Mommy Wagon. Old Man’s Car. “Stasiewa”. All terms used to describe a stately sedan that’s had a bit of butt-work and gained some extra roof and a hatch back. And truthfully, the somewhat insulting nicknames given to estate cars are usually valid. Most of the time the rear of the car will look awkward, as if it literally has had an extended roof stuck on.
There are exceptions, though. Audi (up until the current range) made what I always considered the world’s most beautiful wagons, and Alfa Romeo gave us a pearler with the 159 Sportwagon. Somehow the designs hit all the right notes and driving behind one didn’t make you want to hurl.
Now, I’m adding Honda to that duo with their Accord Tourer. Based on the award-winning Accord sedan, the Tourer gives you more, in a particularly attractive package.
Just take a look at this car’s arse. For some odd reason I couldn’t take my eyes off it during the test period. Stretching the Accord’s roofline and giving it such a sporty derriere has transformed the car into a svelte yet menacing cruiser. Looking at the car from behind at my 1.8-metre eye-level, it looks low, taut and racy. Didn’t expect to hear those words mentioned in the same paragraph as an estate, did you?
The Accord Tourer shares almost all its underpinnings with the Accord sedan, with changes only occurring from the rear seats, backwards. Slightly softer rear suspension means that the car tends to be a bit too bouncy over speed bumps and road undulations, but once laden it firms up nicely. Boot space is slightly smaller than in the sedan, but practicality is much better. A completely flat boot floor is extended by folding the rear seats down (flat, like they should be), and there are hidey-holes under the floor and a very handy cubby hole on the left-hand side.
During a picnic trip out to Harties, the extra stowage spaces proved perfect for storing drinks, cups and food. A duvet and sleeping bag combo proved the only other things needed, and an afternoon lying in the back of the car with nothing but water and mountains in front of me was inspiring.
Luxury is of course the name of the game with this, Honda’s flagship range of sedans and what is essentially a five-door hatch. Speaking of the “hatch”, the tailgate, which is made lighter thanks to the use of plastic panels on the outside, is completely electrically operated via buttons on the driver’s door, key fob and the ‘gate itself, taking six seconds to silently and gracefully open or shut.
It also does wonders for snob value in parking lots, for what it’s worth. As with the sedan, Honda boasts a non-existent options list with the Tourer, and there isn’t really anything you’re left wanting for.
Standard features across the three-model range are: front and rear parking sensors; light-sensing xenon headlights; rain-sensing wipers; electric and heated side mirrors; an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a sunglasses holder; dual illuminated sun visors; electric front seats with memory for the driver’s and full leather trim all-round and fully adjustable and speed-sensitive electric power steering (which is near-perfect) . Whew!
And then there’s satellite audio and information controls; cruise control; a fully integrated and super-easy to use Bluetooth hands-free system; a six-CD in-dash changer coupled to an auxiliary jack and an iPod/USB port; ten speakers and a subwoofer; dual-zone automatic climate control with rear ventilation; a sunroof; two refrigerated cubby holes and a five-year or 90 000 km service plan! See what I mean?
The only decision you need to make is your choice of fuel supply. Petrol or diesel, and that’s it. If it’s petrol, like the one you see in these photos, you’ll find a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder i-VTEC power plant under the bonnet, which produces 148 kW and 234 Nm – almost as much power as the V6 Lexus I drove not so long ago!
On the diesel side of the scale, duty is done by a 2.2-litre 4-cylinder i-DTEC unit which produces 110 kW and 350 Nm. I’ve driven both, and the diesel is the one to go for, for several reasons. It’s ridiculously quiet for a diesel, and the pulling power is simply unbelievable. And then there’s the fuel consumption, which Honda claims to be just 6.7 litres of 50ppm low-sulphur diesel per 100 km.
The petrol model consumes a bit more, with an average of 10 litres/100 km being achieved on a well run-in model during mostly long drives and the occasional “let me just show you what power feels like” driving, and boy was it difficult to keep it there!
Luckily, Honda’s VTEC technology helps on your quest to eek mileage out of the 65-litre fuel tank, and what a marvel the system is. The power is right at the top of the rev range, which gives the petrol motor a dual personality. Normal driving sees the five-speed automatic gearbox I sampled shifting at around 3500 rpm.
Put your foot down a bit more though, and things change. As the needle passes 5000 rpm, car-nutcases like myself will notice a slight change in the engine’s note as the VTEC system changes cam profiles to deliver more power. Then, just after 6000, all hell breaks loose until well over 7000 rpm, as the full brunt of VTEC kicks in to deliver all that power.
You can actually hear and feel the car growing legs, almost like it’s turbocharged and entering boost. I’d like to think a manual might be more fun to drive and of course more economic, but with Sport mode and two shift paddles behind the steering wheel being available at a moment’s notice, you can still have all the fun when you feel like it. And, with some of Honda’s racing heritage sneaking in here, the ‘box won’t shift up a gear if you forget to, so you will hit the limiter once or twice as you try to rev the engine just that little bit more before shifting. Oh, and it’s got a launch-limiter. Again, in a “mommy wagon”?
The diesel is a completely different car and is only available with the same, albeit reprofiled five-speed auto gearbox. Shifts are lightning-quick and you’re always in boost, so literally, prepare to send lots of your money to the traffic department. Other than sporting 17-inch wheels compared to the petrol’s 18-inchers, and hiding its exhaust pipe outlet rather than showing off two large chrome ‘pipes like the petrol does, the diesel Tourer differs in no other way to the petrol. Well, besides in price.
Starting at R361 900 for the petrol manual and ending at R406 900 for the diesel auto, you will probably find the Tourer’s competitors, like the BMW 3 Series Touring, Merc C-Class Estate and Audi A4 Avant, for a bit less. And, with a lot less kit. Which is the nice thing with anything I sample from Honda these days – everything you’d expect to have is there, justifying the higher prices.
Having repositioned itself as a premium brand in the not-so-distant past, Honda has definitely changed for the better. Take a look at the Accord Tourer – it’s a really good alternative to the Germans and it’ll be as reliable as knowing the sun will rise tomorrow. Am I smiling? Yes, broadly!