Honda has won more awards in the Auto Express 2004 New Car Honours than any manufacturer.

Auto Express selected the Jazz and Accord as the best Supermini and Family Car choices, with the Accord Tourer winning the Estate Car class. The Accord i-CTDi joins the winners’ circle, taking the magazine’s Diesel award in its debut year.

Commenting on this success, Auto Express’ Editor David Johns said: “Honda’s recent offerings have impressed us. Previously we saw Honda as a maker of worthy but dull cars – cars which were well built, easy to drive and reliable, but models which were simply not that desirable to own. But beginning with the current Civic, their cars have started to show some sparkle, have a bit of an edge and become much more interesting. The Jazz was a real landmark with Honda simply tearing up the small car rule book. And the Accord, while not as radical, now shows real class and is becoming a serious challenger in the premium saloon sector. But while the cars are exciting Auto Express’ test team, they are also proving very popular with their owners: our Driver Power survey earlier this year revealed that Jazz and S2000 owners were amongst the most satisfied of all car customers.”

Each year Auto Express tests more than 350 new cars. Its verdicts are based on objective and subjective assessments by a team of experienced testers. They take into account styling, driving characteristics, safety, quality, equipment and value for money.

What the Auto Express judges said:

Jazz – Supermini winner

The Honda Jazz is turning into the Ford Focus of the supermini world. It’s been on sale for nearly three years now, yet no car launched since has come close to beating it. Our 2002 Car of the Year is now celebrating its third year at the top.

What’s its secret? Practicality, in a word. Re-inventing this competitive sector of the market is notoriously difficult, yet Honda managed it with the amazingly innovative Jazz interior. Not only does the rear seat fold totally flat, but the squab also flips up like a cinema chair, freeing up a second boot area between it and the front seats. Honda has dubbed it ‘Magic’ and they’re not wrong. Combine that with acres of head and legroom in the back, not to mention the usual Japanese build quality, and the Far Eastern firm is on to a winner.

But it doesn’t stop there for the Jazz. It might only come with a 1.4-litre engine, but it’s a cracker. Predictably, it revs well and is much quicker than you’d expect from a 1,339cc unit. This makes it a doddle in traffic (helped by a tiny turning circle), yet it also copes well with motorway journeys. That’s without taking into account the minimal running costs and low CO2 outputs.

Accord i-CTDi – Diesel winner

Compared to other mainstream marques, the Japanese firm has taken a while to develop diesel technology, but this is definitely an engine worth waiting for. The 2.2-litre four cylinder engine has a tempting specification, including a variable nozzle turbocharger and intercooler. But the most radical thing about it is the construction technique. The metal is cast and moulded when semi-solid rather than completely molten, producing an engine block that is both more rigid and compact than rivals.

In terms of power outputs it’s good, but not extraordinary, producing 140bhp and 340Nm (250 lb/ft) of torque at 2,000rpm. This translates into strong, linear, muscular acceleration from tickover to redline. But that’s not the best thing about this motor – refinement is the key to appreciating the Accord. Quite simply, we’ve never driven a quieter or more vibration-free diesel. Even from outside you’re hard pushed to hear a tell-tale rattle.

Neither is that the end of Accord diesel benefits – it emits just 143g/km of CO2, has averaged 53.6mpg in our hands, and during our recent jaunt to John O’ Groats, managed to cover over 750 miles without refuelling. Add in the delightful driving characteristics, the light and precise clutch and gearbox, and the smooth power delivery and you have a wonderful family car. Make no mistake, this engine isn’t just good for a diesel, it’s one of the very best powerplants on sale in any car.

Accord – Family Car winner

The new car market seems intent on diversifying into new areas. However, the expansion and popularity of various MPVs and off-roaders still hasn’t come close to killing off the traditional family car. Whether appealing to private or fleet buyers, this segment is as hard fought as ever. It’s therefore a testament to the all round excellence of Honda’s Accord that it takes the top spot for a second year.

Whether it’s the mirror mounted indicators, the chunky door handles or the tightness of the shut lines, the Accord displays a level of quality that can compete with premium brands. The high-class feel continues inside – the seats are excellent, the driving position faultless and passenger accommodation first class. It’s also well equipped and nicely appointed with a luxury feel that ups the ante for its rivals.

What’s more, as you would expect Honda doesn’t disappoint with the Accord’s engines, as the 2.0 and 2.4-litre VTEC petrol units are both smooth and powerful, and better still the range is now enhanced by the fantastic new diesel.

Furthermore, the Accord driving experience still impresses whatever the journey. With excellent body control and fine composure over bumps, combined with slick steering, the Accord offers nimble handling and driver involvement. Class-leading ride and refinement round off the package, leaving you with a car that’s fun, easy and relaxing to drive.

Accord Tourer – Estate winner

This is the bread and butter end of the market. You can have all the toys and gadgets you want, but without a decent-sized boot and practical features, an estate car just isn’t worth its salt.

So it doesn’t come as a shock to find this year’s winner, the Honda Accord Tourer, has a cavernous back end – at full stretch it’s capable of swallowing 1,707 litres of luggage. However, even before you raise the electric boot door, the flat roof line and upright tailgate tell you that this is a car with space on its mind.

However, it’s the process of folding the seats flat that is the Tourer’s best party trick. All you have to do is pull a single lever on the backrest and pull forward. This movement activates a clever mechanism, causing the seat base to flip up and the headrest to drop down in one seamless operation. The result is a completely flat and unimpeded load space. Quite simply, no other estate features such attention to detail.

But the reason the Accord wins lies as much with the rest of the package as the boot alone. The Tourer benefits from Honda’s predictably excellent build quality (the clunk as you shut the doors is one particular highlight) and the driving environment is as polished and cosseting as the best executive saloons.

Couple all this with Honda’s excellent engines and a chassis that is more than capable of dealing with whatever heavy loads you throw at it, and you’re left with the best estate car we’ve driven in years, let alone the past 12 months.