In previous years, this test would have pitted Honda VTEC power against Alfa Romeo’s Twin Spark for petrol glory – but how times change!
Both firms are famous for their charismatic engines, yet today’s legislation has made diesel the current fuel of choice. With the promise of lower emissions and impressive economy, it appeals to private and business buyers alike.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Honda Accord
The latter now account for half of new car sales, and any potential customer will want their executive oil-burner to have the lowest CO2 emissions possible to save tax.
Until now, the Honda Accord has suffered because of its high CO2 output, so the introduction of a cleaner 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel is big news. Its arrival in July coincides with a mild facelift and some tweaks to the chassis, all designed to keep the Honda on the pace.
Meeting this challenge is the Alfa Romeo 159. Its 136bhp 2.0-litre JTDm replaces the old 1.9-litre unit, which didn’t meet the latest emissions regulations. Revised trim levels and more kit also boost the 159, but which saloon is the better option?
The Honda Accord and Alfa Romeo 159 are both unusual choices that cost little more than top-of-the-range mainstream models – but which one should buyers turn to if they are on the lookout for something different?
Both are now sufficiently eco-friendly to find their way on to company car lists, but the beautiful Alfa Romeo remains the selfish pick. It is the more engaging driver’s car and has bags of charm.
Yet the latest changes can’t disguise its dated underpinnings or lack of cabin space.
The Honda is less charismatic, but ultimately more capable. In the end, the impressive build quality, characterful i-DTEC engine and surprising economy of the Accord win out in this test. The Japanese machine feels like a more polished product. The brand’s solid reputation and well regarded dealer network seal a thoroughly deserved victory.