Some would say a loaf of bread has more character than recent Accords. And we’re not even talking about multigrain. Just plain, white bread. But the model, which has been around for 40 years, has been a colossal success for Honda. It’s the brand’s, er, bread-and-butter midsize car and the number of units that have been shifted over the past four decades is testament to that.
The reason is obvious; there are a lot of people out there who just want to commute to wherever it is they’re going with minimum fuss. They couldn’t care less if the steering lacks feel, if the chassis can tackle corners, if there’s a robust motor under the bonnet or if they’ve got thick or thin sliced in the fridge.
These are the kind of people the Accord, as well as its rivals, have targeted in the past, but for the 2017 model, things have changed. This Accord Sport might just appeal to those who enjoy spirited driving and cars that have a bit of panache about them. You don’t usually associate those words with family cars, but, you might with this one.
And that’s mostly because it has a very good 3.5-litre V6 – along with a facelift with sportier styling. Starting with the aesthetics – the final year of its current design – the front end is now more sharply creased and has a new front bumper. It seems more aggressive than before, but I can’t help but think it looks like it’s wearing braces. Maybe the upcoming 10th gen will feature a perfectly formed smile, but the rest of the design isn’t goofy at all. The H-badge sits proudly in the middle of the grille and is flanked by a pair of sculpted, redesigned LED headlights that are said to provide better light distribution and help improve visibility during night-time driving. I wasn’t expecting night to turn to day but to be honest, they didn’t make a massive difference. Maybe I need to sort those cataracts out.
Around the back it features LED tail lights with a chrome strip running between them, another little strip above the twin exhaust (also chrome), and there is yet more brightwork all over the exterior, such as the door handles and window trim, but somehow, it doesn’t look gaudy.
Our tester came with a ravishing red paint and bigger than usual 18in alloy wheels (the other trims have smaller 17in wheels), and they filled out the wheel wells nicely, giving the Accord a meaty stance. But there aren’t major changes to the 2016 update; over in the US they get a Accord Sport Special Edition, which we don’t and that’s a shame. It comes standard with a six-speed manual. Enough said. But this Sport has its merits, too, one of which is the stylish cabin.
There really isn’t anything to complain about in there. The richly upholstered leather seats are ever so comfortable, while the driver’s chair is eight-way adjustable and has personalised settings for two. If you’re not very leggy, you might struggle to turn the car on; the seats in their ‘resting’ position are set so far back that depressing the brake pedal in order to crank the motor via the push-start button means wiggling all the way down the seat. Other than that – and the fact there is no volume knob (you control the sound via the touchscreen or the button on the multifunctional steering wheel) – the cabin is smart, elegant and very well appointed.
Aside from a brilliant dual AC, it packs a host of tech and safety systems like ‘Honda Sensing’. This is a new suite of driver-assist tech and includes an adaptive cruise control via a radar and camera that maintains a constant distance between you and the car in front. But every so often, the word ‘brake’ suddenly flashes up on the TFT screen when it thinks you’re getting too close to the car in front – annoyingly even in slow-moving traffic. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the system and the driver.
Then there is a lane keeping assist system that gently corrects the steering when it detects you’re drifting out of your lane, but on roads where the markings aren’t so clear it tends to struggle. A collision mitigation braking system and road departure mitigation system complete the pack but there are more features like vehicle stability assist, anti-lock braking, hill-start assist… and if that wasn’t enough, the Accord even boasts advanced compatibility engineering body structure technology, which further protects occupants should you crash, with the body (not yours) absorbing the impact.
But the most impressive aspect of this Accord Sport isn’t all that tech and fancy construction – it’s its impeccable road manners. When you just want to get home after a long day at the office, it affords a smooth and refined drive and a very quiet cabin (it has active noise cancellation) to boot. But the V6 and the chassis are capable of far more than just a gentle commute; the motor packs a healthy 278 horsepower and 342Nm of torque, and a six-speed automatic channels all the grunt to the front wheels.
With the gear selector all the way back in Sport and traction control given the afternoon off, the Accord is a lot of fun to manhandle; with a floored throttle, the front tyres screech for a good 20 metres. I never tire of shenanigans such as these and the mere fact you can push this Honda to its limits, with its very smooth and linear power delivery, bodes well if you’re looking for a car with a bit of spark. But when you engage the paddle shifters they take their sweet time to swap the cogs; up and downshifts aren’t met with much enthusiasm but the steering and the chassis do their best to keep the ride sharp. The latter – a MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension – has been tuned to offer both a comfortable and sporty ride, and body roll is kept to a minimum unless you really push it hard in the corners.
Cars of this ilk don’t exactly have a reputation for being exciting, but although this Accord Sport isn’t quite a game changer, it is definitely more than meets the rye. I mean eye…