Quite rightly, German manufacturers tend to dominate with their reputation for quality and sheer aspirational value.
That is fine and long may their success continue. But if you ever get the chance to spend a short period of time behind the wheel of the Honda Accord, I promise it would open your eyes.
And you certainly need to approach the Honda with your eyes open because, for my money, this is one of the best-looking cars available today.
Once you are inside and have absorbed the quality interior, comfortable seats, light controls and slick gearchange, turn your attention to the 2.2-litre diesel engine.
If you concentrate really, really hard when driving, you will just be able to tell it is a diesel, but I back deputy editor Steve Moody, who suggested that litre for litre, this is the best diesel engine in the world (Fleet NewsNet October 3, 2003).
Right through the rev range it remains quiet and smooth, delivering power all the way up to the red line. Powering away from roundabouts, I constantly leave following cars behind. And with economy of around 50mpg, this is heaven for both company car drivers and fleet operators alike.
Admittedly, compared to most German cars, the Honda feels lighter and wind noise is higher at speed. In fact, stepping into this car from a BMW, it seemed a bit flimsy. But light doesn’t necessarily mean flimsy. Think of it this way – if you go to a top-class restaurant and they offer you beef or fish, they are both quality meals, but completely different dishes, one quite light and the other, well, beefy.
Based on the past 1,500 miles and my particular tastes, I think surf currently beats turf when serving up my dish of the day for the road.
Model Honda Accord 2.2 i-CTDi
Price (OTR) £19,313
CO2 emissions (g/km) 143
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £52 per month
Insurance group 12
Power (bhp/rpm) 138/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm) 251/2,000
Combined mpg 52.3
Test mpg 45.0
CAP Monitor residual value £7,025/37%
HSBC contract hire rate £383 per month
Expenditure to date Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles