Accord-ing to age
By David Morgan
I CAN'T get my head round Honda's most expensive four-door Accord.
The Type S is an expensive and well-equipped saloon full of contradictions. For a start it is powered by a diesel, has a large body and looks like it should be driven by a sober-minded bank manager or country GP.
Styling suggests its buyers are not moved by passion and feel disproportionate panels and a heavyweight rear end are part and parcel of "sensible motoring".
Yet the Accord is supremely well-built, incredibly comfortable, turns in a powerful performance with tug-like torque and rides on massive 18-inch wheels with 45 section, low-profile tyres that look like they would be more at home on a hot hatch.
In short, the Accord Type S has an identity crisis – it looks like a sober carriage for five trying to be a jack-the-lad in its spare time.
At the end of the day it succeeds best as a sober carriage and does not do the "flash Harry" act at all well.
There are 15 Accord saloon models, ranging from a sensible 154bhp two-litre petrol ES costing £21,705 to the Type S I had on test – a 177bhp 2.2 turbodiesel that drips standard features and costs an eye-watering £29,405.
Frankly that's too much to pay for a four-door Accord and there are better bargains in the range, such as the excellent 2.2 i-DTEC ES at £23,800 that has the same capacity as the Type S but manages perfectly well with a 148bhp delivery and marginally reduced torque that gives better consumption, lower noise levels and more refinement.
I've driven many Accord models and despite their rather dull image I regard them as one of the staples of the traditional saloon sector.
They tend to be sensible, easy rides that turn in dependable progress and woo drivers into replacing one with another.
But the Type S endears none of that. The ride quality is firm and tyre roar is atrocious. The road noise drowns out conversation and the engine decibels, though not particularly loud, are well above those you'd get from the 148bhp version of the same unit.
Honda argues that the Type S appeals to sporting drivers. That may be so, but I know very few "sporting" drivers who would choose an Accord as their preferred mode of transport.
It's just far too sensible – far too ordinary looking and far too conservative.
If the Type S was particularly fast Honda might have a point – but it's not. The acceleration from rest to 62mph is a reasonable 8.8 seconds, but the 148bhp version can do it in 9.4 seconds thanks to that torquey turbodiesel.
Top speed is 136mph, but in these speed-challenged days rather academic – and anyway the 148bhp ES version can hit 131mph.
Front-wheel-drive ensures viceless handling, although cornering in the wet can induce some understeer as the heavy 2.2-litre oil burner's bulk tugs at the front of the car.
But it's safe and predictable, and long journeys on smooth roads are a pleasure provided the tyre noise does not intrude.
Drive on a west coast single-tracker and the Type S proves just how harsh the tyre racket can get.
At 4.72 metres long the Accord is bulky – in the same kind of territory as the Mondeo and Insignia. Both offer more for less, with a more agile ride and lower costs.
The Honda's strongest point as a direct competitor is the car's legendary reliability and that the badge appeals more to private buyers who value the relatively exclusivity of the Japanese middleweight.
In its favour, the Accord has great pulling power. The six-speed manual transmission feels sporty, with a short-throw lever. The ratios are well spaced and the engine's torque makes progress a laid-back affair.
The diesel revs quite hard, with maximum torque not arriving until 2000rpm and maximum power available at 4000rpm – but it lacks for nothing right through the performance range.
Chipped for more grunt from the standard 148bhp, the 177bhp version tends to sound gruffer and averaged 41.3mpg overall on my test.
The combined average suggested by government figures is 50.4mpg – a figure I only came close to on a long, easy run from Moray to Fraserburgh. Mind you, a low CO₂ figure delivers a reasonable road tax band F, with an annual fee of £130.
The Type S comes with a generous level of equipment that includes standard leather and plenty of equipment. Both front seats are eight-way electrically adjustable and get a heating system with high and low settings.
A two-position memory function for the driver's seat means you can have your own position dialed in permanently with a secondary setting for the occasional guest driver.
The leather is high quality, soft and very comfortable – and whether you travel in the front or the back, visibility is good and support excellent.
The rear seats are 40/60 split and folders but, despite a boot that is big on paper at 460 litres, the floor moulding is awkward with slopes on either side, and there's a shallow step where the seats fold.
The boot aperture is shallow but you can release the rear seat-backs from the boot.
Plenty of storage cubby holes between the front seats and a large glove compartment and door pockets make the Accord easy to live with, and the dash and instruments have a no-nonsense appeal with top quality materials and a well-assembled appearance.
It's that kind of solidity that saves the day for the Type S. At 1.6 tonnes at the kerb it's a real heavyweight – but that helps add a feeling of security on the road.
If you can live with the Accord's bland style, its slabby flanks and ungainly tail, you will be rewarded with a faithful and comfortable saloon with bags of space for five people.
It also promises to be reliability personified and comes with a three-year standard warranty along with a mileage limit of 90,000 miles. Servicing is variable and this bold diesel can tow up to 1.7 tonnes.
I'd have felt happier with a less jazzed-up version of the Accord. This is a car that does sober better that razzmatazz.
The 2.2 i-DTEC with its advanced electronic management control is a good unit strapped into a fundamentally good car – but time is marching on and the Accord is beginning to show its basic design age, especially against its racy little new Civic sister.
FINAL THOUGHT: Odd choice for a performance car that is big and very roomy, exceptionally well equipped and with a strong turbodiesel engine. Awkward styling that works best with less powerful engines and more sensible specifications.
Honda Accord Type S saloon
- Price: £29,405
- Capacity: 2199cc
- Power: 177bhp
- 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
- Maximum speed: 136mph
- Economy: Combined 50.4mpg, Urban 39.8mpg
- CO2 emissions: 174/km (VED F)
- ESP: VSA standard
- Insurance: Group 28 (new 1-50 Grouping System)