At the launch of the current Accord in 2003, Honda executives were at pains to stress the car’s positioning as a competitor to premium rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
Success has been limited, but with the new model Honda is far more confident about achieving its premium objectives.
To meet those goals, the car has been benchmarked against BMW for ride, handling and engines, Lexus for technology and Audi for quality and consistency.
It is expected to take business from Jaguar X-Type, Volvo S60, Saab 9-5, Audi A4 and lower-end BMW 3 Series.
Honda is pitching the new Accord – in the showrooms in June – as ‘alternative premium’, a buzz phrase which refers to more than simply the product.
Honda wants dealers to help differentiate its brand by the premium ownership experience they offer buyers.
According to Bernard Bradley, Honda UK general manager – cars: “We will differentiate ourselves through customer experience and a consistent experience across the country.”
That will be vital to fend off pressure from carmakers like Ford with the Mondeo and Vauxhall with the forthcoming Insignia – both have an upmarket look and feel.
With a starting price of £19,260, the new Accord is around £2,000 more than the current model, but Honda claims greater value for money because of the higher specifications.
The key grade of diesel saloon will be the ES GT, starting at £21,910, which has 17-inch alloy wheels, half-leather seats, cruise control, aero kit, sports suspension and climate control.
EX grades start from £22,260 and come as standard with DVD sat-nav, Bluetooth, full leather seats, electric/heated front seats, rear parking camera and a six-CD stereo.
Honda also points to sector-leading safety technology with its optional Advanced Driver Assist System.
It comprises Collision Mitigation Braking System which warns drivers of an impending collision and applies strong braking and seatbelt retraction if the impact is unavoidable; Lane Keeping Assist System which emits a warning if the car is about to cross lane markings without driver input and self-steers to maintain the correct course; and Adaptive Cruise Control which controls vehicle speed and distance to the car in front.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# There’s no doubt the new Accord has a premium look and feel.
The quality of the supple plastics is high; it has a nice feel throughout.
However, the dash layout is similar to the Legend with the bulbous central control knob sitting awkwardly in an array of buttons.
One issue is a lack of space in the back – legroom is definitely not premium, and is not helped by front seats which drop almost to the floor, leaving little room to slot your feet underneath.
Target sales are 10,000 a year, up from 8,000, with fleets accounting for up to 70%, compared to 60% on the current model.
Of the total, 60% will be saloon and 40% Tourer.
And it’s the Tourer where the biggest design changes have taken place. It’s a much better looking estate.
Honda’s designers admit they put more thought into the Tourer’s appearance this time.
While the new Accord might not quite match up with the best of its premium rivals, its high specification will ensure that it is an attractive alternative for anyone considering a basic trim BMW or Audi.
Engine: 2.0-litre: 154bhp; 2.4: 198bhp petrol; 2.2 i-DTEC: 148bhp
Transmission: 6sp man, 5sp auto
Performance: 0-62mph: 7.8-9.6sec; top speed: 131-141mph
Efficiency: 32.1-50.4mpg combined, 148-209g/km CO2
CAP RV: (3yr/30k) 42-48%
Rivals: Jaguar X-Type, Volvo S60, Saab 9-5, Audi A4, Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia