Today I will be reviewing my ever-practical 2003 Accord R, by Honda. Making a statement amongst other large four-door cars by being fitted from factory with a high revving, 2-litre red top K-series engine, 6-speed transmission, Recaro bucket seats and handling to match.
This is the second Honda in the family now, for which the Accord is backed up by my track-prepped Civic Type R. The purchase of the Accord was to give the practicality and space of a large four door, while maintaining a well-engineered driving experience in something that is capable, comfortable and was by no means boring.
After owning and driving many larger cars (Commodores & Falcons), the Accord wins every time for its capabilities as the best all-rounder.
The high-revving K-series engine makes for a fantastic noise, and brings some real excitement to the daily commute when the second cam comes on song past 5000 revs.
The driving experience is hard to beat in this class with a beautiful to handle, weighted gear shifter, accompanied by factory-fitted Recaro bucket seats that make any other “normal” seat feel terribly bland and boring. Most passengers that experience a bucket style seat are shocked at how comfortable and supportive they are, especially when compared to a non-bucket style seat fitted to most vehicles.
The four door shape and chassis of the Accord also gives the car a somewhat more planted on-the-road impression from the driver's seat. The lack of body roll in the bends and the responsive throttle makes it feel much lighter on its feet compared to its rivals.
While on that subject, the Accord hides its weight very well. Unlike most modern four door cars, the Accord makes light work of tight and technical bends, and it is not at all easily bent out of shape mid-corner, unlike some others!
With all R spec Hondas fitted from the factory with excellent limited slip differentials, the feeling through the steering rack, even when on the limit, is one of extreme composure and ease. I would be hard pressed to remember a time of unsettled behaviour, or anything that took away from my feeling of confidence when driving cars of this type.
By my own admission I am a true fan of all drive platforms, but I have certainly been bitten by the bug of FWD. There are some that say RWD is unbeaten, however the composure of everyday life provided by a well sorted FWD is something most rear-wheel driven cars and their owners cannot stack up to.
Especially when handing the keys to someone new to cars, I feel the FWD cars are much easier to handle. Unlike some larger and heavier RWD cars that can feel particularly unsettled, even with only a little effort of the right foot to deliberately upset the rear end mid corner.
The Accords of these generations have the safety features one would expect: airbags in the front plus an Anti-Lock Braking System. There are no stability or traction controls though, which means there is still driver input required. Without these systems the car certainly feels like one that needs a “drivers” driver.
As typical with Hondas, reliability may as well be part of the name. All the drivetrain components are known to be good for much punishment, backed up by only basic servicing and maintenance.
Unfortunately, the CL7 and CL9 “Euro R” models eventually ceased production. The models that followed were very basic in comparison and more refined for day-to-day use, with being fitted mostly with automatic gearboxes, styling changes and safety improvements .
If you want a fast and well sorted Honda R spec car now, you’re limited to the newer Civic Type R’s. However, I will always hold a space in the driveway for one of these iconic early 2000s family cars, which maintain their wolf in sheep’s clothing attitude and unbeaten driving experience.