The Accord may be a D-segment car but it is treated no less differently in styling direction and driving dynamics: it must exude the spirited aura in engine response and dynamic feel to bring about a joie de vivre in motoring.
Now in its ninth stage of development, the latest Accord has indeed come a long way from the very first model 37 years ago: in 1976, it started as a threedoor hatchback with a 1.6-litre engine that had a strong pace for some lively driving.
A four-door sedan was added a year later and which proved to be more popular here.
Its body styling had evolved and expanded along the way, and this included the estate or wagon alternative that found appeal with buyers mainly in the US or Europe.
A few of the latter generation models were given a fastback rear for the four-door model to bring about a sporty element.
That styling direction took a back seat with the eighth generation model as Honda decided to promote the sedan profile again.
It did appear that the general feedback in major markets had indicated a greater preference for the coupe-ish rear and which we heartily agree as the sporty element gels more in line with the youthful slant of Honda cars.
Thus, the ninth generation model comes with a short rear, long bonnet profile that embodies the 'go faster' body design while staying contemporary with LED (light emitting diodes) daytime running headlights.
It had been almost a year since the latest Accord was introduced here, in early September to be precise, and Honda Malaysia was reportedly having its hands full meeting sales orders.
That best explained why a media car was finally available for a drive impression and given the three model variants available — two 2.0- litre models and one 2.4-litre flagship – we chose the 2.0 VTi-L, which we believe to be the more popular one, going by the market trend of the previous generation Accord.
The 2.0 VTi-L is the bridging model between the 2.0 VTi and the 2.4 VTi-L, and shares some equipment and fittings with the bigger engine displacement Accord.
These, among others, included black leather upholstery, steering wheel switch for phone control, eight-way driver power seat, power lumbar support for the driver's seat, rear door sunshade, satellite-linked navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity and reverse camera.
Compared to the previous model, the latest Accord is slightly smaller suggesting that its current body dimensions are about ideal for the category, especially when the spacious interior remains a strong feature.
It now runs on a shorter wheelbase of 2,775mm from 2,800mm previously and has a shorter body in length at 4,870mm from 4,945mm.
While it is marginally wider at 1,850mm from 1,845mm, it is shorter in height at 1,465mm from 1,475mm; however, the new Accord runs on slightly wider tracks front and rear at 1,585mm from 1,580mm for better stability.
Despite this shedding off in dimensional expanse, the new Accord did not come lighter in kerb weight than before: model for model, the 2.0 VTi-L is said to weigh in at 1,530kg, up by 30kg.
This might have to do with the higher fittings in new equipment such as the sun shades, bigger 8-inch i-MID (intelligent multi-information display), more panel linings to reduce noise intrusion, to name a few.
There is no mention of an improvement in aerodynamic efficiency in the new body profile but we believe the latest styling should be good enough to provide quiet rides on highways while offering low wind resistance to gain on fuel mileage from an engine that is not working hard to power the car.
The 2.0-litre engine appears similar to that in the previous model, unlike the 2.4-litre unit that is newly developed under the new Honda Earth Dreams programme.
Staying to the belief that less is more, the 2.0-litre engine comes with a single overhead camshaft (while many power units these days come with two and that includes engines as small as 1.0- litre) while continuing with 16 valves and i-VTEC (electronically controlled variable valve timing).
Engine output stays similar at 155PS and 190Nm of torque, and power the front wheels via the same electronically controlled fivespeed automatic transmission with Shift Hold.
There was no inkling of any gain in weight during the few days of driving: initial and passing acceleration was as good as we could recall in the previous model, enough to impress us that the spirited aspect stays true to the Honda design.
At 110kph, the engine is most 'relaxed', turning at an easy 2,000rpm and this should help stretch fuel mileage.
Of course, you can improve on that further with 'ECON' mode by pressing the green button on the dashboard so that the automatic gear changes are electronically controlled to upshift faster to stress the engine even less.
If you are in a hurry, the new Accord would oblige too as the engine delivered the pace for us to cruise easily at 140kph over open stretches, or the grunt to sprint quickly from the lights.
Comfort, both from the driver's and passenger's perspective, stayed good as well if not better than before, especially with the new Active Noise Control and Active Sound Control: these use the car's audio system to reduce low frequency noise and any intrusive engine sound to be linear and be easy on the ears.
Mostly, we heard distant rustle from the wind turbulence around the door mirrors and roof area to make the drive pleasant,especially on highways.
We could also drive the new Accord confidently through a few of our favourite corners although the 225/50 R17 Goodyear tyres did squeal a little having covered quite a bit of mileage.
The Accord has a MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear: the VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) is part of its active dynamic systems.
Perhaps the more important aspect was the ride comfort: it was unanimous for all on board that we liked the way the new Accord handled all those bumps and ruts that were part of our daily drives.
The suspension appeared to be well sorted out as it had the capacity to absorb the harshness of the road shocks over uneven surfaces while having the car stay firmly rooted to the road at highway speeds.
For the seemingly shorter rear, the boot has 400 litres of space to accommodate a family's luggage for an extended weekend holiday.
There is also a retractable tray (anchored to the upper shelf) that can hold items up to 5kg, which should be useful for containing loose items.
The rear seatrests may not be the folding type but by lowering the centre armrest (which has two cupholders), a few long items can be stored using the 'hole in the wall'.
We have again come away with a positive outlook of the Accord, having first enjoyed its attributes more than a year ago in Thailand, shortly after its launch there.
The Honda was part of a fleet of cars Michelin had provided to get a feel of its then new tyre, Primacy 3 ST, and it was a pleasant double impression.
The latest Accord should continue to draw high interest for all the 'positives' it has to offer and help Honda Malaysia meet its 30% target share in the D-segment market.
Another supporting factor is the Accord 2.0 VTi-L's attractive price RM149,815.30, especially against the wide field of competitors from both the East and the West.