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First drive: Honda eyes diesel with Accord i-CDTi

On the horizon: Honda's Accord diesel went on sale in Europe in 2004.

Honda's Accord 2.2 i-CDTi turbo-diesel gets rave reviews but remains 18 months away

1 May 2006

HONDA has received a positive response to evaluation trials of its turbo-diesel Accord Euro, but the car remains potentially 18 months away from Australian showrooms.

"And that’s if the business case stacks up," according to Honda spokesman, Mark Higgins. "We’re still evaluating whether it’s a viable car for the market here." Despite the rush by other manufacturers to add diesel variants to their line-ups, Mr Higgins said Honda was taking a more cautious road through the current oil price shock.

"More importantly we’re trying to assess the viability and longevity of diesels in Australia," he said.

Honda also needed to ascertain from a business standpoint whether the current rush to diesel was just a fad "or will it become an on-going segment in its own right, which I tend to think it will", he said.

"Then we need to sit down and put the case to Japan." Honda Australia has brought in a five-speed manual UK-spec Accord Euro 2.2 i-CTDi for evaluation by company engineers and the media.

If sold here the sophisticated unit would be a $3000 to $4000 premium above its petrol engine equivalent.

The all-alloy diesel Euro is built in Japan and exported to Europe, which could help the business case for Australia.

"It starts to help the equation when you look at exchange rates and transportation." Mr Higgins said another issue holding the car back was that it was a manual only and the fact there was high demand for the car in Europe.

"The reality is that 75 per cent of Euros sold here are automatics, so we have to address that situation too," he said. "It may be a case of waiting to see if an auto is available for it."

15 center imageIn Europe, the 2.2-litre diesel four is also available in the Euro wagon as well as CR-V and Civic hatch.

"When you crunch the numbers the mid-size wagon market here isn’t that big," Mr Higgins said, making a diesel wagon less viable.

Another possibility for the diesel is the next-generation CR-V, which is due out in Japan around September.

Mr Higgins admitted that a diesel CR-V was "certainly a consideration" but said the current CR-V diesel was made in England.

"So on one hand it’s a great idea because it would be nice to have a diesel in that segment," he said.

However, it would be an expensive proposition because the CR-V diesel is currently only built in the UK and not Japan, he said.

The next-generation CR-V is expected to boast the same 2.4-litre i-VTEC engine as the current car, with an output of around 130kW.

Information on the car is scant but the new CR-V is tipped to have a single hatch rear door, underfloor spare tyre and will be about 50mm shorter than the current car but wider and lower.

Visually the car gains a curving rear D-pillar glasshouse and a more aggressive front-end styling.

Drive impressions:

FEW things focus the consumer than watching petrol prices skyrocket.

With fuel hitting more than $1.40 a litre in parts of Melbourne last week, more in rural areas, and the promise $1.50 a litre in the not-to-distance future, cars like the Honda Accord 2.2 i-CTDi become very relevant.

Visually the diesel Euro looks the same as its petrol sibling, but the driving experience is vastly different, more sporty even.

Like the petrol versions, drive goes to the front wheels through a five-speed manual and the all-round double-wishbone suspension is retained, as is the hydraulic power steering.

Torque is a strongpoint. The in-line twin-cam four produces 103kW at 4000rpm and a muscular 340Nm from 2000rpm so there’s an almost instantaneous response in any gear.

In reality, the UK-spec diesel delivers strong, real-world performance, with an ever-so-slight characteristic diesel chatter at idle.

Once under-way the Euro diesel is almost inaudible, providing plenty of urge low-down and in essence, delivering the sort of power associated with a V6.

It will rev eagerly to the 4500rpm redline and Honda says it will hit 100km/h in a claimed 9.4 seconds.

Overtaking and city driving is easy thanks to the slick five-speed manual, which, like the drivetrain, has been beefed up to cope with the extra torque.

At the recent Greenfleet economy drive around Melbourne, the Accord diesel managed 6.54L/100km in a mix of mostly city driving.

This makes the official Honda figures seem entirely reasonable.

It claims the diesel will deliver a combined city and country figure of 5.4L/100km, getting down to as low as 4.6L/100km on the highway.

The 2.2-litre four-cylinder is the latest-generation common-rail unit with intercooled turbocharging and a variable nozzle to even out boost.

Unusually for a diesel it is all-aluminium, which saves weight as a diesel is typically heavier than a petrol engine.

In typical Honda thoroughness, the Japanese car-maker has developed a new casting technique that retains strength but provides a light and stiff block.

Honda has reduced the associated diesel noise, vibration and harshness by off-setting the cylinders, adding balancer shafts, an acoustic dampening engine cover, under-engine tray and extra sound-deadening material.

So does it make sense? If the price is right, there’s absolutely no reason buyers would not warm to the diesel Euro. True to Honda form, it’s a cracker of an engine.

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