For decades, the two most popular family saloons have been the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. They've got fans the world over who swear by them — and for good reason. Their reputation for reliability and safety is second to none. However, they differ slightly in terms of comfort and performance. If you want the smoothest of drives from home to work, then what you need is a Camry. If you want a bit more zip for the same route, go for the Accord. It was the 2011 model year of the latter transportation device (OK, car) that I had over the weekend.
Even though Honda updated the Accord in 2010, it hasn't stopped the carmaker from doing it again. It's had some cosmetic surgery and the easiest place to spot that is the revised grille, front bumper and the inclusion of new 17in alloys.
Look at it head on, and the refreshed Accord manages to be sleek yet aggressive with those bold HID headlights. However, it loses some presence because of its anonymous sides and rear end. It still resembles a BMW 5 Series (if you squint) thanks to the kink in the C-pillar and those taillights which wrap around the rear fenders, which is a good thing. If you're going to copy, then copy from the best. The side mirrors have LED turn signals while twin chrome exhausts complete the exterior. On the whole, it's a decent looker and obviously built with love. But it feels rather tinny when you tap the bodywork.
Once you're inside, the first thing you notice is the space. There's headroom and legroom aplenty. It gains an upscale look thanks to rich wood trim, while the buttons on the centre console have been spread out in such a way that everything is within easy reach. But they are almost all identical-looking. For instance, if you want to change stations on the radio, chances are you'll just switch off the AC. It's a bit hit and miss in this respect.
The 2011 Accord has been smothered in leather and this helps increase the car's luxurious feel. It looks far more expensive than it actually is. The big Honda is an elegant and refined place to be while everything is tightly constructed with good use of high-quality materials.
The bold contours and firm support of the electrically adjustable seats make for good comfort on long drives and the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob add a touch of class. The heat-shielding smoked glass sunroof allows plenty of light in and this helps the cabin feel light and airy.
But the 8in screen and navigation system could use a revamp — the graphics look outdated — although on the plus side, a rearview camera is included, while the Bluetooth works just fine with the crisp sound coming from a premium seven-speaker system that includes a subwoofer.
It's certainly not lacking in performance either, and spinning the front wheels is easy. Just a dab of the throttle is all it takes because the 3.5-litre V6 under the bonnet gives 271bhp at 6,200rpm and 340Nm of torque at 5,000rpm. With this you get a sporty drive and eager response. It even emits a pleasing growl when you floor it. The sophisticated VTEC VCM engine limits unnecessary fuel usage by partially halting the action of some cylinders and saving you a few dirhams. At start-up and acceleration, you have all six cylinders working, which reduce by two for cruising and finally you'll be down to three in mid-speed ranges, yet it's impossible to tell when the car is running on three, four or six cylinders. The computer-controlled drive-by-wire provides optimum engine power so you get smooth and powerful acceleration. It's an impressive unit.
Swapping those cogs is a five-speed automatic, featuring an anti lock-up system that boosts fuel efficiency, a direct control system which minimises shift shock and a shift hold control that reduces unnecessary upshifting while cornering.
The Accord feels sturdy and handles well thanks to the front double-wishbones and rear multi-link suspension set-up, which also features roll centres to keep you planted when you're cornering hard. It has a nicely weighted and communicative steering too, and that means you'll be tossing the car into and around bends for fun.verdict
The Accord has always been appealing to those with a modest budget, but who also want a good all-rounder, and you certainly do get that, although not exactly the modest budget part. It's a smart-looking, honest sort of car, yet it's becoming ever more luxurious with each model revamp. It offers a smooth ride, good comfort and an engine that doesn't know when to quit. The ultimate family car? Let's just say I know what I'll be considering when I'm married with kids.
Model Accord EX
Engine 3.5-litre V6
Transmission Five-speed auto, FWD
Max power 271bhp @ 6,200rpm
Max torque 340Nm @ 5,000rpm
Top speed NA
Plus Reliable, comfortable, affordable
Minus Too much road noise
Not only is the Fusion competitively priced (Dh85,000) but you can have it with all-wheel drive, something that is lacking with the Accord. Additionally, the Fusion features top-notch interior trims and Ford's highly acclaimed SYNC infotainment system.
Sandwiched in the middle of the Fusion and the Accord, price-wise, is the swoopy looking, front-wheel drive Sonata. A top spec model will set you back Dh93,500. This car offers plenty of room, convenience features and most of all, style.
People love the Altima because it is a practical, reliable and comfortable family saloon. But when dad has some alone time, he'll appreciate the nimble handling and lively acceleration. You might even look forward to driving it. Yours for Dh92,700.