South Africans used to love the humble family saloon. Remember the days when Toyota Camrys and Nissan Maximas used to be the wheels of choice for getting the kids to school and the annual family holiday? Today the SUV has taken over that role and the saloon body style has now become the de facto choice of those occupying a higher income bracket, usually with a German badge on the nose. But is it time for the return of a more sophisticated saloon offering extra space but at a more affordable price?
Honda thinks so and has launched the 9th iteration of the Accord, a model that’s been on our market since its third generation during the 1980s. Although the previous Accords were sourced from the European Honda stable, the new version has more of an American flavour (41% of all Accord sales are in the US). The range includes the 2,0-litre Elegance (114 kW), 2,4-litre Executive (132 kW) and 3,5-litre V6 Exclusive (206 kW) – all petrol engines. The reason for this move is to include the range topping V6 in a bid to enter the premium executive market segment. Unfortunately this deleted the option of manual gearboxes and diesel powertrains, both of which have become welcomed staples within the segment.
The new Accord has grown in all directions compared to the previous model in a bid to maximise interior space. It is now 160 mm longer (70 mm longer wheelbase) which frees up ample legroom for second row occupants although the taller folks will still brush their scalps on the sloping rear roof liner. The swallow boot, owing to the fitment of a full size spare, still offers a respectable 453 litres of luggage space and the rear backrests can be folded flat to improve carrying capacity.
Styling wise, from the outside it is clean albeit generic in design, without any offensive elements but also nothing to get the heart racing. The interior follows the same trend with a clean dash sporting two screens (the closest featuring touch-input capability), firm leather seats and an old-school transmission lever. Silver inlays break up the grey monotone and the perceived quality is good, although a rattle on one test car did however annoy.
Although the 2,0-litre Elegance is the entry-level model, it has no shortage of creature comforts. Dual climate control, cruise control, electric windows and front seat adjustment, front seat heaters and a six-speaker audio system are standard. Unlike some of its German rivals, you cannot spec the vehicle to personal preference (and inflate the price) as what you see is what you get – which is not necessarily a bad thing.
The driving experience is aimed at the typical mature buyer profile that wants a comfortable, spacious vehicle without overly sporty dynamics. Therefore, it came as little surprise that the launch route covered mostly motorway driving, missing the spectacular mountain passes offered by the Western Cape Winelands. Tyre squeal and a slightly unsettled demeanour in terms of body control when briskly exiting one of the off-ramps en-route explained the latter decision but the Accord acquitted itself fairly well everywhere else. Road noise is well suppressed and the ride supple, although I would actually have preferred an even softer suspension set-up on a vehicle of this ilk.
The naturally aspirated, 2,0-litre unit (Honda plans to introduce it first turbopetrol engines in other model ranges including the Civic Type R) delivers adequate performance while Honda claims a decent fuel figure of 7,5 litres/100 km. The five-speed gearbox is tad slow but fits the application.
The Accord will definitely appeal to the more conservative buyer who values reliability and ownership satisfaction over premium badging, and the 2,0-litre Elegance model clearly stands out as the best value proposition in the new range . Whether Honda has made the right move by opting to go for the introduction of American models in its local model line-up remains to be seen. But the omission of diesel powerplants and manual gearboxes could well be telling.
Honda Accord 2.0 Elegance R389 000
Honda Accord 2.4 Executive R449 000
Honda Accord 3.5 V6 Exclusive R549 000