The Honda Accord Type S, a brand builder for Honda SA, takes on the medium sector in what CARtoday.com found to be a quick and quiet fashion.

The Honda Accord Type S, a brand builder for Honda SA, takes on the medium sector in what CARtoday.com found to be a quick and quiet fashion.

It’s been two years since Honda South Africa started importing cars under its own steam and the new Accord is arguably the most exciting Honda passenger car to hit our shores in this period.

With the 2,4-litre four cylinder Accord Type S, Honda SA is entering the entry-level sector of a market that is dominated by the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 heavyweights.

Only one variant of the Accord, fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS with EBD (electronic braking distribution) and brake assist, six airbags, electric windows, front-loading CD player, climate control, cruise control and a vehicle stability assist system as standard, has been launched. It retails for a competitive R242 000, including a three-year warranty and three-year/60 000 km maintenance plan.

Honda sells about 500 000 Accords around the world each year, 80 per cent of them in the United States. But the version launched in the Lowveld on Wednesday should not be confused with its American-orientated sibling… The Type S that has been made available in South Africa is the seventh-generation European and Japanese-specced Accord, which is based on a brand new platform, and features head-turning wedgy styling, a slick six-speed gearbox and a sporty suspension.

From our first experiences, we suggest that the Accord Type S is indeed as serious a driver’s car as Honda SA suggests. The test cars might have been fitted with the optional, grippy 17-inch alloys and tyres, but the Accord Type S double wishbone front and sophisticated five-link independent rear suspension got ample opportunity to prove its worth on the winding roads of Mpumalanga.

Its double overhead cam, 16-valve engine features Honda’s I-VTEC (variable valve timing and lift control), VTC (variable valve timing) and electronic throttle “drive-by-wire” control. Maximum power of 140 kW is developed 6 800 r/min, and peak torque output of 220 N.m is achieved at 4 500 r/min. Honda further claims that 200 N.m of torque is produced from as low as 2 000 r/min and that the engine achieves a consumption of 9,4 litres per 100 km on the combined European cycle.

The Type S driving experience is poised and instils confidence. The suspension soaks up irregularities in the road with aplomb and the steering feels as precise and balanced as would be expected from the best cars currently available in the medium saloon sector. The engine is very responsive and particularly flexible. The clutch action is light and the gear swapping is quite easy… although some might find the six-speed ‘box tiresome to use in peak and/or stop-start traffic.

But what might be the most impressive aspect of the car is its on-road demeanour. The sleek, sharply defined profile of the car, complete with a chrome-rimmed V-shaped grille, long and slender headlights, deep front spoiler, rising waistline and short bootlid that ends in a sharp trailing end, before dropping almost vertically to a bumper that extends downwards close to the road, give the Accord a drag coefficient of a 0,26.

The competitive drag factor, in addition to typically-Honda interior fit and finish and improvements to stiffness of the bodyshell (the manufacturer claims that torsional stiffness is up by 17 per cent and bending stiffness by 13 per cent) helps to make the Accord a very quiet car to drive.

It is difficult to predict whether the arresting sporty styling of the car, complete with chromed doorhandles and twin tailpipes, will be an instant hit on the South African market. However, the interior - especially the central instrument binnacle - of the car is an exercise in classic form follows function.

The seats, which offer additional lumbar support in the front, are trimmed in leather and fabric, the boot is large by medium saloon standards and the rear seating space is good.

The multi-function steering wheel is height and reach adjustable and the console features a large LED display with radio and CD control buttons and a central control knob. To either side of the central control knob are easy-to-use dual climate control knobs for the driver and the front passenger.

Honda South Africa will be making up to 30 Accord Type S units available to its 19 dealers across the country each month.

“Honda SA is currently investigating the possible introduction of an Executive version of the same car, which will focus even more on comfort and luxury and slightly less on sportiness, and will be fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission rather than a six-speed manual,” the company’s managing director, Mashahiro Matsushita, said on Wednesday.