Firstly, the 2.2-litre i-CTDi is the first in-house designed and built diesel Honda in history.
When we tested it in 2003 we labelled it a 'staggeringly good engine'. Litre for litre, our road tester thought the four cylinder diesel engine could well be the best diesel engine in the world.
The criteria for the engine was for it to match Honda's petrol engines as closely as possible in the way it delivers its power, the shape of its torque curve and its levels of refinement. It also needed to be Euro IV-compliant, be extremely smooth and have very low emissions.
But then came the second landmark. It broke down. Three times. In two weeks.
After starting the engine, the accelerator simply wouldn't respond, leaving the engine stranded at tickover.
Several visits to the dealer failed to cure the problem, so the car eventually went back to the manufacturer, which identified a faulty throttle sensor and we received the Milano red car you see pictured instead.
Ironically, the problem highlighted the reason why people buy a Honda. Its normal reliability is so good, the hugely reliable AA drivers who picked us up on each occasion expressed their surprise at a Honda breaking down.
One said he couldn't remember picking up a Honda in years.
The manufacturer's horror about a reliability issue on one of its cars only helped further. As a result, what could have been a blot on Honda's copy book is only a smear and the replacement vehicle has shown no signs of a similar problem.
As a first try, Honda has worked wonders with the new engine. It achieves a combined figure of 52mpg with a performance which outstrips most engines in its class. It offers 138bhp at 4,000rpm and 251lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm. That means a 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 131mph.
Furthermore, it meets Euro-IV emissions requirements, so there is no 3% company car tax penalty, meaning its 143g/km emissions of CO2 ensure the driver pays tax on the lowest 15% of the car's P11D value.
This means a liability of £2,874 on the £19,160 P11D price, so a 22% taxpayer would be charged £632 a year, or £52 a month.
In all areas, it either matches or beats the best in class, so it almost begs the question of why a driver would opt for a petrol when a company's diesel offering is this good.
Equipment levels are also generous, offering cruise control as standard, with dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, remote central locking, body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors, leather multi-function steering wheel, electric windows and optional eye-catching alloy wheels.
The manufacturer's view
Honda Accord will appeal across the market Recently we felt the time was right to enter the diesel sector with a fully in-house developed engine. We believe the new unit delivers a blend of performance, refinement, lightness and efficiency to compete with the best in the market.
In the premium D-segment, where the Accord competes, diesel-engined cars frequently outsell their petrol counterparts. This is especially so in the UK corporate and business sectors where diesels outsell petrols by nearly 2:1.
Key fleet credentials for the Accord i-CTDi are that it meets Euro IV standard, (allowing it to escape the 3% benefit-in-kind tax penalty), and boasts CO2 emissions of 143 gm/km. Thus it falls in the lowest (15%) tax bracket until 2007.
The companies expected to buy the vehicle are those with a high degree of driver choice and who look for low cost of ownership through good residual values and low maintenance/operating costs.
James Daulton, Honda corporate sales manager
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer) £52 per month
Power (bhp/rpm) 138/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm) 251/2,000
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles
What we expect
Beating off all challengers The Honda Accord was listed in the premium upper-medium sector against BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the judging for this year's Fleet News Awards, so it has some tough competition.
But the glowing reports this car and engine have already received suggest it will easily meet the challenge. But how will the badge perform in the company car park? Despite its fantastic looks, can it cut the mustard among Germany's finest?
We think Honda has cracked this one and it will do the job, while offering impressive fuel economy and on-road refinement, a good dealer experience and great reliability, putting the early false start to one side.