It’s fair to say we took something of a shine to the previous generation Honda Accord Tourer. It made a regular appearance in our Estate Car of the Year awards category, and everyone else’s it seems, and in its final year of production it sold more than ever.
With the arrival of the new Honda Accord, just five short years later, we had been expecting great things. We expected all the strengths of the old Accord to remain, and a few new ones to be added.
Unfortunately, we can’t help feeling disappointed.
Let’s start off with the positives – the new Accord looks great. The old model, while taught and aggressive at the front, did have a rather awkward rear overhang. The new Accord has a much more unified design, with a pert rear and bold flared wheel-arches.
Inside, there’s more occupant space, particularly for taller drivers, and the cabin’s wider, too. The seats are just as comfortable and supportive as before, but it’s while you’re sitting in them, looking around the interior, that the first doubts begin to seed themselves.
The new dashboard is a complete button-fest. The centre console is encrusted with the things, each a different size and shape, and none of them placed particularly intuitively.
For instance, what you might initially guess to be the volume control for the stereo is actually the controller for the new menu system. The real volume control sprouts out of the dash a little higher up, where it’s too high to be useful.
In fact, nearly all the switchgear is mounted too far from the driver. It seems Honda realised this, and attempted to compensate by adding yet more controls to the steering wheel. This, alone, now has 14 separate buttons and switches, some of which have a dual function.
A twelve year-old, I’m sure, could spend many a happy hour sitting in here, pressing buttons in random fashion. But if all you want to do is find Radio 2, establish a comfortable temperature, and drive to work, you might need to ask a handy twelve year-old to set it all up beforehand.
If your work involves carrying anything, there’s yet more disappointment to behold in the cargo bay.
The power tailgate is no longer available across the range, only making an appearance on the top-spec EX model.
The load bay itself is shorter, and the tailgate slopes at a greater angle, so large boxes will present something of a problem.
A bigger problem, however, is posed by the new rear suspension. The new Accord Tourer now has the largest rear suspension turrets of any estate car we can remember, and they dominate the rear load space. They’re tall, as well as wide, so no-one will be fitting a fridge/freezer into the back of an Accord any time soon.
The previous model’s clever single-action folding seats are no more, replaced by seat bases that stay put and seat backs that fold on top, leaving a not-quite-flat load area.
There’s no longer anywhere to put the roll-out load bay cover once removed, with the old Accord’s specially designed storage trough now gone, too. The side cubby holes remain, as does the under-floor compartment, but this can no longer be locked as it could on the old model.
Perhaps the trade-off for the colossal suspension intrusion is rejuvenated ride and handling.
Well, not really. Around town the new suspension is at its most convincing, quietly smoothing out the multitude of imperfections in our road network. But it’s easily caught out by large undulations and, at speed, the rear suspension in particular seems keen to hit the bump-stops.
Honda want the new Accord to be compared with the BMW 3-series and, while there’s more than enough grip available, there’s too much initial understeer and body roll on turn-in for a car with these aspirations. The somewhat lifeless steering seems more muted than the old model, too – Honda still have a way to go before they can call the Accord a driver’s car.
Noise suppression isn’t as good as the German competition, either. There’s certainly no forgetting you’re driving a diesel, and the 2.2-litre engine’s trademark whine established by the old model is still very evident.
Honda’s German-beating aspirations manifest themselves in the pricing, too. Our middle-of-the-range 2.2 i-DTEC ES GT test car has a base price of £23,250, to which we added the obligatory metallic paint (£425) and satellite navigation (£1,100), bringing the total to a whisker under £25,000. That’s nearly £2,500 more than the old model.
Emissions are up against the old model – 157 vs. 155 g/km – and economy hasn’t improved – 47.9 mpg on the combined cycle. It’s slower to 62mph, too – 9.6 seconds versus the 9.3 of the previous generation.
It’s unusual to arrive at the end of a road test of a new car with the feeling that the old model was somehow better. While the new Honda Accord Tourer does unquestionably look better than the previous generation, and have more space for both driver and passenger, it’s lacking many of the features that made the old Accord a success.
In our more cynical moments, we can’t help feel that the new Accord exists only as an exercise in reducing production costs by removing content – power tailgate, clever folding seats, expensive rear suspension, etc.
That might be acceptable if the additions could be considered adequate compensation, but the messy dashboard, poorly thought-out load bay and over-inflated price negate any possible advances.
A disappointing step backwards, then.
A rather surprising step backwards for Honda. While the new Accord Tourer can boast new-found good looks and additional occupant space, it’s now lost practicality, flexibility, and affordability. The dashboard layout is particularly messy, and the rear suspension intrusion is unforgivable. While comfortable around town, it’s not a driver’s car. The new high price tag is a little insulting, given the number of the previous car’s plus points that have been removed.