First Drive: Honda Accord facelift 2.0 & 2.4 VTi-L, the comfort cruisers


Growing up, I never understood the appeal of a D-Segment sedan. For the same amount of money, you could get a much more exciting hot hatch or a practical mid-sized SUV. The general D-segment sedan is, to me at least, the worst kind of compromise one can make. It’s dull, slow and can’t carry itself through a corner without inducing motion sickness.

Most would argue that you buy a D-segment as a comfortable cruiser without losing its business appeal. To be fair, I was nowhere near the age of properly understanding the appeal. But after a short trip to Kuantan with the facelifted Honda Accord, I thought otherwise.

QUICK FACTS

NameHonda Accord 2.0 VTi-LHonda Accord 2.4 VTi-L
Engine1,997cc naturally aspirated four cylinder SOHC i-VTEC2,356cc naturally aspirated four cylinder DOHC i-VTEC with Honda Earth Dreams Technology
Transmission5-speed automatic
Max Power153 hp @ 6,500 rpm173 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Max Torque190 Nm @ 4,300 rpm225 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Price (OTR with insurance)RM153,800RM172,800

The cabin is adequately luxurious

Let’s dive straight into the Accord’s strongest suit – its interior. With the facelift, the cabin gets a new lease of life thanks to higher quality materials, new wood trim and the new 7-inch Advanced Display Audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (similar setup as the Civic FC).

Buttons are well thoughtfully positioned and easily within reach. In an era where carmakers get increasingly obsessed with buttons, I certainly appreciate Honda’s minimalistic and practical approach.

The crisp and vibrant 7-inch Advanced Display Audio is dead simple to operate, and you’d be pleased to know that it’s fitted as standard across the range. Sitting above the infotainment system is a separate i-MID  display that gives you driving information such as cruising range, fuel consumption and multimedia info as well as Honda’s Lane Watch.

Overall, the cabin is a cut above its main Japanese rivals, threatened only by the Mazda6.

Understated yet supremely elegant exterior

With the facelift, Honda has introduced more upmarket revisions to the front and rear end. The front grille adds much needed presence to the D-Segment contender. It gets plenty of chrome bits all round for that premium look. I particularly like the sharp LED combination tail lamps with revised graphics.

However, only the most expensive 2.4 VTi-L variant gets the eye catching full LED headlamps. The 2.0-litre variants get the less fanciful halogen projector headlamps. Yep, not even HID.

THE POWERTRAIN

As per before, the Accord is powered by two engines: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC with 153 hp/190 Nm and a 2.4-litre Earth Dreams Technology four cylinder DOHC i-VTEC with 173 hp/225 Nm. Power is channelled solely to the front via a tried and tested five-speed torque converter automatic.

Both engines offer enough grunt; power delivery is smooth and potent for just about any occasion. Interestingly enough, they feel nearly identical in terms of acceleration and refinement. It is only past the 120 km/h mark where the 2.4-litre really shows its edge. Where the 2.0-litre starts to lose its grunt at the top end, the 2.4-litre still has plenty of reserves to continue pushing.

However, I must express that the five-speed gearbox is the Achilles heel of the otherwise decent engines. The slushbox is not as quick to respond as the Toyota Camry‘s six-speed & e-CVT units, nor is it as smooth as the Mazda6’s six-speed SkyActiv automatic. There’s a mild but discernible delay during manual shifting as well.

It may be slow to shift, but it’s a real smooth operator and will surely satisfy most taukehs and families. Besides, no one buys an Accord to boast about how much G-force it pulls in second gear.

THE DRIVE

On the snaky hilly roads of Karak Highway, the Accord 2.4 VTi-L offers ample mechanical grip thanks to Michelin Pilot Sport 3 rubbers (standard fitment), and the paddle shifters make driving a little more exciting. But still it does not hide the fact that the Accord is a comfort-oriented sedan.

Body flex was apparent and the suspension has a soft damping setup. Carving corners is just not its forte. Drive it sedately, as how it should be, and you will be rewarded with a supple ride with exceptional refinement. On the other hand, when you’re in such a relaxed state, you’ll start to notice the flaws of this mismatched setup. The 18-inch alloys and low profile tyres (235/45 profile) is definitely not a fan of potholes. Tyre noise from the high-performance tyres also seeps into the otherwise muted cabin.

Sounds like a turn off? Then perhaps the 2.0 VTi-L with smaller rims (17-inch) and Goodyear Excellence passenger tyres would do the trick. I much prefer this over the 2.4L in terms of comfort, with the only trade-off being the slight dip in grip levels. Power output, while considerably lower, did not pose an issue as the 2.0-litre managed to keep up with its 2.4-litre sibling at highway speeds. Unless you’re gunning for top speed, of course…

THE BACKSEATS

Driving it may be pleasant, but you can only enjoy so much of the Accord behind the wheel. To fully appreciate what the car is really made for, Honda Malaysia arranged for a chauffeured driven journey. If there’s one thing other manufactures can learn from Honda is interior packaging. Even with the driver’s seat adjusted to accommodate a 180 cm man, I still had plenty of knee and leg room behind.

While I did mention earlier that the gearbox was “less than ideal” from the driver’s seat, but from a passenger’s perspective, it’s exceptional. Gearshifts are refined and is linear in acceleration, making it a winner for those who prefer to be driven.

IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?

If you’re in the market for a low profile, reliable and comfortable Japanese cruiser, the Honda Accord should definitely be on your list. It’s plush, refined and with the facelift, it looks really good inside and out. Both the 2.0L and 2.4 VTi-L are on par in terms of equipment but if you couldn’t care less about the LED headlamps, paddle shifters, powered rear sun blinds and 18-inch alloys, the 2.0 VTi-L is all you need and more.

However, if you can’t bring yourself to sacrifice driving pleasure and want something a little more space than the highly-capable Mazda6, perhaps the Passat B8 should pique your interest.


IMAGE GALLERY

Honda Accord 2.4 VTi-L

Honda Accord 2.0 VTi-L


Adrian Chia

Adrian Chia

He believes that the perfect remedy to Monday blues is a mixture of 4 wheels, clear roads and a pinch of twisty tarmac. When he picks a car, his mind goes safety over style, corners over straights and stability over speed.
share on: