Honda Accord 2.0 i-VTEC ES GT
Tourer Navi Auto review
by David Finlay (21 January 2009)
I'm feeling considerably happier about the Accord now that I've driven this version. The first of the current-generation models I drove was a diesel saloon, and as you can read in the resulting review there was much about it that displeased me. This one is a two-litre petrol estate, and I greatly prefer it.
There are two things which make the present car far more appealing: it is much quieter (the diesel is a thing of rattles, gurgles and whines which knock many thousands of pounds off its perceived value, while the petrol unit stays quiet unless you are revving it hard) and it is much nicer to drive.
Odd that an estate car, compromised by rear suspension which has to be designed to cope with possible heavy loads, should feel so much more precise and less wallowy than a saloon when you're pushing hard along deserted country lanes, but there it is. Even the use of low-profile tyres - often a reason to avoid a Honda and buy something else instead - doesn't do too much damage to the ride quality in this case.
The Tourer is also slightly better-looking than the saloon, at least in my opinion (and that of the international red dot award jury, which named it as winner of the Transportation category in March 2008), and it's every bit as comfortable to sit in thanks to the superbly-designed seats, so that's two more boxes ticked.
And of course the Tourer has a lot more luggage space. Oh, no, wait a minute, it doesn't, or at least not if you intend to carry passengers in the rear. With the back seats up the load volume is 406 litres, which is actually around 15% less than in the saloon. It's also less than what's provided in similarly-configured estate versions of the Audi A4, BMW-Series, Ford Mondeo, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Vauxhall Insignia. Only when you fold down the seats does the Tourer become a better cargo-carrier than its saloon equivalent.
And it's not as if the Tourer's luggage space is compromised to provide more room for humans. Japanese manufacturers tend to be very good at people-packaging, but the rear of the Accord is very cramped regardless of which body style you choose - astonishingly so for something which takes up so much road space.
Altogether, the Accord Tourer is a good car for driving (in this form anyway) and for showing off to neighbours and friends, but not so good for carrying more than two adults or a lot of luggage. It's also quite a good car for crashing in, if you're unfortunate enough to do that, at least according to Euro NCAP.
The safety organisation gave the Accord five stars out of five for adult occupant protection, four out of five for child occupant protection (no car has ever achieved the full score) and three out of four for pedestrian protection. Overall, that's a very decent result - nothing in Euro NCAP's Large Family Car category equals it, though the Accord did only averagely well in the recently-introduced whiplash test, despite the standard fitment of active head restraints.
The trim level of the test car is known as ES GT, and it includes a bodykit, front foglights, sports suspension, half-leather upholstery, a leather steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, a USB input for the MP3 player and dual climate control air-conditioning, none of which is fitted as standard to the entry-level (and £850 cheaper) ES. It also has 17" alloy wheels rather than the 16s on the ES.
So far we've accounted for just around £21,000, but there's more to come. For a start, the test car's full name includes the word Navi, which means it's fitted with an Advanced Navigation Pack (available either as an option or means you've bought a different car, according to choice). This is made up of DVD satellite navigation, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, an upgraded audio system with a 6-CD autochanger and a reversing camera which is probably the most useful item on the list.
The name also has the word Auto in it, and that refers to the five-speed automatic transmission. This is a good enough unit if you leave it to do its own thing, though there's a Sport mode too. I tried that once or twice but it made the box so keen to hang on to lower gears that the engine hardly ever dropped below 4000rpm, and I never found a use for that; temporary manual control of the gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddles was much more effective.
Navi Auto combined brings the total price of the car to £23,440 (plus another £416 for metallic paint if you want to drive exactly what I did). Running costs are inevitably higher for the automatic than the manual because of the extra fuel consumption - officially the difference is only 1.9mpg but I suspect it will be a lot more than that in real life, and it's also worth noting that the 17" wheels, or rather the tyres fitted to them, make the ES GT slightly thirstier than the cheaper ES.