Honda Accord 2.0 VTi-L: Nimble Yet Comfortable

By Lee Pang Seng
IT HAD been nine months since the latest ninth-generation Honda Accord was introduced here and it appears to have the stamina to maintain its strong appeal in the market. Honda Malaysia recently invited us for an impression drive and we decided on the Accord 2.0 VTi-L, which is usually the more popular of the two models, the other being the 2.4-litre.

The drive was a bit of a re-acquaintance as we first drove the car in Khao Yai, Thailand a year ago; the new Accord was one of the few cars that were provided by Michelin for the media to get a feel of its new Primacy 3 ST tyre. We recalled the event as a double impression, that is, of the new tyre and the latest Accord.

This was done on a public road drive that saw a few potholes and bumps, being mostly countryside and secondary roads, and we were impressed by how the two complemented each other in ride comfort and low road roar. Other than the occasional 110-120km/h sprints, the drive was conducted mostly at lower 80-100km/h speeds.

The Accord 2.0 VTi-L here comes with Goodyear tyres - fitted as part of meeting local content requirements - that are 225/50 R17 in size and shod on 17-inch alloy wheels. Being the higher spec’ed model of the 2.0-litre range, the VTi-L comes with more interior equipment such as leather upholstery, hands-free telephone control on the steering wheel, eight-way adjustable driver seat that also came with adjustable lumbar support, rear door sunshade, multi-angle reverse camera, satellite-linked voice navigation system, to name some.

You could say the Accord 2.0 VTi-L has almost the same level of specifications as the 2.4 VTi-L although the bigger engine displacement model still has a few additional and exclusive items to support its flagship standing.

The smart entry with push start feature is another item that is standard to the VTi-L models, with which you can choose to use a button on the door to lock and unlock as long as the key fob is on you. However, the system on the car provided didn’t work well: we could lock the doors using the door button but we couldn’t unlock them using the same function. So it was back to the key fob for that.

In body styling, the new Accord has taken on more coupé-like design with the long nose short tail format and less of a sedan look from the previous model. There are also LED (light emitting diodes) daytime running lights as part of the headlights for a contemporary touch and this feature is standard to all models.

Likewise at the rear, the combi lights are LEDs that come on faster, especially that for the brakes, to warn motorists from behind. However, only the 2.4-litre model has LED headlights as well as the Active Cornering Lights that are automatically illuminated when the steering wheel is turned at a 90-degree radius.

When compared to the previous Accord, the new model is actually smaller: it now runs on a 2775mm wheelbase (the previous model’s is 2800mm) while body dimensions are varied. Overall length is now 4870mm (4945mm) while it is marginally wider at 1850mm (1845mm) and slightly shorter in height at 1465mm (1475mm). The tracks are marginally wider than before at 1585mm (1580mm).

Under the bonnet, the 2.0-litre engine appears to be an updated unit over that in the previous model unlike the 2.4-litre that sees more improvements made under the new Honda Earth Dreams initiative. The 2.0-litre remains a chain-driven single overhead camshaft unit with 16 valves and VTEC variable valve timing with undersquare configuration (long 96.9mm stroke and 81mm bore to displace 1997cc). Compression is also unchanged at 10.6:1.

Output delivery stays similar with 114kW (155PS) at 6500rpm and 190Nm at 4300rpm. Similarly, the transmission is the electronically controlled five-speed automatic with Shift hold option. The new Accord has put on weight with the 2.0 VTi-L tipping the scales at 1530kg against the previous 2.0-litre model that was ‘slimmer’ at below 1500kg.

We didn’t notice a lack of grunt, however, while driving the new Accord. It continued to move briskly at the slightest prompting of the accelerator pedal, gaining good speed on open stretches without the engine having to work hard. At 110km/h, the engine was turning just above 2000rpm and the result was good fuel economy since it was burning less fuel at a lower engine speed. You can select ECON mode if you want to stretch your petrol ringgit further.

If our experience with the previous model was anything to go by, the new Accord 2.0 VTi-L could easily cruise above 160km/h on the highway. From our brief highway sprints, we believed the new Accord would be even quieter than before with lower wind turbulence around the door mirrors, roof and sides. Helping that are the new Active Noise Control and Active Sound Control system that uses the car audio equipment to reduce low frequency noise and control engine noise to be linear to be easy on the ears.

We also like the dynamic quality of the new Accord as it represents the more spirited and youthful image that Honda bases its vehicle range on. This was clear in the way we could take the car through corners without feeling the greater mass as compared to the smaller Civic: the directional feedback through the steering was reasonably good and the anti-roll bars did their job in keeping the body quite level. Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) might have a hand in that.

Another factor that was given the unanimous vote from all on board was the more comfortable ride. The MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension appeared well tuned to absorb road impacts nicely and for the bumpy roads that we have to go over daily, the Accord drove over them without the harshness coming through. We even found the ride more preferable to that of a German car we had driven a week earlier.

That the new Accord could provide a comfortable ride without losing its dynamic quality through winding stretches had to be one of its better features. The large 8-inch i-MID (intelligent multi-information display) on the central dashboard area is another likeable feature, especially for the GPS function and car reverse display. Accessing the respective information and function is straightforward with clearly labelled pushbuttons, especially for me who am not so familiar with such things. It is the simplicity that makes the system user-friendly.

The bigger and voluminous boot looks like it could hold more than 400 litres, certainly sufficient for a family on a long weekend holiday. While the rear seatrest is not the splitfolding type, the centre armrest with cupholders opens up to allow long items to be carried through the fairly big hole.

At the time of the Accord’s launch last year, Honda Malaysia Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Yoichiro Ueno was looking at capturing 30 per cent of the market in the non-national D segment with the new model. With the positive outlook at the end of the drive, we believe the target should be achievable. The preferences of the prospective buyers may vary but the new Accord may persuade some to adapt with its nimble yet spirited quality and a comfortable ride.

The Accord 2.0 VTi-L is competitively priced at RM145,737.50 on the road without insurance and there are five colour options to choose from: Modern Steel Metallic, Champagne Frost Pearl, Alabaster Silver Metallic, Taffeta White, and Crystal Black Pearl.

Photo Gallery