Test drive: Honda Accord

The Honda Accord soldiers on with a 5AT and no turbos, but it impresses nonetheless thanks to a lengthened list of features

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For much of my childhood in sleepy Malacca I was convinced the Toyota Camry was the pinnacle of car ownership. My primary school principal and his assistant were owners of the early 90s XV10 model, as were many other folk who dressed as prim and proper as they did. The Honda Accord was the segment’s rascal then, attractive by D-segment standards to the younger crowd, but neither comfy enough nor simple enough to maintain for those moving up from hardy workhorses such as the Datsun 130Y and Toyota KE70. But enough time has passed for the tides to change completely.

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Last year, Honda Malaysia outperformed every manufacturer in Malaysia, apart from Perodua, with 91,830 cars sold, 2,400 of which were Honda Accords. While it isn’t a colossal amount percentage-wise, the Accord’s steady shipment averaging 200 units per month was enough to push it to the top of the D-segment ahead of the Toyota Camry, Nissan Teana and Mazda6. It’s no secret this market is past its heyday, but Honda may have got the edge during such a challenging period thanks to the mid-life update applied to the Accord late last year.

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The facelift may not have changed the way the Accord drives at all, but it raises its appeal tremendously in terms of value with the base 2.0 VTi gaining halogen headlamps, keyless ignition, cruise control and hands-free mobile connectivity for just a small premium over the pre-facelift. The slightly pricier 2.0 VTi-L becomes the recipient of features once exclusive to the range-topping 2.4 VTi-L, including our long-time favourite, the Honda LaneWatch Camera which virtually eliminates all blind spots not visible via the passenger-side wing mirror.

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This leaves little room for improvement in the highest-spec variant, which Honda managed to plug anyway, most notably with LED headlights clearly designed in accordance with the Honda Civic 1.5T Premium’s bright and sparkly eyes. The 2.4’s list of improvements isn’t as long as those of its 2.0 siblings, but it’s the only variant to have become cheaper – by RM5,000 to be precise – despite being updated with more kit. This is partly down to the omission of sat-nav, but it’s worth noting the 7.7-inch head unit is now Apple Carplay-compatible, which allows the projection of Waze directions easily onto the screen. Those who don’t have an iPhone can use MirrorLink, with Honda certain the system is ready for Android Auto once it’s made available here.

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It’s unfortunate the Accord’s powertrains aren’t updated accordingly at a time when the brand is championing forced induction with the 10th-generation Civic. But Honda’s locally assembled flagship isn’t a bad car to drive in the first place. More importantly, it doesn’t feel dated despite its continued use of large displacements and a 5-speed torque converter automatic.

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We had a go at the 2.4 in the media drive from Kuala Lumpur to Pahang and back and found the Accord to still be exceptionally refined by class standards despite being close to four years old. Of course, it still doesn’t ride as softly as a Nissan Teana, while the new Camry still holds a very narrow lead where NVH is concerned. It also isn’t nearly as engaging as the brilliant but expensive Mazda6. However, there’s a greater sense of balance between performance for the driver and ride quality for the passenger in the Accord than all of its younger rivals, which goes to show a competitive spread of talents is sometimes better than excellence in isolated areas.

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Accord for Accord, we noticed the sole 2.0 unit in the fleet had no trouble keeping up with the pack of 2.4s. Based on previous driving experience, both variants are similarly adept at maintaining high-speed cruises on the highway, with the main difference being the effort put into getting there – the average Joe can differentiate that from the way the engines sound under load. True enough, the meaty top ends of both models became a constant threat to the turbocharged Civic tasked to lead the convoy throughout the journey.

With little separating the two in a straight line, assuming you can tolerate the extra strain on the 2.0 required to keep up, our money is on the 2.0 VTi-L as the go-to variant now that it is kitted up with all the features that made the pre-facelift 2.4 so appealing (we’re looking at you again, LaneWatch). The naturally aspirated mid-range of the latter is sweet, but having to fork out nine times the amount of road tax imposed on a RM1.2mil BMW i8 for that little bit of oomph can be frustrating over the years. Performance aside, the only thing you’ll really miss are the 2.4’s LED headlamps, but we won’t be surprised to see them retrofitted to 2.0s in the future.

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With prices ranging from RM145k to RM173k, the Accord is pegged between ever improving C-segment offerings such as Honda’s very own Civic and Hyundai’s do-it-all Ioniq, as well as base models of premium makes such as the recently launched Audi A4 1.4 TFSI and BMW 318i, especially during promotion periods. It’s a situation that has seen the segment wiped out in a few other markets. But for as long as the belief still exists in Malaysia, the all-round comfort and refinement delivered by the Accord for relatively accessible prices will convince buyers the D-segment still has a place in our industry.

SPECS

Honda Accord 2.0L
Price: RM144,800-RM153,800
Engine: 1,997cc, 4-cylinder SOHC, i-VTEC, 153bhp, 190Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, FWD
Weight: 1,510kg-1,530kg

Honda Accord 2.4L
Price: RM172,800
Engine: 2,356cc, 4-cylinder DOHC, i-VTEC, 172bhp, 225Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, FWD
Weight: 1,565kg

Author: Daryl Loy

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