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By now you’d have read our comprehensive Malaysian launch report of the all-new ninth-generation Honda Accord, as well as a test drive review of the new D-segment contender prior to today’s local reveal. Do check them out if you haven’t already.

Technical details and model specifications aside (all covered extensively in the launch report), there’s more to be known about Honda’s latest Toyota Camry-fighter. For a more in-depth look, Honda Malaysia arranged for us to meet and interview Masao Nakano, Assistant Large Project Leader of the new Honda Accord.

Here’s all you need to know about the new Accord, from the man who’s largely responsible for its overall development process. Read on and check out the full product presentation slides in the gallery below.

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Why has the new Honda Accord been made smaller than before, when going larger is the trend that the rest of the industry is following?

The outgoing Accord was already the biggest Japanese D-segment sedan. While developing the new car, our customer surveys concluded that perhaps the old size was too big. General feedback suggested that the car was not swift enough, and lacked manoeuvrability.

Today, a car’s function has become more defined and specified. Exterior size is not everything anymore, and it has to meet the purpose of its usage. Just like the current Civic and CR-V (both are smaller than their predecessors), the new Accord follows Honda’s formula of “man maximum, machine minimum.” That’s to say that we offer maximum interior space, with the minimum exterior size.

Yet, the reduction is size is carried out without compromising interior space and comfort, both of which have been improved on, in fact.

How has Honda managed to deliver a roomier interior, despite it being encased in a smaller shell?

The seat structure is newly developed to improve interior space. Without jeopardising the quality and comfort of the seats, the thickness has been reduced to gain extra legroom. The seating posture plays a part in this too, as it has been moved back.

Our cars are designed and built for specific purposes, catering to specific needs of a wide demographic. We take serious considerations on the ergonomic comfort of customers from all over the world, to ensure that our cars are suited to all its target markets.

The new Accord looks the same here as it does in the American markets. Why not have more styling differentiation like before?

For the Accord, it has always been almost the same everywhere (looks wise), except for slight changes, which are mostly done because of the need to adhere to regulations of different countries. The main structure is the same, and the practice continues still.

It has to be said that the new model looks very similar to the outgoing one. Some might even mistake it as a facelift, and not an all-new model. It also appears to be styled as more of a comfort-biased executive sedan rather than a sporty one, which Hondas have traditionally been known for. Any comments on this?

We launched the previous-generation Accord in the US and subsequently introduced it to Malaysia. Based on our American and Malaysian customers’ feedback, the Accord is used primarily as a means of transport, and not necessarily as a sporty vehicle.

Their main concerns were luxury, quality and comfort. As such, the new model adds luxury features to the Malaysian market. But, as with our stance regarding the move towards a smaller exterior, we have managed to incorporate these additions without compromising the car’s sporty nature here and in the Asian market.

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On to the engine. The Earth Dreams Technology 2.4 litre mill is not the new direct-injected motor with Idle Stop we’ve seen in Japan last year, which has since then been launched in the US. The transmission we get here is also an older five-speed automatic instead of the EDT CVT gearbox. Why is that?

The 2.4 litre Earth Dreams Technology engine is brand new, designed under our EDT umbrella. The main focus of this new engine is to provide improved fuel efficiency, and yet offer a fun-to-drive experience, while at the same time being friendly to the environment.

It’s much lighter than before – by a significant 6% – and is the main contributor to the new model’s weight loss. Fuel consumption has improved, from 11.5 km/l (8.7 l/100 km) in the outgoing Accord 2.4 to 12.2 km/l (8.2 l/100 km).

We have considered both the use of CVT or auto‘box, but again from our studies, we have found that Malaysians prefer absolute drivability and performance. That is why we have chosen to use the more widely accepted traditional automatic transmission over the CVT here.

Developing powertrains for the US, top priority over in that market is fuel efficiency, and not drivability, hence the use of a CVT there. Honda R&D continues to suit every application, where we study the specific needs of different markets and countries.

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Any plans to introduce the DI 2.4 engine and CVT in our market anytime soon?

Moving forward, if the market changes to reflect the need for it, we will definitely consider introducing the same powertrain and drivetrain package to the Malaysian market too.

Moving on to the 2.0 litre engine. It has been retuned for better fuel consumption. Can you detail the changes made to it, and is there any quantifiable improvement in its fuel economy?

The main structure of the engine is carried over, but the internals have been finely refined to achieve less friction. The fuel-injection ECU settings have been retuned too, as well as the use of a new engine oil and material variation within the motor.

Changes to a lot of areas have resulted in better fuel efficiency, in this case improving the consumption from 11.9 km/l (8.4 l/100 km) to 13.1 km/l (7.7 l/100 km) in the new Accord 2.0.

The current five-speed automatic is seen as sufficient, but wouldn’t a six-speeder (or more) be better in keeping up with the current competition from other car manufacturers?

We are developing a number of new transmissions as well, and hopefully soon, we can bring this to Malaysia too.

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Can you explain the move from the older Accord models’ traditional double-wishbone front suspension setup to the new one’s MacPherson struts?

The main reason why we have chosen the MacPherson strut over a double wishbone setup is to save weight, as the new design saves 15.2 kg over the old one. On top of that, the change also reduces vibration in the car. We understood that by using the MacPherson strut, there would be some areas that could be jeopardised, and we countered that by using electronic power steering (EPS) for all models.

In terms of the cost of the total package, including the EPS, there is not much change. Simply put, the MacPherson strut and EPS is the combination that provides the ultimate results that make it better than the previous double wishbone setup.

One of the outgoing Accord’s major shortcomings is its road noise. What changes have been made to improve this?

The car has improved body rigidity as well as more sound absorbing and blocking material. Together with the standard Active Noise Control (ANC) and Active Sound Control (ASC), we have reduced cabin vibration and noise to now have the quietest cabin in the class.

ANC and ASC will cut off undesirable cabin sounds like vibrations and road noise. Microphones fitted on the rooflining pick up unwanted background noise, and the control unit will then play an inaudible track through the car’s audio system to counteract the said noise.

The system is effective even with the audio unit turned off, given that the engine is active.

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Why is the Honda LaneWatch feature only on one side, and why isn’t it on the ‘overtaking’ (right) side?

It was initially developed to be used on both sides at first. During our test procedures, however, I personally found it to be confusing when applied to the right side, as the camera feed is always displayed on the centre screen, which is located to the driver’s left.

So you’d be looking left at the screen, while attempting to turn right. Confusing, no? As such, we’ve implemented it on the far side only (left, in right-hand drive cars).

Normal blind-spot indicators work on both sides, but overall, our Honda LaneWatch gives a more useful information as there are guide/estimation lines for you to judge the distance more accurately.