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The Honda Accord was recently facelifted for the 2006 model earlier this year, with subtle changes in front and something more radical at the back, but if you want details on what’s changed, I’ll have to point you to my previous post on the launch. Here, I’ll be providing an account of my experience driving the car around the roads of Langkawi for 1 day, as well as 3 days in the KL city. I tested the 2.4 litre model.

Test drive report after the jump.

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The first thing most will notice about the new Accord is the completely redesigned butt. While many would say the Accord is ripping off the Mercedes Benz E-Class with this design, its actually more American influenced. The story is, the Americans hated the pre-facelift Accord sedans butt but loved the Accord Coupes. Even pre-facelift, the Accord Coupe already had a rear end designed that looked like this, so with the facelift, the new Accord sedans butt was given a similar treatment, which Honda says is more sporty, but that is up to personal tastes of course – debatable! Since we get the same Accord as the Americans, we have to make do with the new butt as well. Apparently the new butt is slightly more aerodynamic as well, and reduces drag coefficient, but its a percentage really too small for even Honda themselves to promote, so they didnt. The new tail lamps are lit up by LEDs, and man, they’re really bright. The front end receives Hondas new floating style grille, and foglamps are now standard on all trim levels.

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As you get into the car, a combination of wood and a cream interior gives the Honda Accord a very spacious and upmarket feel. Turn on the ignition and you’ll be greeted by relatively huge self-illuminating meters lighting up, slowly increasing in brightness until you crank the engine up – where it goes up another step to full brightness. Nice effect. If it’s dark, you’ll notice the ambient lights lighting up the area below the dashboard, gives the interior a nice mood, for the passengers sitting in front anyway.

The 2.4 litre model comes with cream leather seats, instead of the fabric ones on the 2.0 litre model. Theyre snug and supportive for what theyre worth, and I like the driving position, the rake and reach adjustable steering wheel allows the steering wheel to be exactly where I want it, the armrest is in a good position for me to do real arm resting (unlike say, the one on the Cefiro A32), and the newly redesigned cobra head gear shift feels good in your hands. Initially, I couldn’t find the cupholders, but later I found out they are hidden in a compartment next to the handbrake. Not the most convenient spot to be honest, I would have preferred them somewhere at the center console where it’s more easily reachable. In the current position, if you extend the arm rest, the cupholders are not really convenient to use.

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The 2.4 litre DOHC i-VTEC engine is torquey in the mid RPM band onwards, but there is not much pull at the higher ends of the range, unlike its smaller displacement brother the K20 in the Civic 2.0 litre. But the combination of the engine and the 5-speed gearbox (with 2 overdrive gears) provides for a very smooth ride – gear changes are extremely smooth and picking up speed is effortless.

You will want to drive this engine with a half-throttle position most of the time, youll smile at the pull it has at mid-throttle, but floor it often and you will start to feel a 2.4 litre block should be putting out more power. There are actually Honda K24 powerplants that make more power around the world, but ours is relatively underpowered because of regional supply consolidation, we have to be content with an engine with a relatively low compression ratio due to the low grade petrol they get in Thailand.

This new K24 also has 10 PS more than the unit in the pre-facelift Accord, though I have not driven the previous Accord and thus cannot say if I can feel the extra 10 PS, feedback from other journalists seem to indicate they cant really feel the extra power. But with good mid range torque, the engine makes use of the two overdrive gears well – in 5th gear you can cruise at about 150km/h at an engine speed of only about 3,000+ rpm. Yeah, the general feeling of not having to push the engine and the comfortable interior makes this a great highway cruiser indeed.

In straight lines of course. Despite what Honda Malaysia says – sportiness, sportiness, sportiness – the Accord is sporty only in image, the bodyroll is irritatingly bouncy around the bends. It goes boing boing boing, making it hard to stay composed during negotiating a long corner – Im not talking about sharp 60 degree kinds that end in a split second, it would be quite silly expecting the Accord to perform well in THAT kind of corner. But I did it anyway! Got the VSA to kick in many many times, it was fun, despite the long wheel base and general unagileness of the car.

Another problem with negotiating long bends are the gearbox’s tendency to be shift-happy, during upshifts the car’s balance is messed up, so one has to put the car into the D3 shift position before taking a corner, otherwise it’s a recipe for disaster. So from my observation, the suspension actually manages to hold out against short, tight and quick corners, but goes haywire on long bends.

Again, since I have not tried the previous one, feedback from fellow journalists say the new Accord is better than the old one around bends, but when we asked Honda Malaysia if they updated the car’s suspension system, they answer was no, but an explanation was offered to the improvement we felt “it could be due to the improved production process at Honda’s Malacca plant, allowing the margin of error to be closed down to a minimal, and this indirectly affects the suspension.”

Back to the interior, while the new front-loading 6-CD changer sounds nice, the lettering Premium Audio System spoils the whole luxurious image of the interior. Looking like an afterthought slapped on without much thinking, it’s written in Brothers-like italic font that does not match the fonts of all the other labels in the car at all. I am really fussy about my car interiors, and the Accord’s would be perfect without that jarring text. Other than that, the layout of the center dash is good, with a good choice of large dials that are easy to turn instead of buttons that can be quite tiring to press repeatedly.

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The boot is humongous, and can easily accomplish the task of say, picking up an aunt and a cousin whose visiting from the UK who are going to stay over for a few weeks – the luggage required for that sort of trip was easily put into the boot. Yup, tried and tested. While at first I thought there would be no point buying an Accord since the new Civic’s legroom is pretty amazing already, but the Accord does provide even better legroom. With a full load of 5 people in the car, as well as 2 huge suitcases in the trunk, the Accord still tackled the highway comfortably, the engine did not run out of breath there – so it was a pleasant experience for both the driver and the passengers.

So, would I buy an Accord? I can’t say, since I haven’t been able to get my hands on one of the newly launched Camrys yet, and I do like the Australian-like fatness of the new Camry but given a choice between the new Accord faceliftand the previous Camry, yes I would buy one, and scrap the Premium Audio System text off the front-loading CD changer of course.

Comfy interior, nice engine though it could use more power, very smooth gearbox but generally could do with more adaptive programming to suit driver behaviour (don’t upshift through corners!), comfy ride but not inspiring around corners – the Accord is a very, very good family car, but you won’t find a sporty drive – just sporty looks. Some might argue that I am focusing too much on the sporty drive in my test, or rather the lack of one, but it’s only because Honda positioned the Accord that way. As a family car it’s great.

More photos will be added to this post soon, they’re in my desktop computer and it has crashed – I am writing this from my notebook.

Related Posts:
2006 Honda Accord facelift in Malaysia (launch)

Video: Honda Accord 2.4 VTi-L Facelift Test Drive

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This is the Accord Coupe. See the rear lamps?