In another time and another place the founding authors of Driven to write discussed forgotten cars (if we can remember them). To first forget a car you have to have known about it in the first place. So, that’s why this car wasn’t mentioned first-time around.
The 2002-2007 Honda Accord estate might be a car I knew about for a few minutes in 2002. After being informed of its existence, I must have promptly forgotten all about it. I can’t really be said to have known about it in the way I know about/forgot about the Honda Legend, the Mazda Demio or Porche Cayenne. The estate version must have been a slow seller as I have not seen enough of them to register its existence (or re-register its existence) until a week or so back.
Something about the car puzzled me but I could not put my finger on what it was until reviewing the photos accompanying this article. Can you tell what it is that is somewhat unusual? Here is the car again from the other side:
I will give you a moment to ruminate on the question and dig down into the car’s history.
This version of the Accord went on sale in 2002. One or two saloonical ones live around my neck of the woods and I really like the neat design – pretty much the kind of tidy saloon Peugeot should have done instead of the awkward 407 and bloated 508. With no degree of doubt I would declare this generation of Accord to be the last one that was right-sized. The next one followed the Mondeo and Insignia into the territory marked “here be monsters”.
The 2002 Accord weighed a little under 1500 kg and had 4665 mm from front to back. Widthwise it measured 1760 mm according to the RAA. For 2008 it grew to 4725 mm nose to tail and its width increased to 1840 mm. Those figures are for the Honda Accord Euro (as it was sold in Australia). There might be some reason for uncertainty as the Honda Accord is not one model sold globally but at various times one, two or three different cars matched to various markets**.
However, I think the car did get wider as well as longer, making it less tractable and handy for European drivers. You would think Honda considered this (along with every other car maker wondering why people aren’t so keen on saloons as they were – discuss).
Another reason the Accord might not have found so many customers might be due to the not-very-generous engine range: 2.0 and 2.4 litre petrols and a diesel of some kind. Missing is a 1.8 and a 2.2 petrol engine and maybe even a larger diesel unit. We can forget the V6 though such an engine would have been lovely in the Accord.
It had a 65 litre fuel tank and very smart interior.
Dimensionswise, it must have been one the last of the group of C-D cars sized correctly (Peugeot 406, Mondeo Mk 2, Opel Vectra C). I haven’t checked up on the launch dates for all its peers. We have the motoring press to blame, in part, for cars getting too big. Notice at the end of this verdict from Parkers that they consider the car a bit small:
“The advert said ‘isn’t it nice when things just work?’, and the Accord does just that. Honda has mixed mix business with pleasure and moved the Accord closer to exec spec that’s sharp enough to impress clients but sporty enough to please you. It’s certainly a quality package, not one that comes cheap but one that is well-specced and expertly screwed together. But, executive aspirations take away some of the versatility expected in this sector (no hatchback) and it’s a bit small compared to rivals. The diesel engine impresses even the harshest oil-burning critic.”
Now let’s turn back to the back:
What is odd about this is the apparently excessive number of panel gaps. There is a horizontal one where the roof-spoiler meets the side of the tailgate and a thicker upright one there the spoiler meets the main body of the roof. That vertical line is slowing things down rather but the slimmer one below it is the tell-the-tale detail.
Honda went with a little-used solution to the tail-gate design which is to have the tailgate shutline run transversely meaning it tracks alongside the edge of the sideglass. When the tailgate is opened the side-glass and its chrome trim are left hanging in the air.
I expect that the key to this is the wish to have an integrated roof spoiler, making for quite nice aerodynamics at the rear. Such is the integrity of the design that it is not feasible to have that spoiler and any other plausible configuration of shutlines. That vertical line inevitably falls out of that type of roof spoiler concept. Those interested in design will appreciate the fit between construction, function, material and form.
Here’s an orthodox tailgate:
I don’t consider the vertical line to be a failure so much as a necessary compromise. It all makes sense in the light of the wish to achieve a certain aerodynamic efficiency and also allows a wider aperture too. That matters when moving stuff in your estate car. Not only that, the rest of the car has earned laurels for its solid construction.
Here’s the RAA again: “Honda’s attention to getting the engineering of the Euro right has meant that they are aging well and holding their value reasonably. So if you’re in the market for one be prepared to pay a bit for it.”
What we find here is the last of the sensibly scaled estate cars with the added bonus of a little design originality at one end and coherent and well-tailored forms everywhere else.
11 thoughts on “Cherry Stones and Orange Pips, Apple Seeds and Olive Pits”
Not a big fan of diesels but i remember that the 140hp 2.2l honda diesel got rave reviews in the press, on a pair with bmw’s 2liter.
It was the first “real” honda diesel (before they were sourced somewhere else) and they took great pains to make it as refined as their petrol ones.
I have considerable experience driving with one of these Honda diesels.
It’s ok, but it’s not brilliant. It has a bit of an appetite for oil, and although the power comes in fairly smoothly, it then blares uncomfortably if you continue to rev it.
Really, it should be compared with Honda’s petrol engines, which have consistently been amongst the best of their type. The diesel does not deserve such praise.
