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New Car Test - Honda Accord Euro Luxury

When adding luxury equipment and boosting the price doesn't equal a better car.

by Julian Edgar

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Our previous test of the Honda Euro Accord base model "New Car Test - Honda Accord Euro" is one of the most enthusiastic we've ever done. We loved how the engine worked with the manual 6-speed transmission, we loved the handling and ride and equipment level - and most of all, we loved all of that for the price. So how can we be somewhat less enthusiastic about the Euro Accord Luxury? Isn't it going to be just a case of more = better? After all, the Lux has more equipment - including impressive front and rear curtain airbags and a sunroof and full leather - and in tested form, also boasts a very sweet tiptronic-style 5-speed auto trans.

But the price has also risen substantially, and at $42,800 the Euro suddenly finds itself competing in a different class. Much as we said of the top-of-the-line Mazda 6 Luxury ["New Car Test - Mazda 6 Luxury Sedan"], when you get into the low-forties and want something smooth, competent, well-equipped and with an auto-trans, we think that those cars with torquey, larger capacity engines simply do it much better. In this market, a Camry V6 or Magna V6, for example. (And perhaps even the non-Euro Accord V6, which we haven't yet driven.)

That's not to say that the auto trans Luxury Euro is a poor car, but the driving cohesion and sheer value brilliance of the base model is not repeated with this upmarket, auto trans model.

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But some of that is putting the cart before the horse, so let's go back to the beginning. Honda in their wisdom has decided to market two completely different models of Accord in Australia - the Euro Accord (as tested here) is the smaller of the two, and is equipped with a 2.4-litre, I-VTEC, four-cylinder engine developing 140kW at 6800 rpm and a peak torque of 223Nm at 4500 rpm. The larger Accord is available either with the same four-cylinder engine or alternatively, a 177kW V6. The pricing of the two models heavily overlaps, with the base models of both cars $34,250, the as-tested top of the line auto trans Euro Accord Luxury $42,800, and the premium V6 Accord priced at $45,240.

So for the $42,800 of the car shown here you could buy the larger Accord in V6 form - and have some change left over. You can get the V6 Accord only as an auto, but - to take us back to where the discussion began - the auto V6 is likely to be better on the road than the auto-trans 2.4....

Hmmm, all very confusing.

The other confusing aspect is that the $34,250 and $42,800 Euro Accords (respectively, base model manual 6-speed and luxury auto-trans 5-speed) share nearly everything that is important. They have the same engines, same suspension, same brakes, same stability control systems, same sound systems, same climate controls, same ABS, same wheels and tyres.... In fact, that 25 per cent extra cost is because of the use of the auto trans and the fitting of low-beam HID headlights (which aren't particularly good - the beam cut-off is too abrupt), a sunroof, rain-sensitive wipers, curtain airbags, some odd-looking woodgrain trim and leather and electric (non-memory) seats.

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But enough of comparing the Euro Accord Lux with other cars. Step inside and you'll be impressed with the quality of the cabin and the equipment that's available. Dual-zone climate control and a top-sounding in-dash 6-stack CD player are immediately notable, the doors shut with a superb sound, and the build quality is flawless. Start the engine and the noise and vibration is well subdued - although in this $42,000 class, not the best around.

Select Drive and find that the 5-speed auto transmission is quick-changing and intelligent - Honda make amongst the best of auto transmissions and this is another that is nearly impossible to catch in the wrong gear. And if you're not happy with its actions, push the lever across and make the manual changes yourself - in this mode, the gearshifts are quick and obedient. The only downer specific to the auto trans is noise - at times it squeals loudly when moving away from a start and some whines can also be heard.

Engine response is quite adequate, although with this transmission it never really feels like 140kW... unless engine revs are way up there. Which they often are, even unintentionally. At only moderately large throttle openings you'll find sometimes there's four or even five thousand revs on board - that's especially the case on hilly roads. Unless you're driving only gently, you're always aware that this is (relative to a larger six cylinder) a torqueless four-cylinder engine.

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The handling is very good, with the stability control very well programmed and intervening only at very high cornering levels. (Stability control automatically brakes individual wheels to guide the car back onto course if it is understeering or oversteering - that is, sliding.) However, the auto trans Euro is noticeably harder than the manual 6-speed to drive quickly along a winding country road; unless the auto is being manually held in gears, the throttle control is vastly inferior to the manual model, and of course there is one less torque multiplication ratio. Talking of throttle control, the electronic system has a small dead spot at zero percent opening, making for a little jerk each time you get off and then back on the accelerator.

During our time with the car it returned a fuel economy of around 9 litres/100 km (incidentally, one of the noticeable equipment omissions is any form of fuel consumption display) and 100 km/h arrived from a standstill in about 9.5 seconds.

The seats are comfortable and have excellent side support, with the driver's having 8-way electric adjustment and the passenger seat, 4-way adjustment. There are plentiful storage compartments around the cabin, including a usefully large cubby hole located ahead of the gearshift. A cover folds down over this space, concealing valuables from prying eyes. However, the glovebox is tiny.

Step into the back seat through the wide-opening rear doors and with the exception of one dimension, even two adults will be quite comfortable. And that dimension? It's foot space - if the driver hasn't got the front seat wound up in height, rear toe room is at a minimum. It's a better story behind the front passenger, simply because that front seat isn't height-adjustable.

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The boot is large and well shaped, while the rear seat folds forward on a 70:30 split. The '30' part folds flat, but the larger section of the rear seat back doesn't flip forward quite as far. This section is also limited in utility because of the sash of the centre seatbelt stays in the way, unless it is unthreaded from its holder. Access into the boot is fairly tight - especially for cube-shaped boxes - and with the seats folded, the opening into the cabin is far less than full width.

The climate control doesn't quite live up to its on-paper spec. While powerful in its cooling and heating functions, its temperature - especially with the air conditioning on - can fluctuate noticeably. (The system uses a sunlight sensor on the dash and when the sun passes behind a cloud, the air temp rises annoyingly.)

But look, we don't want to give you the feeling that the auto trans Euro Accord Luxury is a bad car. It isn't. In fact we think that many buyers of the car will be happy - they'll like the handling and (firmish) ride, they'll like the build quality and the equipment. But, for us, the Euro Accord in manual transmission, base model form is brilliant for the money.

In Luxury incarnation, it's simply a competent all-rounder.

Why you would:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Very good on-road - especially in handling
  • Very good equipment level

Why you wouldn't:

  • Lacks effortless, torquey performance of competitor V6 autos
  • Climate control varies noticeably in temperature
  • Some throttle jerkiness

The Honda Euro Accord Luxury was made available for this test by Honda Australia

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