If you ever want to truly test the ride comfort of a car, get someone who’s recently had abdominal surgery to ride in the passenger seat.
During my week with the 2020 Honda Accord VTi-LX, I had to drive a family member home from the hospital following an emergency appendix removal, and let’s just say it was highly unpleasant for the both of us.
So rough was the ride home that when my incapacitated companion was faced with the prospect of another jaunt in the Accord the next day, his exact words were “Please, God, no”. Sure, he was a little oversensitive to the various lumps and bumps of suburban roads, but it’s fair to say the Accord’s suspension doesn’t do much to protect you from potholes.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll likely find yourself adjusting your driving style accordingly – slowing to a crawl if you sense even the slightest irregularity in the road surface ahead.
Ride comfort aside, the petrol version of Honda's flagship Accord VTi-LX stands alone – in multiple senses of the phrase.
Priced from $51,990 before on-road costs, it’s one of only two variants available in the Accord line-up – joining the VTi-LX hybrid, which is priced from $54,990 before on-road costs and receives much the same standard kit.
Just as the Accord line-up is short and sweet, so too is the segment it competes in.
Its main competitors are the Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Passat – and that’s pretty much the entirety of the medium passenger class. All of them are priced a little lower than the Accord – but still, you’re not getting away in a top-spec petrol variant for any less than $45,000.
The Octavia is a more affordable outlier at $32,390 before on-road costs, if you stay away from the sporty RS versions, but you can easily add over $12,000 of optional equipment packs to a basic car for a more lavish equipment list. Still, the Accord is certainly at the top end of the spectrum.
A price exceeding $50,000 feels steep to me – perhaps because there’s nothing obviously standout about the Accord in relation to its competitors. Perhaps the hybrid powertrain would make the cost a little easier to stomach?
Despite its unassuming exterior, the sedan hides a sassy 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine that’s got a surprising amount of pep delivered smoothly through a continuously variable transmission.
While it doesn’t initially feel like a luxury car, the Accord hides some premium feel in the details. When you turn it on, a whimsical start-up sound plays that sounds like the soothing opening of a Disney film, and some imitation woodgrain accents on the dash are a valiant, if slightly naff, attempt at style.
The perforated leather-appointed seats have a faintly sporty feel, but prize comfort over any performance leanings with electric adjustment, ample cushioning and deep bases for plenty of leg support. However, given the bumpy ride, perhaps some electric lumbar support wouldn’t go astray?
Head room was absolutely fine for me in the front, but my taller husband, who is roughly 190cm, was nearly grazing the roof – although elbow room and leg room were ample.
Despite being a sedan, the Accord feels quite open and visibility from behind the wheel is surprisingly solid – despite smaller-than-necessary side mirrors meaning your side view is a little prohibitive.
The rear windshield might slope inwards, but it’s wide enough to compensate for any lost room, although I missed the inclusion of a rear wiper on wetter days.
As an excellent back-up option, the VTi-LX comes standard with a crisp 360-degree camera, which I relied on heavily throughout the course of the loan as I got reacquainted with the unique proportions of a sedan.
Along with the standard reverse camera, the bird's-eye view activated when you switch into reverse and is far more precise than the Accord’s front and rear sensors, which can overreact to even a slight breeze (that’s an overstatement, but you know what I mean).
The Accord compensates for being a rougher ride by doing everything else incredibly smoothly. From rolling traffic to higher freeway speeds, acceleration is even-handed and responsive, and the steering is balanced and perfectly matched to the car’s weight.
Still, there’s not much excitement from anything bar the acceleration, with the turbo engine doling out some extra energy, particularly at higher speeds (outputs are 140kW and 260Nm).
At freeway speeds, some tyre noise can seep into the cabin, forcing you to turn the volume up on the stereo or shout a little louder from the back seat.
On the road, a forward collision alert will pop up if you brake too slowly or if the car detects an obstacle in your path, while the active cruise control can slow to a stop and maintain a safe distance from the car in front.
|2020 Honda Accord VTi-LX|
|Engine configuration||1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power and torque||140kW at 5500rpm, 260Nm at 1600–5000rpm|
|Transmission||Continuously variable automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim (combined)||6.5L/100km|
|Fuel claim on test||7.6L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||Untested|
|Servicing costs (intervals are 12 months / 10,000km)||$1895 for five years/50,000km (individual costs may vary based on distance driven)|
|Warranty||Five years/Unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Passat|
|Price as tested||$51,990 excluding on-road costs|
There’s also a parking assistant, but I found it made parking harder not easier. It can steer for you while you brake and accelerate, but it won’t intervene if it detects an obstacle, and will occasionally identify an 'available park' that already has another car in it.
All in all, the amount of fiddling to activate it, and moderate it, effectively meant I ended up taking more time to park than I normally would.
Although there’s up-to-date safety equipment via Honda’s full Sensing suite – including lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise, high-beam support and a collision-mitigation braking system – the Accord remains untested by ANCAP, so it’s a little harder to ascribe a numerical value to the safety side of things.
I also had a couple of issues with the audio control for both Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay streaming, with my attempts to lower the volume proving fruitless, despite the car showing that it had registered.
Fuel economy is quoted at 6.5L/100km for a combined cycle or 8.6L/100km for urban driving. The lowest number I recorded was 7.6L/100km for suburban driving, while some more spirited freeway and inner-city driving clocked in at just over 9.0L/100km.
The standard equipment list is thorough, as is to be expected of a sole specification, with a wireless phone charger, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an electric sunroof (with an excellent block-out sunblind), keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and a very useful head-up display.
Where the Accord really excels is with its back seat. Yes, there are air vents, two USB ports, a huge central armrest with cupholders and ISOFIX points to tick boxes, but it’s more about the sheer amount of head room, leg room and knee room on offer.
The seats are lounge-like, sloping backwards to make the most of the available space, and basically encouraging you to luxuriate in being driven around like you’re a wealthy aristocrat with a personal driver.
The seats themselves are so deep that I was able to sit cross-legged in the back, and with the seat in my regular driving position, I could have been 30cm taller (I’m 176cm) and still have been comfortable.
Helpfully, the entire back bench of the rear seats can fold down in one fell swoop, providing access to a seemingly never-ending boot, or for long items there's a ski port pass-through.
While I’m certainly impressed they managed to fit 570L of space back there (with even a temporary spare under the floor), I think I’d go crazy scrambling around in its depths trying to find trinkets that had rolled to the back of the cargo area.
Still, it’s a good reminder that 'sedan' doesn’t necessarily mean 'smaller' if you’re typically an SUV shopper. That Accord could definitely house your large impulse IKEA purchase – especially if it’s still in flat-pack form.
The Accord benefits from Honda’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and affordable scheduled servicing, which is $312 per visit for standard servicing, plus additional extra costs and separate schedule for things like brake fluid and cabin filters.
Sedans are in increasingly short supply these days, but my time with the Accord reminded me of their many perks. A balanced front and back seat with comfort aplenty, an assured on-road feel and ample cargo space are the benefits – but the ride quality leaves room to improve.
Really, the only thing missing is a little je ne sais quoi, which might be improved with a more adventurous paint shade (may I suggest anything but white?) or the addition of a hybrid powertrain.