Cleaner and sharper are the two descriptions Honda uses to describe the arrival of their refreshed Accord range of D segment Saloons and Tourer estates which are scheduled for release in the UK from 1 July, subject to any delay caused by the Japanese earthquake.
Nowhere in the PR blurb can I find the words 'more fun' or 'more pride of ownership' and those are something which would definitely improve the desirability of Accords.
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Don't get me wrong the Accord, launched in 2007, is a good, well engineered, reliable product but it fails to shine and it fails to make would-be customers desire ownership.
The Honda sales expectations speak for themselves with just 2,000 Accord Saloons and 1,000 Tourers being the UK target.
Around 70 per cent go to business, corporate and fleet customers and 90 per cent of Accord UK registrations go to the 2.2-litre diesel models. The age profile is 30 to 50 years for business users and 50 plus for retail customers.
To succeed in the diminishing upper medium D Segment, as retail and fleet customers downsize, the Honda Accord faces seriously stiff competition from the sales leading Vauxhall Insignia, the stalwart Ford Mondeo, the much improved new Volkswagen Passat and the Toyota Avensis to name but a few.
Honda Accord prices
But with the headline starter prices of £21,695 for the 2.0-litre i-VTEC ES Saloon and £23,050 for the Tourer version it would seem the latest Accords have price on their side.
But the fully equipped top of the range Type S version with the 180PS version of the 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel engine costs £29,400 for the Saloon and £30,755 for the Tourer.
That is getting into premium brand territory competing against Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.
But for any 'Steady Eddie' would-be Accord owner the highlights of the revised models unveiled at the recent Geneva Motor Show are lower CO2 emissions and better fuel economy to offset the continuous rise in fuel and taxation.
Honda Accord performance
Honda engineers have implemented a host of underbody aerodynamic aids, including a larger front air dam, underfloor and a rear subframe covers to smooth airflow and reduce drag.
Low friction wheel bearings are also used and Accords equipped with the automatic transmission benefit from reduced frictional losses in the gearbox and optimised ratios to help further improve economy and emissions.
Honda's refined 2.2-litre i-DTEC mainstream 150PS diesel unit has also received attention to reduce internal frictional losses.
These revisions have resulted in a 9g/km drop in CO2 emissions for the 6-speed manual Saloon, now achieving a sub 140g/km figure so VED road tax is now £115 for the new rates announced in the recent Budget and the new BIK company car tax is 20 per cent.
There is an 11g/km reduction to under 160g/km figure for the automatic variant so road tax is now £165 and BIK tax 23 per cent.
Honda says all of these improvements have been achieved without affecting the power and has improved refinement of the vehicle.
The full 2011 revised Accord engine line-up, depending on body style and trim and equipment levels, is the 2.2 i-DTEC turbodiesel 150PS/350Nm with 139g/km, the same unit but with higher output is 180PS/380nm and 147g/km, the 2.0 i-VTEC petrol 156PS/192Nm with 159g/km and the 2.4-litre petrol i-VTEC 201PS/234Nm and 199g/km. These CO2 figures are for Accord Saloons with manual transmissions.
Honda Accord specifications
Revised specification levels are ES, ES GT, EX and Type S with the 2.2-litre i-DTEC ES GT manual Saloon being the core model costing £24,695 and taking 32 per cent of all Accord sales.
This is exactly the model I had a brief test drive in prior to them going on sale in July this year. A higher level of standard equipment right across the range is aimed at the core business driver but it will equally appeal to retail buyers.
The specification now includes 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, MP3/i-Pod connectivity, cruise control, vehicle stability assist, dual zone climate control and a full range of airbags.
The usual electrically operated windows and door mirrors and energy conserving electronic power steering are of course standard fit items as well.
The GT specification, over the base ES level, adds half leather/cloth upholstery, alloy pedals, front footwell lighting, key fob operated windows, red instrument lighting, body styling kit for front and rear bumpers and side sills and front fog lights.
A major item missing on this level of specification, given the size and price of this car, were front and rear parking sensors.
Overall the refresh inside and out should give the latest Accords a mid-life boost to sales. It looks sharper outside and the handling and ride comfort is much better thanks to the European upgrades to the suspension, even with the new larger 17-inch wheels.
Honda Accord drive
The engine sounds quieter and smoother due to the latest technical upgrades and extra sound-proofing has given the interior a relaxed atmosphere.
The revised cabin layout looks good although the instruments and controls look daunting because there are so many of them and not logically laid out, perhaps a case of 'less is more' might be an idea.
The engine seems more refined now the frictions and vibrations are reduced and with 148bhp of power and 258lb ft (350Nm) of torque from 2,000rpm, it is responsive, flexible at low speeds and plenty fast enough on traffic free roads.
Top speed is 132mph and zero to 62mph takes 9.5 seconds. Special mention for the six-speed manual transmission. It is really slick and precise to use with the gear ratios really well chosen to make the best use of the torque available.
The car will quite happily trundle along in fifth gear at walking pace in traffic without fuss or stalling and slip it down into fourth and the car will pull away easily back up to speed.
The latest Accord still might not totally be a fun car to own but it is sensible, good to drive and there has been some obvious improvements made.
Honda Accord MILESTONES
Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC ES GT manual Saloon (main selling model).
Engine/transmission: 2.2-litre, four cylinder, all aluminium, common rail direct injection turbodiesel, 148bhp, 258lb ft (350Nm) of torque from 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual.
Performance: 132mph, 0-62mph 9.5 seconds, 52.3mpg Combined cycle (41.6mpg actual), CO2 138g/km, VED new road tax rate £115, BIK company car tax 20%.
Insurance group: 23.
Dimensions/capacities:four door/five seat saloon, L 4,726mm W 2,090mm, H 1,440mm, boot 460-litres.
For: Definitely improved, smart looking, high quality, competent, well made.
Against: Discounts in this segment are plentiful so in reality this price looks costly, lacks pride of ownership factor, no parking sensors as standard.