The short test:
I say luxury because that’s what Honda’s niche is, the premium Japanese maker. It’s deserved for the most-part. The engines are sublime and is one of the few carmakers left steadfastly refusing to add superchargers or turbochargers, and instead rely on good engineering. Although I think it’s a mistake, only time will tell. The CRZ would benefit substantially from a little extra poke under the bonnet. The Accord on the other hand has an optional V6 which has a ton of pull but comes at an extra $22,000. This is being tested in a few weeks so for the time being here are just a few words on the 2.4 base model.
For base model, don’t read “poverty stricken”, very far from it. The car is elegant and has a good deal of road presence. The styling shows Honda’s taste for the understated with no outlandish embellishments. The headlights have the ubiquitous LEDs but otherwise is very Honda. It’s handsome in a chunky kind of way. The rear reminds me of a 10 year old BMW 7 series, with its high top edge seeming to jut up from the tail lights. It isn’t my favourite look but nor is it ugly. The tail lights themselves have an understated look matching the front end and also are adorned with LEDs.
The side view is the most successful angle showing a wide rear door and a handsome pair of lines running down to the front. The top line follows the wheel arch while the bottom line continues round onto the front lower bumper. It’s a good look and feels a little bit European. This angle also shows off the success of the larger wheels on the V6. Again, my only criticism, and it’s a small one, are those rear lights. The way the top line dips down as it comes forward, makes them look like they are about to come away in a breeze. Honda isn’t alone in doing this and it’s certainly is not as extreme as the IS from Lexus which push the boat way out.
In recent years the motoring fraternity have been noting that Honda had started to fall behind in what was expected from a “teens” cabin. In 2013 we want a big friendly LCDs with lots of functions built in. We want TV or video and that interweb thingie. We want a steering wheel strewn with a dizzying array buttons to do everything but run a hot bath. Honda, sadly, had shirked their design responsibility and had a bit of catching up to do. Sure, the Legend bristled with tech, but it remained unloved because the price was too big an ask. Ignore it and buyers will simply buy something else because we are now spoiled for choice. Even humble Holdens now park themselves.
So that Honda embarked on realising their catharsis with more buttons than a Chanel suit, more class than a room full of royals, and more space than the Rabbitohs home field. The cabin also feels to have had a bump up in quality too, although I did note some simulated dark wood trim which must be banished with all due haste. Keep in mind the Accord is aimed squarely at a slightly more matured buyer as the younger among us would opt for the Accord Euro, still my favourite Honda. Those buyers would be chuffed to see a simple layout which is easy to use and quite intuitive in its function. There are 2 LCDs stacked in the centre with a smaller one in the dials for driver info and all can be manipulated through various menus. The idea is that you set it up and leave it. You only really need to scroll if you want other functions. I’d like to have seen their control dial located directly under the screens with the Air Cond controls below that instead of the other way round, but that’s just a personal preference. The infotainment system responds fast. How annoying is it to push a button or touch the screen then to have enough time to make a coffee while waiting for a response.
The asymmetric dash and instrument binnacle once annoyed me but has now become the norm and here it feels right. The panel fit is not quite at Euro-Snob level yet but to buy a BMW or Merc of this size you will be paying at least double for the very basic model. The VTi is the entry level and costs around $34,990. You don’t get leather and some of the tricky bits of tech are absent too, but you still get a lot of car for the money.
The steering, engine and transmission remain unchanged and are used in other models. The cloth seats comfy but the lack of auto-on headlights and auto dipping mirror seems a bit mean.
We took the Accord up the F3 (now known as the M1 thanks to a government spending several million to rename it) to Newcastle, land of steel where the men are hard and scenery pretty, or something like that. The highway was a chance to feel tAccords mettle on a trip and I have to say the steering had a much nicer weight on the highway thanks to the variable assistance. The cruise control did most of the work and this is where is I was particularly impressed. The cruise won’t brake going downhill, but it will downshift instead and does a decent job of keeping the speed down. Remember, applying the brakes pauses the system so this is a great enhancement.
We passed lots of interesting cars along the way and here are just a few:
ABOVE: Torana and HQ Kingswood:
BELOW: Impala? Who knows?
In a short time we were in Newcastle and I took a spin to the beach where the MV Pasha Bulka ran aground.
It was now lunch time so I began looking for a place to regroup and Customs House was just the spot. It’s a shame the FREE PARKING sign isn’t more visible when a meter costs 4 bucks an hour. Lunch served by the hunky waiter, whom we will call Lars, was a rare steak that came out as medium.
I mulled over a few points: firstly, the Accord is a very easy and pleasant drive. The engine and 6 speed gearbox are as smooth as ever. Second is the fuel economy which is excellent and as low as 6 L/100k. Not bad for a car around the same size as a Commodore or Falcon. I found myself thinking that although there are plenty of choices one might make, at $35k, the Accord is good value and for a premium brand seems very reasonable. You have to pay an extra 11 grand to get the VTiL which has SatNav and a better stereo, and another 11 grand again to get the V6. That’s Holden Calais territory and the choice might then be more difficult.
Over all the package is a good one and the base model represent good buying if all you want is the space. I’d ask about the larger wheels because they make a huge difference to the outward appearance and are very sexy. Large wheels make a car look like the ones we scribbled on the backs of our books at school.
Would I buy one? Yes, if I was in the market for a large saloon. I’d have to have another think faced with $55,000 for the top model, but will revisit that after we’ve had a chance to get behind the wheel.
Another view of the Accord against the backdrop of the gorgeous Great Northern.