When Honda Malaysia calls on us to push their cars to the limit (or any other car company for that matter), it’s a proposition too hard to resist. A handful of media guests were invited to Kuala Terengganu for a 2-day extensive test programme of Honda’s newest pride, the all-new ninth generation Honda Accord.
We were eager to get revving as we took our test cars. Honda Malaysia had other plans for us instead; a complete product briefing… a classroom activity! But they didn’t let us down. Flown in from Japan to meet us were two key design project leaders of this all-new Accord, Mr. Yoshiyuki Kawaguchi and Mr. Kazuhide Take.
Both of them have experience with Honda Racing F1 Team and the Indy car scene, and of course, they too have been actively involved in the development of Honda’s other new models. So, they brought a wealth of insight into the making of this new Accord.
About the classroom activity we had, we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with the action-packed parts of our test programme!
We were told to take our cars up to 45 km/h and attempt to take a sharp turn without braking. Sounds easy, at first. They lined up four cars for us to try; a Nissan Teana, a 2012 Toyota Camry and both 2.0l and 2.4l variants of the new Accord. It’s pretty obvious where Honda was going with this shootout as they were sure they had the better car.
First, the Teana was quick to reach 45 km/h from the short take-off point, but it barely made the turn as we banked right and hard. No surprise actually. Next, the new Camry picked up decently too but only fared slightly better than the Teana.
Then of course, we took the Accord and made the turn with more poise and ease. The real star of the test (and Honda wanted us to remember this very eagerly) was the Accord’s Vehicle Stability System (VLS) that’s available in all its variants. On the fourth run, we were asked to turn on the VSA and viola, the Accord made the turn so tightly it almost felt like it was on rails. Steering input and feedback became crisper, giving us more confidence to make a fifth run and push it faster through the turn.
Only available in the full spec 2.4 VTi-L variant, there’s a tiny camera mounted on the left rearview mirror. When the signal indicator is flicked to the left, LaneWatch pops up on the huge 8” TFT display panel to assist lane switching. Alternatively, it could be left on all the time too.
The test was pretty straight forward with a twist. We were told to speed up to 80 km/h while two superbikes will chase us on the left. The LaneWatch proved to be effective in real life. However, LaneWatch doesn’t assist switching to the right lane for an obvious reason; you don’t look left to turn right!
Ah… the slalom where you get to push the car to its limits and it’s more fun when the car is not yours! So we started with the 2.5l Teana yet again followed by the 2.5l Camry. To be fair, both these cars fared pretty well although the Camry felt and looked better going through the course.
The 2.4VTi-L Accord beat the competition, only by a small margin. It had good traction going into corners but it does carry a slight power deficit.
Ok, this is just for fun. All of us had a chance to execute a reverse 180 (J-Turn) on the new Accord! Best of all, it was in the rain which made it slightly trickier.
In fact, the test was to demonstrate its 180-degree rear camera. The video on the 8” TFT was excellent enough for us to target our Accord in full reverse speed through a narrow entrance marked by cones. The Accord’s suspensions and driving input felt superb going into the drift. Needless to say, it was so much fun that Honda Malaysia’s Managing Director and CEO, Mr. Yoichiro Ueno decided to try it too!
Kuala Terengganu – Kuantan – Kuala Lumpur Drive Impressions
The next day, we first took the 2.0 VTi-L variant to Kuantan. As per Honda’s claims, ride and comfort are excellent if not the best for a Japanese D-segment car, period. The low noise, vibration &harshness (NVH) almost mimic that of its more expensive European counterparts.
On relatively smooth roads, the Accord rakes in the miles very comfortably at speed. However, the Accord felt unsettled on the bumpy stretches of the East Coast Expressway (LPT) due to its rather soft suspensions.
We managed to hit 210 km/h with a lot of coaxing required. Oddly from 180 km/h onwards, the bonnet began to shake visibly. Not a good thing, given that this is Honda’s pride after all.
From Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur, we took the 2.4VTi-L and this one felt a lot happier on the throttle. Better still, the paddle shifters and sport mode made it an interesting drive. Our 0-100 km/h result of 11.8s is remarkably spot on with what the brochure claimed. Also hit 210km/h with a little more ease compared to the 2.0l variant. But when we hit 220 km/h, the engine cut kicked in and that was that.
In the end, we made the 267 km final leg on approx. 40 litres of fuel (about RM84.00 for [email protected]/l) . That’s approx. 6.7 km/l (31sen/km) which is okay considering the way we pushed it.
Q&A With The Designers
Back to the classroom briefing we had before the tests. It is apparent that Honda has taken feedback from customers around the world very seriously and made serious effort into improving every little detail in the new Accord. From creating the most silent in cabin in its class to markedly improved handling, this Accord is Honda’s bid in a fiercely competitive D-segment.
There were heaps of technical details showing marked improvement over the last Accord and how they fare against its nearest rivals, mainly the Camry, Teana, Passat and current newsmaker Mazda6. The bombardment of tech-talk lasted a full 30 minutes; in short, Honda means business.
Asked if a hybrid variant is in the works, they said it is possible but nothing concrete yet. When asked about the speed limiter, Take-san reacted in shock and surprise! Later, his interpreter shared the translation “You hit 220km/h? But we set the limiter at 200km/h!” Oh well…
As they had very good cameras on the rear and on the left mirror, we asked if there was an on board driving video recorder (DVR) application. To our surprise, they said it was a good suggestion given the current trend of drivers concerned with security and also that the Accord’s integrated entertainment system has a storage device. We certainly hope a factory-fitted front-facing camera and DRV app will make its way into the Accord soon, making it the first to have such a system in-built.
Reaching An Accord
At RM172,800 for the 2.4VTi-L variant, this ninth generation Accord is indeed a solid package. The big “but” is, will car buyers understand what’s great about this new Accord?
Painstakingly, Honda has improved everything about the Accord, perhaps at the expense of looking at the big picture. How does Honda communicate 30 minutes of tech-talk into a convincing 1-minute sales pitch?
Toyota is a brand the majority thinks is reliable and that bodes well for the Camry. Mazda’s newest “6” appears to be the talk of the town. Let’s not forget the Korean and European makes too. Can Honda rebuild Accord’s image as a desirable D-segment car among all this competition?
37 years and 8 generations later, we would have come to expect this ninth generation to be ground breaking like its predecessors. Instead, first impressions from its looks alone suggest Honda took a very conservative approach.
Like Apple, they may have taken a great product and made it better without radically changing its looks. Unlike Apple, Honda isn’t the most desirable brand at this moment and the Accord isn’t exactly winning people’s choice awards. It will sell well, but it remains to be seen if it will win the hearts of Malaysians.
But like a good book, the new Accord is a culmination of years of dedication and refinement, and deserves to be carefully considered and appreciated. In a nutshell, this is an impressive and solid car that well-deserves to continue the legacy and adorn that prestigious badge titled the “Accord”.
words & pix: Vinod Nair