It is a common ploy in the car industry that when a model is nearing the end of its life you launch a sportier version rammed full of kit to keep interest alive.
Cue Honda’s Accord Sport GT – a range-topping sports version which is visually different from lesser models and also comes loaded with standard equipment which few rivals offer.
With a new Accord already seen in concept form at the Frankfurt Motor Show last month and a production version due to arrive in the UK next summer, the current version needs an injection of appeal to keep demand up.
What Honda has done is take a regular Accord saloon (a Tourer is also available) fitted with the refined 2.2-litre diesel engine and added a host of bespoke kit – dark chrome door handles and front grille, 17-inch alloy wheels in a graphite finish, rear boot spoiler, smoked headlights and carbon fibre-effect trim inside.
The overall effect is good – it’s not quite up there with the glory days of the old Accord Type R – despite this car’s white paintwork – but it’s an improvement on the regular Accord.
There’s just enough in the way of add-ons to give the Accord a sporty feel, especially the graphite finish alloys which contrast well with the white paint.
However, those hoping for a real sports saloon will feel slightly let down that this model doesn’t look more aggressive.
On the road the Sport GT feels very similar to a standard model, which is no bad thing.
The engine is exceptionally refined and offers little in the way of noise intrusion into the cabin.
The six-speed manual gearbox has a nice mechanical feel to it, offering a short-throw shift, while the steering is well-weighted.
The only real difference I could feel was a slightly firmer ride thanks to a revised suspension set-up on this model, which has stiffer dampers to offer better road holding.
It works well, with the Accord cornering in a flat manner with plenty of grip from the front wheels.
The Accord also works well in terms of interaction with the driver on a technology level. Standard equipment includes a hands-free telephone module which allows drivers to make or receive calls via pushing a button on the steering wheel. There’s also voice-activated satellite navigation.
Both items are not only nice gadgets for drivers to have, but also help with a fleet manager’s duty of care requirements by equipping drivers to be safe behind the wheel.
The Sport GT is also well priced, costing only slightly more than its assembled rivals on the right – and offering far more equipment as standard.
This is the best version of the Accord that Honda has offered – it just seems a shame we’ve had to wait so long for it.
P11D value: £20,602
CO2 emissions (g/km): 145
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 19%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 51.4
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £7,375/36%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £442
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
All four are well-specced and closely matched on price, although the Honda features voice-activated satellite navigation, a hands-free telephone kit and a CD multi-changer as standard. All bar the Volkswagen offer cruise control as standard.
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
With similar front-end price tags and CO2 emissions, all four models are closely matched.
The cheapest is the Honda, which will cost a 22% taxpayer £71 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. The Passat and S40 will both cost £74 a month, and the 159 will cost £79.
With variable service intervals the Volkswagen is the cheapest over three years/60,000 miles.
The Alfa needs a service every 18,000 miles, while for the Honda and Volvo it’s at 12,500 miles. The Alfa’s 16-inch alloys are slightly cheaper on tyres than the rest on 17-inch rims.
Passat: 3.74 (pence per mile)/£2,244 (60,000 miles total)
The Honda leads the way and is the only model to top a claimed 50mpg on the combined cycle.
At 51.4mpg it will cost a fleet just over £5,000 in diesel over 60,000 miles. The Passat and S40 both return a claimed 48.7mpg while the Alfa is fourth on 47.1mpg.
Accord: 8.63 (pence per mile)/ £5,178 (60,000 miles total)
The Volvo has a clear advantage here, with CAP estimating the S40 will retain 42% of cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The Passat is the nearest challenger, retaining 37%, while the Honda and Volvo will both retain 36%.
S40: 19.92 (pence per mile)/ £11,952 (60,000 miles total)
Thanks to a clear advantage in depreciation terms, the Volvo undercuts the Passat in second place by £220 over 60,000 miles. The Accord comes in third – its challenge dented by its depreciation cost. The Alfa Romeo will cost around £1,200 more to run than the S40.
S40: 33.87 (pence per mile)/ £20,322 (60,000 miles total)
159 : 35.94/£21,564
Although the Volvo wins the running costs section, it doesn’t take victory in this test. It’s simply too small inside to compete with the others. The Alfa Romeo is also discounted as it is the most expensive to run. Which leaves the two “semi-premium” favourites.
The Passat is a great car, but the Honda offers cheaper benefit-in-kind tax bills and a far more generous level of standard equipment, including hands-free phone and voice-activated sat-nav.