All of us who were quick to write an elegy to the lowly family saloon will have to sit up and ponder over our hasty conclusions. Agreed, it is several years of blandness, apathy and lack of character that led us to think these lackluster three-box people movers were a dying breed. But a few years ago, a knight in shining armour came from the land of the Rising Sun and changed the game completely. The current Mazda 6, with its exceptional good looks, lively drivetrain and great dynamics, inspired other manufacturers to add a bit more excitement to their offerings in this class. The new lease of life that this car infused into the class prompted even veterans like the Toyota Camry to completely overhaul its latest iteration into something actually relatively exciting and good-looking. Now it’s the turn of the Accord, Honda’s mid-size saloon that started it all in the late Seventies and set the sales charts on fire straightaway, in the all-important US market and elsewhere.

After languishing in the mire of mediocrity for over a decade now, the 10th generation Accord has received what is by far the biggest ground-up upgrade ever in its model history, both in terms of appearance as well as the oily bits. The biggest visual change is the car’s profile. Although it’s still a saloon, the new Accord has been designed to look like a five-door fastback. With a generous smattering of folds and creases all over, it looks sleeker and more hunkered down than ever before. The front-end styling follows the new corporate design language seen in recent models like the new Civic and Jazz, while the steeply raked roofline and the boomerang taillights add more character to the Accord’s overall appearance.  However, unlike in many other models, the emphasis on style has not taken away from substance. Despite an overall lower height, and shorter length, the longer wheelbase, wider body and tracks contribute to a roomier cabin. In fact the new Accord’s interior, especially the rear compartment, is among the most spacious in its class.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Thankfully, all the cosmetic improvements have been solidly backed up by mechanical advancements. Both the naturally aspirated powertrains that did duty in the previous versions have been discontinued. The long-serving V6 engine option for the top trim has been ditched in favour of a turbocharged four-pot. The force-fed 2.0-litre engine is not the only change though. While Honda disappointingly chose to put a CVT in all its lower models including the new Civic even in its RS form, the top-spec Accord sees a 10-speed automatic transmission channeling all the 247 horses and 370Nm of torque to the front wheels. There’s also a lower variant powered by a turbocharged 1.5-litre, still coupled with a CVT, but our tester is the 2.0 T Sport. The 10-speed automatic is quick and seamless in its shifts, and there’s no perceptible turbo lag. The engine is linear in its power delivery and torquey enough for you to forget the old V6, but with its raspy note, it might not feel as refined as the V6 for some drivers.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Responses from the chassis and steering are way above the class average, and it hits the sweet spot between compliance and stiffness. The ride quality is plush and smooth, and is right up there with the best in class. And as is expected, it comes packed with a whole suite of the latest features including head-up display, remote engine start, paddle shifters, adaptive cruise control, the highly useful Lane Watch display that eliminated blindspot altogether, and 12-way power adjustment with power lumbar support for the driver’s seat among others. The adaptive cruise control’s low-speed follow function works superbly well in the Accord, as does most of the other driver aids. It also comes equipped with safety features such as airbags all around including those to protect the driver’s and front passenger’s knees.

This is without a doubt Honda’s best attempt at adding more fervor and character to its popular mid-size saloon. It’s definitely one of the best offerings in the category now. But the fact that most of its rivals, including its main adversary the Camry, are at the top of their game will make it slightly more tricky for the Honda to dominate the segment straightaway.