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"If Volkswagen can do it...
New Accord puts quality ahead of the driving experience.

'New Accord - premium quality with excellent ownership costs.' As press release headlines go, it's hardly the most captivating one we've ever read, but it gives you an insight as to Honda's aspirations for the seventh generation of its Mondeo-size saloon. Forget about hardcore Type R versions this time around; the new Accord is no sports saloon. But that hasn't stopped the VW Passat from being a desirable thing to own, and that territory is where Honda really wants to be with this car.

While the inside is a notable success, it's hard to say the same about the exterior. The problem is the rear end, which looks as though it has swallowed a shipping container - very square, high-decked, and deep-flanked. Meanwhile, the nose looks like it's from a completely different car - a Mazda 6, perhaps. It's not a pretty sight.

The cabin is where the Accord scores most of its points. The quality of the plastics and switchgear is easily a match for the likes of Volkswagen and Volvo, with very little that looks overly shiny or brittle. The overall effect is a lot classier than any of its Japanese rivals (including Lexus) can manage.

The Accord is competent in terms of space, too, with an extra 15mm of rear legroom over its predecessor and the car's enhanced width and height paying off here, although first impressions are that it's no better than, say, the Mazda 6.

All of the old single-cam engines have been ditched in favor of two twin-cam i-VTECs - the 153bhp 2.0 from the Stream, and a new 187bhp 2.4-liter version. In the Type-S tested here, the latter is a typical Honda engine - smooth, zingy, highly strung, a willing accomplice when you want to push hard (especially when mated to the sweetest manual 'box outside of a 911). Credit to honda for thinking about flexibility a bit, but this sort of car still needs more torque than the 164lb ft peak it's got. Rarely does this engine feel like it's making the best part of 190bhp, while the new drive-by-wire throttle is frustratingly jerky in light on/ off applications.

While the Mazda 6 has proven that the Japanese can compete dynamically with the best in Europe, the Accord is unable to make the same claim. At first, it all feels quite sophisticated, firm but comfortable and with a pleasing eagerness to point its nose into corners. But it doesn't take much to expose a strange lack of co-ordination between steering inputs and body movements and a general shortage of control, the tail trying to step out over mid-corner crests. And the driver has to fight against strong understeer in high-speed sweepers, while the otherwise smooth ride gets unsettled on rippled surfaces.

Honda claims the new Accord will be the class leader on running costs, which, along with its comfortable, classy, well-equipped cabin, certainly makes it worthy of consideration next to a Passat. However, we aren't at all keen on the way it looks, and dynamically it's well adrift of the terrific Mazda 6. Honda is on the right track, but the package is nowhere near complete just yet."
 
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