By Kingsley Wijayasinha
The 10th-generation Accord was introduced in May in three versions – the Turbo EL priced at Bt1.475 million, Hybrid at Bt1.639 million and Hybrid Tech at Bt1.799 million.
The new Accord takes on a more dramatic appearance with an aggressive front end and a lower and wider stance, as well as a lighter body and more rigid body structure. Meanwhile, the chassis is also lighter and more complicated.
There being no test cars for the hybrid as yet, I borrowed the Turbo EL last week from distributor Honda Automobile (Thailand) and had a pretty good time, encountering several surprises.
First is the engine size. With a saloon the size of the Accord (think BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class), you’d expect at least a 2.0-litre or even a 3.0 V6 engine to be offered.
In fact, the new Accord comes with a 1.5-litre engine, same size as the Honda City subcompact. But relief soon follows when you read the rest of the specs.
The 4-cylinder twin-cam 16-valve engine is turbocharged and is capable of pumping out as much as 190 horsepower. The 243Nm of torque (available across the range from 1,500-5,500rpm) might not be a head-turner, but the low-loss CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) does make up for it with instant response and speedy acceleration.
This 1.5-ilitre direct-injection VTEC turbo engine actually generates more power than the previous 2.4-litre engine, and at the same time is more fuel-efficient than the 2.0-litre engine.
Acceleration from 0-100km/h is slightly over nine seconds, and the top speed is approximately 190km/h.
Fire up the engine and, although a slight ticking sound can be heard outside the car, the cabin remains quiet. The engine revs up smoothly too, which is another pleasant surprise, especially for someone who prefers a silky V6 in a car this size.
According to Honda, the new model is 56kg lighter than its predecessor and the centre of gravity is marginally lower.
There are economy, normal and sport modes to choose from, via buttons beneath the gearshift lever. In sport mode, the rev counter is optimised and the engine note is slightly more audible (not much), apart from the boost in performance.
At low speeds you can feel a good amount of comfort being offered by the damping system (the steering is also super-light). It’s actually so comfortable that you’d expect it to fail badly in sporty driving, but that wasn’t the case.
The steering (the steering wheel also had the right dimensions for my Asian hands) provided excellent turn-in response and precision compared to the previous model (instantly reminded me of Mercedes-Benz steering), and the front strut/rear multi-link suspension held on well to corners, offering great balance between holding the road and comfort.
I liked cruising in the Accord on the motorway, which was highly relaxing, especially with the music on. At 120km/h, the Accord provided a comfortable ride with low wind and road noise plus good visibility (small A-pillars up front help a lot).
The seats were also comfortable, with entry/exit function and two memory settings for the front pair.
There’s plenty of room in the cabin (beige or black depending on the exterior colour), which is so wide that a short person would have difficulty reaching for the front passenger door opener.
There are large seats at the rear and legroom is excellent (thanks to a longer wheelbase), a plus for company executives and, in case of families, the kids and in-laws (who are at their best when asleep).
I also fancied the new infotainment system, which is easier to use than the previous design, and another nice surprise is that the sound quality has also been improved.
Apart from the electronics, the quieter cabin (Honda did really well in this department) also allows you to hear smaller details in the music.
You get AppleCarPlay, two USB ports in front (the Hybrid gets two more at the rear), and Siri voice command as well. Unfortunately the Turbo trim does not have the Head-up display (info on the front windscreen), navigation system (doesn’t matter since Google Maps is easier to use), Honda Connect or subwoofer.
In terms of high-tech safety, you get Honda LaneWatch (rear sideview image appears on eight-inch centre display), driver-attention monitor and lots of airbags.
But again, the goodies are reserved for the more expensive hybrid models – things like automatic emergency braking, cross-traffic alert and self-parking (which I’d appreciate due to the Accord’s large dimensions).
After five days with the new Accord 1.5 Turbo EL, I started wondering why someone would want to purchase an expensive European luxury car like the BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class when they can just buy the Accord at a much lower price and enjoy the benefits of a D-segment car.