, because the USA has for many years been the Accord’s heartland), favouring interior space, smoothness and silence of operation, safe styling and the odd bit of fake wood.
The new model is bigger than the previous Accord, but not hugely. The wheelbase is up 25mm, while overall body length has crept up slightly less, by 20mm.
This partly explains an increase of interior cabin length and also means there’s slightly less overhang than before. Practically all of the massive 127mm increase in internal length goes into improving front-seat legroom.
Perhaps unexpectedly, internal shoulder width is slightly down on the previous car.
Weight doesn’t seem to have gone up significantly though, roughly around 50kg over comparable versions of the previous model, while the aerodynamics have improved to a quite creditable drag figure of 0.30Cd.
The Accord looks quite big on the road, which is no surprise because it is edging closer to cars like the Holden Commodore. It is bigger than a Mitsubishi Magna or Toyota Camry.
Honda says the new Accord achieves very high levels of refinement, with particular emphasis on improved passive safety and overall road performance.
Certainly it’s a different car to the zippy, compact Euro.
In V6 form (the 2.4-litre four-cylinder used in the Euro is also available, but detuned from 140 to 118kW) the Accord is a very smooth, quite powerful car that emphasises comfortable cruising rather than driver-oriented, point-to-point athleticism.
In fact, the VTEC V6 is a gem, spinning quietly and with amazing silkiness while delivering a surge of real power. The 177 kiloWatts are real.
Although the all-alloy engine is a development of the previous, also 3.0-litre V6, it has been substantially reworked to be almost 9kg lighter and 25mm shorter.
The single overhead camshaft drives a four-valves-per-cylinder system and the exhaust manifolds are integrated into the cylinder-heads – a neat feature that improves packaging and helps allow optimal positioning of the catalytic converters.
The Accord’s "intermediate" VTEC system provides continual adjustment of the valve timing, while also varying the lift of the intake valves according to engine speed - more lift at higher rpm for maximum gas flow and less and lower rpm.
More powerful Honda VTEC engines - as used, for example, in the S2000 - use variable valve lift on both intake and exhaust camshafts. The result is an extra 30kW and 22Nm of torque from the same capacity.
The V6 is also in a harmonious partnership with the five-speed automatic transmission - one ratio more than previous Accord autos.
It is a smooth-shifting, nicely intuitive box incorporating Honda’s "Grade Logic" system that senses when the car is on an incline and, if the moment is appropriate, will downshift accordingly, tending to hold a chosen intermediate gear rather than "hunt" around for the correct ratio.
The compact transmission is claimed by Honda to be similar in size to a regular four-speed auto.
It doesn’t offer sequential shifting though - which is something of a strange omission, although it perhaps underlines the non-sporting nature of the car.
The Accord proceeds smoothly on all types of road surfaces, non-compromised by any real pretensions about being a lively-handling car.
The 16-inch alloy wheels run cushy 205/60 tyres, aimed more at comfort than maximum grip. The steering is light – a shade too light – and the car heels over on bends, with an unmistakable tendency to understeer.
It’s all quite controlled though, and the car always signals the driver if it’s about to run short of grip.
The cabin, as you’d expect with the more generous overall dimensions, is quite roomy and comfortable. Up front, there’s certainly plenty of room even for tall passengers, both in terms of fore-aft stretch and shoulder width.
The same applies in the back, although the front seats will intrude on legroom if all the generous travel is used.
The base, velour-trimmed V6 model tested here (there’s also the entry-level four-cylinder VTi and the top-of-the-line V6 Luxury) is generally restrained in monotone grey, broken by a slab of fake wood on the centre console.
The front seats are new, and appear to offer decent support although there’s not a lot of lateral location. In the base V6, the driver gets electric height adjustment as well as adjustable lumbar support.
The steering column also adjusts telescopically as well as vertically, so a decent driving position can be achieved.
Honda talks a lot about the Accord’s zero offset driving position – the driver is directly in line with the axis of the steering column, rather than located slightly to the right or left as is the case with some cars – and this adds subtly to the feeling of comfort and symmetry.
Storage areas are abundant, with a decent lidded cubby at the front of the console, a small (also lidded) container behind the gearshift and a two-level box below the front centre armrest.
The back seat conceals a ski-port behind its centre armrest and the backrest folds down in one piece to complement the decent-size, 446-litre boot. The load-through aperture is small though, and the hinges intrude into boot space.
All doors have parcel trays and those in front are able to store drink bottles vertically.
Standard gear includes climate-control air-conditioning (without external temperature readout), a really good six-speaker sound system with in-dash six-disc CD stacker, cruise control, a sunglasses holder above the centre rear-view mirror, power mirrors and windows.
Dual front and front side airbags are also standard. About $5000 extra spent on the V6 Luxury model will add an electric sunroof, leather-rim steering wheel, fog lights, full-power driver’s seat and leather trim.
So what we have with the latest, seventh-generation Honda Accord is a natural progression from the previous model.
Smooth, inoffensive style, a nicely trimmed but conservative interior and inoffensive dynamics with a marked tendency to favour a long-distance cruise over a satisfying blast on a twisting mountain highway.
If you want the latter, check out the similarly-priced, more compact and sporty Euro. The big-brother Accord’s reworked 3.0-litre V6 does introduce a very welcome combination of liveliness and refinement though.
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