Secondly, Honda decided to design and build its own diesel engine from scratch in a field where the Europeans – specifically the French and German manufacturers – had demonstrated class-leading technology for years.
Using a different method of casting for its aluminium alloy engine, it would seek to be class-leading for refinement, fuel consumption and power.
Add the Tourer body to this equation and Honda seems to be on to a winner. The Accord Tourer 2.2 i-CTDi is after a slice of the growing premium estate segment and, unlike a few of its premium-badge rivals, it is designed to carry considerable cargo.
Compare its maximum usable load volume of 1,600-plus litres with the Audi A4 Avant's 1,300, and you get the impression no-one at Honda was thinking the dreaded L-word ('lifestyle') when designing the Tourer.
It's perhaps a shame then that the estate body of the Accord looks rather awkward and spindly from some angles.
Back at the business end of the car, the Executive model is crammed with standard equipment – leather seats with electric adjustment and heating at the front, electric windows all round and electric sunroof, automatic climate control and a six-CD autochanger in the dashboard are just some of the items you would expect to pay extra for elsewhere. The Tourer also has an electric tailgate operation at this level, too.
However, I found it a disappointment to have no trip computer. Pathetic soul that I am, I often tend to while away long motorway journeys by trying to hit fuel consumption targets on the trip computer. It would be nice to see if the engine achieves the level of fuel consumption claimed – 48.7mpg on the combined cycle.
The engine offers 140bhp – more than a diesel X-type and Audi A4 1.9 TDI – and the Accord Tourer will sprint from 0-62mph in just over 10 seconds. It might not match BMW's 2.0-litre diesel for power (that one's 150bhp), but maximum torque of 251lb-ft is not bettered by a four-cylinder diesel in this class.
Honda's success in keeping noise intrusion to a minimum must also be heard to be believed. There's no mistaking it for a petrol engine at start-up or idle, but it is noticeably quieter than anything else in the sector.
On the move, the only clue to it being a diesel is the extra mid-range grunt as all that torque is deployed to the front wheels. On the motorway, despite not having a sixth gear to reduce noise, the Accord is exceptionally quiet.
While the Accord's handling ability might fall short of cars such as the Jaguar X-type and BMW 3-series – there is a little less composure at the limit and a little more body roll – the ride comfort is exceptional.
The five-speed gearbox has a short and precise shift, while the steering is far more responsive than we are used to for a mass-produced Japanese car.
Honda might take a while to establish itself away from the 'volume' end of the market, but the diesel Accord Tourer makes all the right noises, is classy and a capable load carrier.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £21,040
CO2 emissions (g/km): 153
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 16%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £8,574/41%
Depreciation 19.06 pence per mile x 60,000: £11,436
Maintenance 2.37 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,422
Fuel 8.00 pence per mile x 60,000: £4,800
Wholelife cost 29.43 pence per mile x 60,000: £17,658
Typical contract hire rate: £410 per month
Three rivals to consider
IT'S surprising at first glance to see the Jaguar at the head of this list on P11D price but the new estate from Halewood is in entry-level Classic trim. The Honda is in range-topping Executive trim, with only metallic paint, sat-nav and the 17-inch wheels missing from the standard specification. The Rover is also well equipped and the exercise makes the Audi A4 Avant look decidedly pricey in standard entry-level trim, £600 more than the Honda and nearly £1,700 higher than the X-type.
THE Accord scores a comfortable win here, its 90,000-mile warranty well clear of our three-year/60,000 mile benchmark and almost as good as the Jaguar's unlimited mileage cover. With an expected SMR bill of £1,422, its advantage over the X-type here works out at £252 over three years/60,000 miles, while it beats the Rover 75 by £300. Its victory over the Audi A4 is by a margin of £324. Both Honda and Jaguar work out cheaper than the others despite shorter servicing intervals of 12,500 miles and 12,000 miles respectively.
ALL of these cars hover around or just shy of the 50mpg mark on the combined cycle, although at 48.7mpg the Accord fares slightly worse than the others, with a fuel bill of £4,800 over 60,000 miles. The Jaguar X-type is just £30 ahead on £4,770, while the Rover and Audi are tied on £4,692. It's worth bearing in mind that all four are very close and actual fuel consumption depends on individual driving style as much as the efficiency of the engine.
WITH CAP predicting a residual value of 44% over three years/60,000 miles, the X-type edges out the Honda Accord on 41%. However, just watch the Jaguar's P11D price rise to reach the level of standard equipment found in the Honda – and many items will not make a significant improvement to the car's residual value. The Audi also scores 41% on CAP Monitor but like the Jaguar is low on standard equipment. The Rover's value is more in line with volume upper-medium cars on 33% and would lose £1,500 more than the Accord.
THE Accord just finishes behind the Jaguar in the running costs battle, but the difference over three years/ 60,000 miles adds up to £114. The Accord is also loaded with kit, while the Jaguar has cloth seats and a cassette player. The Audi A4 is £516 more expensive than the Honda, while the Rover 75 fails to make a rational argument for itself at £1,710 adrift. The Accord has similar running costs to true low-depreciating premium cars like the Jaguar and Audi.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
THE Accord has an ace up its sleeve here. While its CO2 emissions are close to the Jaguar and Audi, the Honda's engine is the only one already complying with Euro IV emissions rules. It begins to make a significant difference to monthly tax bills for a 40% tax-payer. A Honda driver would pay £112 a month from April, compared with £133 in the Jaguar and £137 in the Audi. A Rover driver would pay £148. Proof that Euro IV diesel engines are beginning to make a difference.
THE Jaguar might cost £114 less than the Accord and have an established premium badge, but the Honda Accord has a remarkably refined, powerful and economical diesel engine and would be more likely to keep drivers happy with all the toys fitted as standard and lower BIK liability. The Accord would be our choice over the X-type.