What a difference a good diesel makes. AM’s long term Honda Civic CTDi had to be taken off the fleet for a couple of weeks for attention to the steering rack – so Honda provided an Accord i-CTDi saloon to fill in.
The Civic uses Isuzu’s 1.7-litre 100bhp/162lb-ft EU III turbodiesel: claimed combined economy is 56.5mpg, a figure hopelessly beyond the reach of our drivers (44mpg is the best yet); and, as it needs to be thrashed hard to perform, it is gratingly noisy under (admittedly pretty strong) eventual acceleration.
The Accord’s diesel engine, however, is a gem. It’s the first diesel Honda has developed in-house (this, from a company which declared a few years back that the Accord would never become an oil-burner), and it’s a very nearly right-first-time job – we had no problems with the car but there have been reports of occasional faults with the throttle sensor.
We came respectably close to achieving the 52.3mpg of which the 2.2-litre iCDTi is said to be capable – (we achieved 48.5mpg). What impressed us more was the delivery of the Euro IV compliant unit’s 138bhp and 250lb-ft of torque, the latter at 2,000rpm; strongly, smoothly, quietly and virtually free of diesel rattle thanks to extraordinary lengths of mounting, damping and acoustic blanketing.
The fact that it can reach 60mph in just over nine seconds is a bonus.
Priced and equipped to appeal to corporate drivers, this is a saloon for which retail buyers should be forming a disorderly queue when the fleets have finished with them.
It’s a shame, considering the strong diesel competition it has from Ford, Vauxhall, PSA and Renault, that the current generation Civic isn’t equipped with a Honda-made iCDTi and won’t be having one. CR-V, HR-V and a new Civic-platformed Scenic rival are all said to be getting a version of the Honda diesel engine well before the Civic replacement, due to be launched early in 2006.
Strengths: Great engine: quick, quiet, economical, clean
Weakness: Interior lacks the gizmos expected of an £18,000-plus car – such as satnav, steering wheel audio and trip computer controls
Opportunity: Fleets mainly, but retail increasingly heading dieselward
Threat: New engine, new problems
USP: Honda diesel, made by Honda
Engine: Euro IV 4cyl 2.2-litre diesel, 138bhp, 250lb-ft
Transmission: 5spd man, fwd
Performance: 9.4sec 0-62mph; 131mph top speed
Efficiency: 52.3mpg (comb); 143g/km CO2
CAP RV (3yr/30k): £8,175 (44%)
Service intervals: 12,500 miles
Rivals: Mondeo 2.0 TDI 130, Vectra 1.9 CDTi 150, Passat TDI 130