01 June 2006
Basking in the limelight of gushing headlines and critical acclaim, the space age Honda Civic's wedge styling seems just an innovative marketing campaign away from success.
But with all the attention surrounding the Honda hatch, it would be easy to neglect the manufacturer's more than capable other new arrival, the 2006 Accord.
There was little wrong with the car, but Honda felt a quick nip and tuck was in order to keep up with new rivals like VW's Passat, our new fleet car of the year.
The new model can be distinguished by new front and rear bumpers, side skirts and headlamps, while the Tourer estate version has standard roof rails.
Inside the cabin it's as spacious and classy as ever, but kit-count rises. All models receive hands-free calling via Bluetooth phones and voice-activated technology, enabling audio, aircon and route guidance adjustments (optional satnav is £500) to be made without lifting a hand from the steering wheel.
The star of the Accord range, the diesel, now receives a six-speed gearbox, although it's not quite the great news it sounds on paper. The six-cog Accord is only fractionally quicker to 60mph, uses a little more fuel and, disappointingly, emits more CO2, slotting in a band higher than the old version (19%). The old diesel's unusual muted whirring noise remains, but refinement is still high. On the motorway the new gearbox's real benefits are realised as the longer legged Accord turns over at just 2000rpm at a 70mph cruising speed, some 200rpm less than before, meaning a quiet car is now even quieter.
Splashing out on the range topping 190PS 2.4-litre petrol means getting the ingenious Lane Keeping Assist System and Adaptive cruise control we tested back last autumn (Fleet Week, August 10). Once familiar, both promise to make motorways a safer and more relaxing place.
The entry 2.0 petrol gets changes under the bonnet, with more power (155PS) and drive-by-wire throttle so Honda can add the VSA anti-skid technology if the option box is ticked. At the same time, peak power and torque are more accessible thanks to a drop by 500rpm in an attempt to boost flexibility.
On B-roads the Accord is still a delight, with great body control, high grip and real talent through the turns, while the ride, be it on 16-inch or the bigger 17-inch wheels, soaks away any intrusions.
Running costs are one place the Honda is beaten, by both the Passat and the more prestigious BMW, but expect the added revisions to maintain fleet desirability.