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Click to view road test review picture gallery“Wherever there are
  engines you’ll find
  Honda. They’re in F1,
  Touring Cars, Power-
  boat racing, MoTo GP
  and Superbike Racing.
  And passenger cars.
  David Miles has just
  driven the 2.2 i-CTDi SE
  Accord. If you rate
  value-for-money, you
  should read what he
  has to say...”

A REPORTED further investment of 13 million by Honda UK into their dealer Business to Business Programme over the next five years is planed as they attack the important user-chooser company car market.

Honda UK started their local Dealer Fleet Programme two years ago when the brand attracted just over 2,000 company car buyers to dealer showrooms. This year sales are likely to have increased to 7,250 units and by 2010 dealer Business to Business sales are expected to reach around 13,000 cars a year.

Not all of Honda's 195 UK dealers are involved in the new programme as it depends upon their locality and the business community footprint in the rural areas. But dealers are now being encouraged to target smaller businesses to grow their overall sales. Currently, Honda dealers are in the top five of brands for profitability.

In 2006, Honda sold 97,727 new cars in the UK. This year their fore-cast is 104,530 units and year-to-date they have achieved 65,430 sales — an eight per cent increase over the same period last year.

Although Honda is still considered to be a retail brand, their Accord D-segment Saloon and Tourer range sales are 55 per cent to fleet and business users and 45 per cent to retail. Accord fleet and business user sales show a 68 per cent increase so far this year, with seventy-five per cent of Accord sales being Saloon models.

However, the Accord is still only their fourth-best selling range year-to-date — with 5,413 sales — although the target for the year is 9,000 units, with 60 per cent being diesel-powered versions.

The top selling range overall is the Civic, with 24,967 sales, followed by the Jazz with 17,783 units and the CR-V SUV with 13,545 sales. Other model sales are the Civic Hybrid at 1,751, the FR-V MPV at 1,498, the Legend all-wheel drive sports saloon at 70 and the S200 sports car with 400 sales.

Feedback from dealers to Honda show there is a need for additional specification diesel Accord models in the competitive D-segment. So to broaden the appeal of the Accord range, Honda is launching — in time for the new registration plate change month of September — two additional 2.2 i-CTDi diesel models to the range: the 'price fighter' SE saloon that will cost 18,600, and the Sport GT 2.2 i-CTDi Saloon and Tourer priced at 20,767 and 21,967 respectively.

The SE offers a high-specification saloon with 16-inch alloy wheels, Stability Assist, 6-speed gearbox and Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity. It also delivers low fuel and taxation running costs.

At 18,600 the Honda Accord SE Saloon undercuts the equivalent models in the VW Passat, Audi A4 and Vauxhall Vectra ranges. The 138bhp common-rail turbodiesel engine has lower CO2 emission levels than the competition — 145g/km, giving a Band C 115 Vehicle Excise Duty rating. Importantly, the Benefit in Kind tax is 19 per cent as opposed to 20 per cent for the Vectra and 21 per cent for the Passat. No wonder Honda term it the 'price fighter'.

The other demand from would-be Honda Accord customers, especially business users, was for Saloon and Tourer models that combine the advantages of the high-technology fuel-efficient 2.2-litre diesel engine with more of the sporting features found in other top-end Accord models, and all at a competitive price.

With the Accord Sport GT 2.2 i-CTDi Saloon costing 20,767 and the Tourer estate 21,967, the added specification includes 17-inch alloy wheels for the Saloon (16-inch for the Tourer), premium white pearl paint finish, sports suspension, rear boot spoiler, smoked headlights and foglights, carbon-effect inlays for the dashboard and centre con-sole, voice-activated satellite navigation, an upgraded sound system, cruise control and Bluetooth. The Tourer is, in addition, fitted with privacy glass.

The GT Saloon has emissions of 145g/km CO2 giving it a 115 Band C VED rating. However, the GT Tourer, with the same power output but increased overall weight, has a CO2 rating of 155g/km, bumping it up to Band D and a VED cost of 140 per annum. For Accord drivers who must have the sporty GT image for their company or business car, and who are willing to pay just that bit extra but also know a bargain when they spot one, the Sport GT will fit the bill perfectly.

Each time I go back to driving a Honda Accord I'm reminded on what
a good car it is. Somehow it falls off people's 'radar' when considering
a new car, especially if you are a business user. Honda's increased Marketing and PR activities promoting not just the Accord but all their models to business and fleet buyers can only help raise their profile.

Of the SE and Sport GT, my personal preference is the SE. It has a lower price but with the same performance as the GT and with a lower Benefit in Kind level of taxation.

The specification might be lower but it still looks very smart; the SE's ride comfort is also better because it does not have the firm 'sports' suspension — it doesn't need it. The only item I would miss is the sat-ellite navigation system.

Honda is well known in many different areas of the market: cars, hy-brids, motorcycles, powered equipment, garden power tools, gener-ators, outboard engines, Aero HondaJet engines, F1, Touring Cars, Powerboat racing, MoTo GP and World, Japanese, USA and British Superbike Racing. Honda produces 4 million cars a year — 220,000 of them in the UK. And it is also the second largest-selling Japanese car brand in the UK, behind Toyota but now ahead of Nissan. And their Accord is highly underrated.

I've tried — believe me I've tried! But the only criticism I can make is that the Accord's bland exterior styling does not have that elusive 'Wow' factor — but then it's always a mistake to judge a book by its cover. Look beyond the skin and you'll find the Accord to be well built and of high quality. It also represents good value for money with lower taxation levels and it provides a roomy cabin. Finally, owners get a refined diesel engine and good driving performance. Accords, I would strongly suggest, deserve to be appreciated far more. — David Miles

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Honda Accord 2.2 i-CTDi SE Saloon | 18,600
Maximum speed: 132mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 51.4mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 251lb ft

CO2 145g/km | Insurance group 12
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