Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC EX

Great styling and superb engine make for a talented contender.

If you can’t beat them, join them – that appears to be the motto at Honda! Most car manufacturers have been churning out estate models that put style ahead of substance for years, but the previous Accord made a virtue of its practicality.

Its vertical tailgate was designed to maximise load space, and it stood out from the crowd.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Honda Accord

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Look at the latest model, and you’ll see the firm has changed its approach, because its tapering rear end and sleek profile are designed for style, not to liberate interior space. You can’t argue with the results, as the Tourer builds on the aggressive shape of the saloon with pronounced haunches and neatly integrated tail-lights. To our eyes it looks even better than the four-door, and its athletic stance further highlights the anonymity of the new Avensis.

Inside, you get the same dashboard as the saloon. We love the solid feel of its components, but there are simply too many buttons to contend with on the busy centre console. The instruments also look cheap for a car with its sights set on BMW and Audi. Still, standard equipment shames its German rivals, while EX trim includes sat-nav and a powered tailgate, unlike the Toyota.

The Honda loses out at the back, though, where its 406-litre boot is 137 litres down on the Avensis. Fold the rear seats, and it’s still second best. The Toyota’s wheelarches are less intrusive, so its load area is more practical, and the Accord’s maximum load length of 1,880mm is 60mm shorter.

For an estate car the Honda isn’t perfect, then – but does it compensate on the road? The 2.2 i-DTEC engine is certainly a match for the Avensis unit, with an identical power output and 10Nm torque advantage.

While the car in our photographs was fitted with the company’s new automatic box, in manual guise the i-DTEC provides more in-gear punch, and makes the Avensis feel lethargic in comparison. The Accord’s slick six-speed transmission is also much more enjoyable to use than the light but unrewarding Toyota shift.

Yet the Honda doesn’t have everything its own way, as the Avensis’s brakes are stronger. It stopped in 48.9 metres from 70mph – that’s 2.8 metres earlier than the Accord. What’s more, the Honda’s light steering doesn’t feel quite as natural as the weightier set-up of its rival.

Out on the road, the sports suspension that comes as standard with our EX variant does wonders for handling and agility. Turn into a bend in the Honda after driving the Toyota, and you immediately appreciate its sharper responses. It also has more front end grip.

Despite its sporty set-up, the ride is far from uncomfortable. Yet while it’s not as smooth as mainstream family car competitors such as the Ford Mondeo, the stiffer settings mean it does as good a job as the Toyota of smoothing out small bumps.

Honda doesn’t provide the same number of engine or trim options as Toyota, but the Accord does offer desirable looks and more engaging dynamics. The question is whether that will be enough for it to win this test.

What it will cost you The Accord justifies its higher price tag with much stronger second-hand values and higher equipment levels. But that isn’t necessarily the case across the line-up. The price gap increases for lesser models, as the diesel Accord Tourer line-up starts from £21,990, while the Avensis range kicks off at £17,520.

You can pay even less for the Toyota if you’re happy with the smaller 128bhp 2.0-litre D-4D unit. Honda’s inclusive servicing package looks expensive, but it lasts for five years and the Accord warranty also has a higher mileage limit. Fuel economy of 31.1mpg is inferior to the Avensis, though.

In detail * Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 148bhp * 0-60mph: 9.4 seconds * Economy: 31.1mpg * Annual road tax: £145 * Euro NCAP rating: Five stars

Details

Price: £24,990Model tested: Honda Accord 2.2 i-DTEC EXChart position: 1WHY: Latest Accord Tourer builds on success of its large and desirable predecessor.

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