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2019 Honda Accord: Will it strike Accord with Singaporeans?

Can striking new looks, a larger body and a more efficient engine bring a once-sterling nameplate back to glory?

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Despite the growth in physical size, Honda says the new Accord is around 84kg lighter than its predecessor. Its 1.5-litre turbo, tuned for 201 horsepower, is roughly as powerful as a normally-aspirated 2.8-litre engine.

Singapore

AN old favourite returns. The Honda Accord is back on sale in Singapore tomorrow at Kah Motor's Ubi showroom, after tightening pollution standards forced it from our shores two years ago.

Kah is pricing it at S$154,999 with Certificate Of Entitlement, and says there are "early bird discounts" worth up to S$14,000 for a limited time.

The Accord comes back fighting fit, with athletic styling that hints at how Honda has worked hard on making it lighter and more agile than the last model, yet bigger and more comfortable.

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Nicholas Wong, general manager of Kah Motor Co Sdn Bhd, said in a statement that the new Accord "sets a new class standard by challenging core values such as great driving dynamics, safety, performance and efficiency".

Now in its 10th generation, the Accord also comes with limited autonomous driving capabilities. A feature called Low-Speed Following makes use of a camera and radar sensor to let the Honda follow another car automatically while it steers itself to stay in lane. It can bring the Accord to a dead halt if the car ahead stops, which makes the system a boon in traffic jams.

While the sporty new looks are a clear departure from the conservative design of the last model, Honda has actually made the car larger. Compared to the last Accord, the latest one is longer (by 11mm) and wider (12mm), but its roofline is lower by 15mm to help give it a sleeker appearance when viewed from the side.

Honda says a longer wheelbase means it now has roughly 50mm more legroom for rear passengers, a key improvement for a car that is sometimes used by low-key towkays in Southeast Asia who prefer to sit back there. Buttons on the front passenger seat give the boss an easy way to slide it forward and create even more room for himself.

Despite the growth in physical size, Honda says the new Accord is around 84kg lighter than its predecessor.

Much of that is down to high-strength steel, which makes up more than half the body's structure. Apart from letting engineers shed weight from the car, the material has given the Honda a more rigid body, which should help with steering precision and ride comfort by giving the suspension a more solid base from which to operate.

A smaller engine helps keep even more of the flab off. The Accord is now powered by a 1.5-litre turbo tuned for 201 horsepower, which makes it roughly as powerful as a normally-aspirated 2.8-litre engine.

The downsizing was brought about by the need to improve efficiency (the Accord consumes 6.4 litres of petrol per 100km), but Honda says having a small, light engine in the nose of the car helps it to turn more sharply into corners.

While the hardware looks promising, digitalisation is another area that Honda has worked on. It has an 8-inch touchscreen with built-in satellite navigation, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The main instrument cluster is a 7-inch display with virtual gauges, which follows an industry-wide shift from analogue displays in cars.

Yet, the industry trend that could affect the Accord the most is an ongoing movement away from sedans and towards sport utility vehicles (SUVs). That has hastened the decline of a once-popular class of car that executives used to covet, such as the Accord itself and the Nissan Teana.

For its part, Honda seems to have sharpened up the Accord's looks and driver focus without forgetting the elements at the heart of its appeal. The boot has grown to 570 litres, and can purportedly accommodate four golf bags, for instance.

Plenty of engineering has gone into making it a quiet car, too, with acoustic glass helping to shut out wind noise and plenty of insulating material at the front wheel wells to block tyre roar. It even has sound-deadening wheels, and comes with an active noise-cancelling system that uses speakers to dampen sound at unwanted frequencies.

Will that be enough to tempt buyers back from SUVs? Striking design helped the smaller Honda Civic regain ground on rivals, and the same could happen with the Accord. "Its elegant silhouette and executive good looks lend an air of sophistication to our customers," according to Kah Motor's Mr Wong.

In any case, the Accord was once Singapore's single best-selling car, so the 10th-generation one has large shoes to fill. The model's status as an old favourite here is beyond question, but Honda is about to find out if it has given the new one what it takes to become a new favourite.