Honda gave us some sizzling driver's cars in the 1990s. A few examples: the sublime mid-engined NSX, which beat Ferrari and Lamborghini at their own game; the high-revving S2000 roadster; and the beautifully balanced DC2 Integra Type R. Thereafter, the engineering-focused brand seemed to go into virtual hibernation, churning out vanilla vehicles that, although competent and well-built, elicited little excitement.
In more recent times, there have been encouraging signs that Honda has rediscovered its mojo. The Honda-powered Red Bull Racing team is this year shaping up to be a genuine Formula One championship contender, and even the company’s road-going cars offer some long-lost pizzazz.
Proof of the latter is provided by the Honda Accord Sport 2.0T we're reviewing here. Although it's a four-door sedan with a conventional boot, the 10th-generation Accord's offbeat fastback styling sets it apart from the three-box Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata et al.
A recent update across the Accord line-up has added fresh life via a new front bumper, a wider lower and upper grille, and full-LED headlights. Also new are piano-black accents on the shark-fin antenna, side mirrors and rear spoiler. Arguably the most noticeable changes are the eye-catching new Sonic Grey colour, plus tasty 18-inch polished rims.
The refreshed Accord range kicks off at a competitive Dh94,900, but the range-topper we’re testing costs Dh139,900. The most enticing ingredient of the flagship model is its potent 2.0-litre turbo engine, which ekes out 247hp and 370Nm, channelled to the front wheels via a 10-speed auto. That’s not a misprint … the auto has 10 ratios.
Left in its default drive mode, the Accord serves up somewhat pedestrian performance, but pushing the Sport button on the centre console livens things up by triggering more aggressive throttle and transmission mapping, as well as firming up the adaptive dampers. Keep the throttle pinned in this mode and the 0 to 100kph dash is dispatched in about 5.7 seconds, which distinguishes the Accord range-topper as arguably the fastest car in its segment (that is, family sedans priced under Dh150k).
The 10-speed auto is generally an agreeably smooth and intuitive transmission, but occasionally it can’t seem to decide which gear it wants to be in. Perhaps there are just too many ratios to choose from, although you can override this software-rooted indecision by shifting manually via the steering-mounted paddle shifters.
This minor niggle apart, the Accord is a very polished sedan that, for the most part, lives up to its Sport billing.
There’s little to fault in its straight-line performance, and the chassis, too, is decently taut and composed. Hustle the car through corners at eight-tenths and it responds with crispness. Push harder and you’ll encounter some body roll and understeer (a tendency for the front wheels to push straight ahead, rather than track the intended cornering line). Given the Accord’s target market, though, it has more than sufficient dynamic poise.
The positive impressions carry through to the cabin. Given that we're in the flagship model, it's no surprise to find nicely finished perforated leather trim and fittingly upmarket piano-black and faux carbon-fibre trim on the dashboard and door panels. Standard in the Accord Sport 2.0 are a head-up display, eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, voice-activated navigation system, 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a premium audio system and front, side, curtain and knee airbags.
There’s ample sprawling room in the rear seats (even if you have the front seats set well back), and the 473-litre boot is adequately capacious for a car of this size. There’s good visibility in all directions, although the high rump means you need to rely on the reversing camera to back into parallel parking spots.
All in all, the Accord Sport 2.0T is a capable and engaging family sedan that offers a palatable blend of sportiness and everyday practicality. It's a refreshing sign that Honda is back to making cars that are a joy to drive, rather than merely being white goods on wheels.