I remember a neighbour had one of these and used to sometimes park it next to the Alfa 156 Sportwagon I had at the time. I was convinced that Honda had been influenced by Alfa in its design and had failed royally. Perhaps because Japanese cars are narrower than average it had the usual Japanese slabsidedness; back then, most cars looked slabsided compared to the 156. The shape of the rear side windows is poorly resolved with that dreary curve in the top trailing corner. The tail lights are also the wrong shape; they should have been bolder with a narrower design without the upward angle of the upper line which just sums up for me what’s wrong with Japanese car design. The paint looks dull which is perhaps a result of its general slabbiness. VAG seem to be the current leaders in providing estates that are both capacious and elegant.
I think it was Honda’s first stab at an estate car; their second, the last generation of Civic was also remarkably ham-fisted. The only reasonable looking Japanese estate cars I can think of are the current Mazda 6 and at a stretch, for its miniature Yank tank aesthetic, the 810 series Nissan Bluebird.
There were Honda Accord estates before this one… sometimes branded ‘Aerodeck’, but an estate in every real sense of the word. And they were better than this slab-tailed effort, which looks uncomfortably similar to a hearse.
The tailgate shows a nearly Bangle-esque degree of undisciplined shutline management.
The tailgate’s vertical panel gap doesn’t align with the rear edge of the glass and the horizontal gap between spoiler and metal doesn’t align with the upper edge of the window. The bumper also doesn’t align with the rear light.
Compared to the shutlines of a 160-series Fiat Tipo, let alone a Golf Mk IV, this is an optical desaster.
The Honda also is pretty impractical because it uses a metal bulge in the tailgate panel as rear bumper, that’s easily damaged and expensive to repair. Opel made the same fault with the Insignia estate where the tailgate protrudes beyond the bumper leading to lots of dents and high insurance premiums.
What size are those wheels? My goodness they look tiny.
I’ve driven the 2.2 diesel version of this car. It was indeed smooth and quiet but the power and torque was a bit underwhelming compared to a BMW or Audi diesel.
I really like this iteration of the Accord in both saloon and estate forms. Both still look modern and have a singularity and clarity of design – like they were drawn by a single person and then the design was defended through to production. The estate has a huge boot and that function seems to very much drive the design – the rear side window is extremely extended. The subsequent Accord was a bit of a mess – more surfacing which created a less coherent look.
It´s nice that someone else likes it. In Sandymount, Dublin, there´s a metallic blue one with a tan interior. It has a bit of brightwork to cheer it up. I´d have one of these over a BMW 3-series any time. I can´t agree with Mark, alas, about the rear treatment. Despite that odd panel gap, it all makes sense. The lamps don´t trouble me either. Overall, it´s a smart, neat and professional bit of work.
Who else remembers the TV advert for these? It was absolutely brilliant and all done for real i.e. no trickery: https://youtu.be/Z57kGB-mI54
Dave: I am glad I´ve managed to stimulate some debate. It´s true the shutlines are not optimum but also not so wrong as to mean abandoning the tailgate closure concept used here. To be fair to you, I have only shown a few pictures. To be fair to Honda, the shutlines need to add up from a wide variety of views. The two panel gaps where the roof-spoiler/tailgate top meet the chrome seem to me to radiate from the tangent point of the little radius. It´s marked C in the photo I have added to the article.
David Pye wrote astutely that all design is in some way a failure. That´s the nature of compromise. It must be really frustrating for a designer to say people don´t like X feature when X was arrived at by balancing A, B, C, D, E, F, G etc and that the unseen alternative Y was even worse.
This vehicle, in saloon form only, was sold as the Acura TSX in North America. The wagon shown here looks completely ungainly, no matter how brilliant the industrial design for the tailgate. It would have had to compete against the elegant B4 Subaru Legacy wagon, which sold well in turbo trim and hardly at all in trundly normally aspirated guise – that was the province of the raised Outback and the then nascent trend to hatchbacks on stilts. No other estates bar MB, BMW and Volvo were on sale at the time to my recollection. At the usual silly prices.
It really looks dowdy this Accord estate – no wonder it wasn’t imported. Putting that thing on the showroom floor alongside the saloon, MDX and handsome TL would have been a downer for the upscale Acura marque in the early to mid 00’s.
I seriously considered the TSX against Legacy saloon back in 2007, but the turbo power won despite the obviously better interior quality of Acura.
The 2009 and on Euro-Accord/TSX saloon went amateurly cubic and as you say was wider – the US but not Canada got the wagon which took about 10% sales. A 3.5l V6 was available and the extra front weight ruined the handling according to C/D.
Our “native” Accord made in Ohio itself became a giant over 16 footer with a funny shaped boot for 2008, but was the same 1845 mm width. That was when Honda went off the styling rails. They haven’t found a CPR crane to hoist it back on yet.
Since 2009 or so all the similar Japanese saloons went to this Plus Size for some unknown reason. The remnants followed. Camry, Altima, Legacy, Mazda6, US Passat, Fusion-Mondeo but not Malibu/Insignia-Regal until later. They’re all 200 mm too long.
Unfortunately, Honda now make the Civic saloon in that slightly smaller original size as a lightweight rather unrefined (road noisy) but huge-selling car. It’s virtually the size of an A4! But still with dodgy Honda paint and not enough suspension travel, a perennial Honda trait. The shorter UK-built Civic hatch with fanjet intakes front and rear is lot poison – couldn’t find a single one on the huge lot when I drove a new Accord two weeks ago.