It’s not very often I get to feel like James Bond – having neither the looks of Daniel Craig nor the high-flying lifestyle that can see me playing blackjack at the casino in Monaco. But last week I almost felt like 007 as I was handed the keys to my new car.
With motoring editor Kirk doubling as Q, the handover went something like this: “Now pay attention Roberts, this is your new company car and it has some clever features – there are hidden cameras behind the windscreen and a radar tucked in behind the front grille”.
Unfortunately, there’s no ejector seat nor the ability to turn into a submarine, but our new Honda Accord is still pretty clever.The hidden cameras in the windscreen control the Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS), while the radar regulates the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
LKAS and ACC form part of Honda’s ADAS (Advanced Driving Assist System), which comes as standard on our top-of-the-range Accord long-termer. They work together to make driving safer and less tiring – LKAS monitors the road markings and nudges the car in the right direction should it drift towards the edge of a lane, while ACC uses a radar to automatically regulate the distance from the car in front. Such technology is not exclusive to Honda but is impressive for a car in the Accord’s class.
And it doesn’t just provide a conversation topic over a packet of peanuts and a pint of best at the local pub. Such systems can also act as an extra pair of eyes for your drivers on the road.
I’ve used such technology in the past but it took some getting used to again. On first use, it’s a game of chicken to see who brakes first on approaching a vehicle in front – the car or the driver. Inevitably, it’s the driver.
But once some trust has built between human and computer microchip (or whatever powers it) then most drivers will allow the car to decide for itself when it needs to slow down or increase speed. If sensors feel the car in front is slowing so quickly that the driver needs to intervene and brake for themselves a light on the dashboard flashes and a warning is sounded.
Although useful on motorways, it’s also helpful on country roads. Set it at a steady 50mph to 60mph on a B-road and you can comfortably follow the flow of traffic, even automatically slowing down to within the speed limit when following cars through towns and villages. That’s providing they slow down, of course, so drivers mustn’t rely on it completely.
Along with the ADAS, our range-topper also has 17-inch alloy wheels, hands-free telephone kit, automatic headlights, satellite navigation and a 6-CD autochanger.
I’ve only just discovered that the sat-nav is voice-controlled so I’m looking forward to trying that out and will report back on how it responds to my barked orders in a future test report.
There’s not really anything that has annoyed since taking the keys to this car, although I think the seatbelt reminder system kicks in prematurely, activating as soon as you start the engine.
I’d quite like a few seconds to get comfortable before a series of beeps tell me it’s time to buckle myself in.
Overall, the Accord is proving an extremely capable car and it’s as happy on motorway journeys as it is pootling around town.
The Honda is comfortable, offers plenty of room inside and looks great outside. The interior is stylish, the controls easy to negotiate and the automatic gearbox (with sequential shift) offers smooth changes.
There can be a slight lull in power if it changes down before you accelerate out of a tight corner, though this doesn’t affect the overall driving experience too much.
Last year’s Accord’s fleet sales were a mixed bag, ending up 43% down for 2006 on the previous year. This year, sales are faring better, which is a fair reflection of the Accord’s capabilities, although at nearly £27,000 only the most desperate 007 wannabes will be choosing this model.
The manufacturer’s view
Accord is a key model within the Honda range and during 2007 we expect to sell more than 4,000 units in the fleet sector, thanks to a combination of modern styling and a choice of fuel-efficient engines. A key pull for drivers is the list of advanced options.
As well as satellite navigation and hands-free telephone kit, Lane Keep Assist (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) can be specified. Both LKAS and ACC are ground-breaking in this sector and reduce driver fatigue on longer journeys, which is ideal for those business drivers covering a lot of miles.
Harvey Hughes, manager – corporate operations, Honda UK
Equipment and options
Price (OTR): £26,377
Price as tested: £26,777
Price: £26,377 (£26,777 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 218
Company car tax bill (2007) 40% tax-payer: £261 per month
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 30.1
Test mpg: 28.8
CAP Monitor RV: £8,850/34%
Contract hire rate: £532
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles