Honda Accord Tourer ES GT

Japanese model focuses on style rather than space – but does this hold it back here?

The previous-generation Accord forged a reputation for estate car excellence, but the current model has taken a slightly different tack. While the old car made a virtue of its proportions, with an exaggerated chopped-off rear end, the latest one arrived in 2008 with a more dynamic look.

A sleek profile, thrusting grille and tapering roofline give the Honda the most racy appearance of all our contenders – a look that’s underlined by the GT’s aero bodykit and smart alloy wheels. But does it still make a great estate?

Inside, anyone familiar with the car’s European rivals can be forgiven for being overwhelmed by the sheer number of buttons on display.

The centre console is initially confusing, although once you get used to the controls, the various functions work quickly and logically. Thanks to the car’s high waistline and big transmission tunnel, the cabin has a cosseting rather than spacious feel, but the driving position is comfortable, and offers plenty of scope for adjustment.

Plus, ES GT trim includes luxuries such as Bluetooth and a USB port.

The cosy ambience continues in the back, where passengers get very little legroom for a vehicle in this class. It provides the least amount of space for occupants in the rear, and as a result is a compromised choice for family buyers with a couple of teens to accommodate. Open the tailgate and the boot follows a similar trend.

While the load space is beautifully trimmed, its capacity of 406 litres is below par here. And as the Japanese firm doesn’t provide a luggage figure for the car with the rear seats folded, direct comparisons are difficult. Even so, its narrow load area looks and feels smaller than its rivals with the back seats down.

The rear does house a big underfloor cubby – fine for a soft holdall or pair of laptop bags – and you get covered storage panels on either side. But there’s no spare wheel and the height of the boot opening is the shortest on test.

What the Honda lacks in practicality it makes up for on the road, as it’s great to drive. From its powerful and smooth diesel engine to its rifle-bolt six-speed gearbox and agile handling, the Accord is an engaging choice.

The ES GT comes with sports suspension, which adds to the car’s personality, yet still copes with bumps well. It can fidget on rough surfaces, but strikes a fine balance between being entertaining and comfortable.

The i-DTEC engine is a key part of the car’s appeal. It delivers 350Nm of torque and has the character of a petrol, as it thrives on revs. Yet it doesn’t do well at the pumps, returning 37mpg in our test – less than its main rivals.

As a sporty, desirable hatch, the Honda makes sense, but view it as a practical carry-all and the cracks begin to show. Will that cost it dear in the final analysis?

Details

Chart position: 4WHY: Accord used to be all about practicality. The latest model adds a welcome dose of style, but does it pay the price when it comes to space?

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