Inconspicuous, yet it fits the description of what makes a standout car. First of all it carries the name of one of the highest-selling vehicles of all time – Honda Accord. Then there is the fact that it offers affordable motoring while being well-equipped. But most of all, the Honda Accord has solidified its reputation as one of the most reliable cars ever made – a reputation that even luxury cars costing many times more can’t match.
The owner of this silver 2004 Honda Accord (sold as the Acura TSX in North America) bought this car less than a month ago with a low 60,600km for CHF 6,700, and has been very kind to lend it to me while away on holiday. It has a 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine with Honda’s i-VTEC system, while the interior has leather seats with alcantara-like inserts, a CD player, and dual-zone climate control. A car with this spec and mileage is normally priced between CHF 10,000 and CHF 12,000 at a Swiss Honda dealer, but the owner was lucky enough to find this car on a clearance sale.
In terms of design, this Accord still looks elegant nine years after leaving the showroom floor. As for the interior, the buttons on the centre console are well laid out, and the three-spoke steering wheel is a nice size too. There’s also a good amount of head- and legroom for backseat passengers, while the trunk has enough space for a fairly large suitcase and some small travel bags. Some of the materials on the centre console do feel a bit like the work of accountants trying to save some money, but luckily they don’t look as low-cost as they feel.
With 155hp and 190 Nm (140lb ft) of torque, there is enough power for everyday driving. Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes 8.5 seconds, while its top speed is reached at 220km/h. Peak torque is programmed to arrive at 4,500rpm, so I was expecting this engine to feel like it would have a hard time making it readily available on the highway. However, since the engine is spinning at over 3,000rpm at 100km/h, you’re never too far away from peak torque. As a result, anything between 80km/h and above can be dealt with using only fifth gear – you rarely need to change down gears unless you want a super-fast overtake. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.0l/100km on the highway, and 11.4l/100km in the city.
Cold mornings cause slightly slow start-ups, but once the engine is up to operating temperature it becomes a smooth and great partner for your daily commute. There’s also a distant transmission whine in first and second gear if you decide to make brisk progress, giving it a nice mechanical feel. But the best mechanical sound comes thanks to its VTEC system, especially at around 4,500rpm when it makes a nice induction bark. Hardcore VTEC fanatics might claim it doesn’t sound as aggressive as a Honda Type-R product or an S2000, but the big picture here is that this is a regular saloon car that can make a semi-racing engine note when you dial in the revs – that is pretty cool.
When faced with a bendy road, I found that this Accord did a good job of controlling body roll, and its steering is both weighty and accurate with your inputs. When it comes to ride quality, the Accord has a slightly stiff suspension, so it could go over rough surfaces and speed bumps a bit better. Despite this, it is for the most part perfectly acceptable for everyday driving. And, as with many Honda products, the shifting on this five-speed manual gives a very positive, chunky mechanical feel – it actually feels like you’re using something that’s directly connected to the gearbox, rather than something that is indirectly linked to it.
Prior to driving this car, I found out that some Accord owners have managed to put an unbelievable amount of mileage on their cars thanks to their reliability. One owner in the United States, apparently, put an incredible 728,747 miles (1,165,995 km) on his 2000 Honda Accord using all the original major components (engine and transmission) – including the original clutch! Granted, the reliability probably came from above-average oil changes, and driving mostly on the highway. There is no doubt in my mind that that kind of mileage can be achieved in this European-spec Accord if subjected to the same dedication to maintenance. However 1,000,000 km is the equivalent of over 65 years of average driving, which this car most likely won’t see. But if it somehow does reach that incredible milestone, I wouldn't be surprised if it still feels as solid as it does now with 61,000 km.
By Alex Kisiri