Fleet News

Honda Accord 1.8 VTEC SE Executive 5dr - 1,478 miles



##hondac.jpg --Right##THE Fleet NewsNet long-term Honda Accord 1.8 LS four-door has returned to its maker after more than 15,000 trouble-free miles, to be replaced by a 1.8 VTEC SE Executive five-door. The LS was totally reliable, but it did present some doubts about its long-term durability: the paint on the bonnet was unable to resist damage by flying stones, which took off lacquer and base coat, in some instances for up to half an inch. Inside, the plastic trim on the B-pillar was easily damaged by the seat belt hitting it and the plastic around the interior door release lever was easily scratched.

Another moan, but which no one else complained of, was that I couldn't get a comfortable driving position no matter how the seat was adjusted. After half an hour or so at the wheel, I was suffering severe pain in the lower back. And the day before the car was due to go back, it suffered a mysterious misfire at low speed when the engine was cold, almost cutting out on a couple of occasions.

All this did not augur well for its replacement, especially after Nicholas Phillips, Honda UK corporate sales manager, said at the launch of the five-door: 'The brand which was benchmarked for this car was Audi and our objective was to build a model that offered A4 quality at the price of a Ford Mondeo.' It seems Honda may have some way to go before it achieves Ingolstadt's ultra high quality levels, especially when you notice the untidy welding on the inner door frames, the cheap column stalks and unappealing textures to the plastic dashboard and door trims.

So, against this background, I took over the five-door with more than a little scepticism. But I'm pleased to say the car appears to be much better built - and the leather-covered seats are certainly a lot more comfortable. As well as the standard leather trim, this car also has satellite navigation, costing ú1,500 extra. I'm sure in a few years' time we'll all take this useful piece of technology for granted and it will be standard on most cars of this size. The system is easy to set up but misses out on not having an additional display in the instrument panel, something from which our long-term VW Bora benefits.

The SE Executive also comes with cruise control, air conditioning with climate control, 15in alloy wheels, heated electrically-adjustable seats and a full complement of air bags. The car has averaged 28.6mpg over the first 1,400 miles, but this is getting better as the engine loosens up.

The more I drive the Executive, the more I am impressed, regaining my respect for the marque. At ú21,345 (ú22,845 with satnav), the SE Executive certainly competes on price with Audi's A4 and BMW's 3-series. It may be much better equipped, but can it rub shoulders with the Germans on build quality, residual value and, more to the point in this sector, badge appeal?

Richard Wayte

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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