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New Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC automatic review

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The new Honda Accord, both in saloon and Tourer estate forms, arrived in the UK in 2008 with a much bolder styling, a higher interior quality, and added specification to move the product closer to the premium end of the D-segment (upper medium), the home of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The range includes 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre petrol engines and the second generation 2.2-litre turbodiesel unit, all Euro 5 compliant. Whilst an automatic transmission was available for petrol powered models, until now the diesel variants were manual transmission only and that left a big hole in their line-up.

Now that gap is filled in the market with Honda's first ever automatic transmission for a diesel engine car which makes its debut in January 2009.

In addition to is much improved muscular and sporty body design the new Accord feels roomier and benefits from better levels of equipment targeted at the main type of user, company car drivers. There are ES and EX specification levels with standard and GT versions of those and the GT is the most popular. Honda feels users like the larger wheels, added sports trim and sports suspension GT offers.

Bearing in mind their business customers and the long hours these uses tend to spend behind the wheel, work tools such a Bluetooth connectivity, navigation packs and Technology pack are also featured as options. The latter is an Advanced Driver Assist System which includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping warning assist, HID Xenon headlights and automatic headlight height and washer system.

I have just tried the new Honda Accord Saloon, 2.2 i-DTEC EX GT Automatic, the top of the range saloon version with a hefty price of £27,824. Bearing in mind company car benefit in kind tax I would look lower down the price list and go for the ES non GT version at around £22,400.

I'm no great fan of the Honda GT specification. The sports suspension provides a ride which is much too firm and the road noise is high from the wider tyres and wheels. The added sports body kit with front, rear and side skirts look like add-ons, not integrated into the bodyshell as with the sporty Audi, BMW and Mercedes competitors.

However the new automatic gearbox with the 2.2-litre 150PS turbodiesel engine is an ideal combination. The new five-speed transmission uses the 350Nm of torque from 2,000rpm really well. The gearchanges are fast and smooth and they make the most of high torque at low speeds. The auto transmission system also has steering column paddle shifts in addition to the conventional shift selector lever.

The new auto makes for a refined and relaxing drive but it does blunt outright acceleration over the manual transmission models. Top speed is 129mph and 0-62mph takes10.3 seconds against manual gearbox models of 136mph and 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds. This is really not a consideration today with our congested roads where for the company car driver comfort and refinement and a less tiring drive have to be the most important criteria.

As for fuel economy? My test car returned a very good 34.7mpg and that was in the recent bitter cold spell which plays havoc with mpg figures. Officially this car will return 44.1mpg with CO2 figures of 170g/km giving it a VED Band E rating costing £170. This is one Band higher than the 148g/km of CO2, Band C, £120 rating of manual gearbox Accord saloon models.

The addition of an automatic gearbox with a diesel engine is an important addition to the range for business drivers and later in the car's life to retail buyers. It is a step on the Accord's 'model ladder' that had to be filled.

Honda Accord MILESTONES

New Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC EX GT Automatic Saloon

Price: £27,824

Engine/transmission: 2.2-kitre, four-cylinder direct injection turbocharged diesel, 150PS, 350Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, electronically controlled 5-speed automatic

Performance: 129mph, 0-62mph 10.3 seconds, 44.1mpg (34.7mpg actual), CO2 170g/km, VED Band E £170, BIK tax 22% (tbc), Insurance group: 11E (tbc)

For: Refinement, easy and relaxing to drive, fills an important gap in the Accord's model line-up

Against: Makes the Accord even more expensive, higher VED charges, steer clear of GT sports suspension models unless you like a very firm ride.