To be driven Accordingly

The newest Honda Accord is a mildly face-lifted version of the eighth generation model bearing the Accord name.  This latest incarnation is easily identifiable by the deeper wheel arch definition, giving it an elegant yet purposeful stance.  Reduced CO2, minor styling changes plus ride and handling improvements form the focus of the revisions.

The Honda parents gave this baby the rather unwieldy model variant name of i-DTEC SE GT.  This makes it a fairly well loaded version but its interior has a slightly dated feel – probably because it’s missing a couple of toys that rivals are keen to provide: lights don’t come on automatically, there’s no lane departure warning and the sat-nav graphics remind me of early computer aided design systems from the 1980s (2D with skinny lines for roads).  The front seat shapes are a little odd, being more winged arm chairs than car seats.  This is fine for comfort but does make hunting for the seat belt a bit of a challenge.

Looking at the facia, there is little to lift the black trim, excepting the red marks on the dials.  There is a large control in the middle of the dash which is more pig’s nose than slick input device; nor does it provide a particularly accurate action for the audio and navigation options.  Otherwise, the instruments are very neat, easy to use and the facia is attractively sculpted.

So, smarter on the outside than the Toyota Avensis, fresher than the Mazda 6 and more elegant than the Mondeo yet slightly uninspiring inside.  And behind the wheel it didn’t stir any real emotions one way or the other to start with, either.  Yet after a couple of days, the Accord became my friend.  It also has the peculiar trait of not encouraging me to want to explore its performance and handling characteristics.  I don’t think I have ever driven in quite such a calm, safe manner.

While stepping close to the dangerous territory of being boring, the Accord satisfies its remit – that of middle management barge – rather well.  The 2.2 litre diesel also contributes to this picture.  Marginally gruff (especially when cold) and not particularly powerful, its slightly larger-than-average swept volume delivers a comfortable 350 Nm of torque.  This adds to the lack of desire to explore the higher rev ranges because it pulls well at any speed in any gear.  In fact, it’ll pull away from a standstill in third with the engine at idle, foot off the accelerator, without stalling.  Even without the almost obligatory stop-start, this engine is frugal and the CO2 emission levels are fleet-friendly.

The more I drive the Accord, the more accomplished it feels.  The ride isn’t as fluid as the class-leading Mondeo’s but it is still very competent, and along with the lazy engine, it’s a good place to be.  In an attempt to stir the soul, I picked something evocative on the iPod and went for a drive.  Clearly the Accord understood this would threaten the calm and told me the MP3 player was now an ‘unsupported device’ (even though it had worked fine for nearly a week) and refused to play my music.

So, no passionate, Latin temperament here.  However the Accord allows you to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs – a remarkable achievement.

Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC ES GT:

Power: 148 hp @ 4,000 rpm, torque: 350 Nm @ 2,000-2,750 rpm, 0-60 mph 9.4 seconds, CO2: 138 g/km

Prices from £23,795 for the saloon with the 2.2 iDTEC engine.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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