A fresh look at a perennial driver's delight

It is a car that is equally at home cruising into the plushest hotels as it is trolling through the dark rainy alleys of High street late at night, and welcomes its occupants into either neighbourhood with equal aplomb and confidence.

2011 Honda Accord Euro. It's arrived.

Writes Graeme Meyer

Strong, bold, smooth. How many cars make you want to drive to Taupo just for a favourite cup of java?

Featuring a fresh new look for 2011, and now in its second generation, there are not many offerings that can be said to wrap up the many facets of a brand as well as the Accord Euro.. The Accord Euro is known as a driver's car and the latest model plays to the same tune. Honda is a company with a long philosophy and history of leading R&D and the Euro is a fine recipient of Honda's talents. A recent drive from Auckland to Taupo through Kihikihi and Mangakino brought the Euro's talents to the fore.

The well-heeled appearance of the Euro is an evolution of its stylish original, with the addition of stronger lower hip lines, an imposing grille, strong road presence and a host of features. It is a car that is equally at home cruising into the plushest hotels as it is trolling through the dark rainy alleys of High street late at night, and welcomes its occupants into either neighbourhood with equal aplomb and confidence.

Always a delight to drive because of its equal measures of surefootedness, agility and handling predictability, the Euro continues to rise to its driver's challenges. It is a car that suggests an impromptu drive to a remote lunch destination will be more rewarding than your local haunt, and it is right. Driving to Taupo is often a choice of the straight and simple, down Highway 27, or the more enjoyable countryside of the roads less travelled. Choosing the latter and taking the Euro L through the Mangakino route to Taupo offered plenty of opportunities to test both car and driver.

For a drive of reasonable length, the all-round package of the Euro leaves little to be desired, other than a built in espresso. A 10 speaker, 460 watt sound system is a good place to start and with a bit of playlist planning, the integrated USB with iPod control brings out the best in your driving selection.

Heated leather seats, sunroof, rain sensing wipers, auto head lights, and auto dimming mirror round out the luxury, while the integration of the Euros' Bluetooth was described as sublime in its operation by one colleague and allows you to legally keep in contact with ease along the drive. The ergonomics of the interior are well thought out and give a sports sedan setup with comfortable seats for a long drive.

The dashboard includes easy to read instruments and controls, overall a clever, well thought-out design, epitomised by the unobtrusive steering wheel contours designed to keep your hands naturally in the optimal driving position. Needless to say I arrived in Taupo fresh and ready for a great lunch and cup of java at Body Fuel, my favourite Taupo cafe.

For features, we are well catered to, even at its "entry" level which is well above that of other brands. Both the S and L models come with a 5 Star Euro NCAP crash rating, Honda's ACE body structure, front, side and curtain airbags (with Occupant Position Detection System), Electronic Stability and Traction Control with integrated Motion Adaptive Power Steering.

New to the Euro and this price bracket is Trailer Stability Assist which does to towing what a jib does to a yacht, providing an unseen steadying force by independently braking the front wheels to keep your trailer in line and reduce the potential to jack-knife from an unbalanced, wobbling trailer. This makes the Euro one of the best cars available to tow with.

The heart of the Accord Euro is where Honda's ability as the world’s largest engine manufacturer shines, with a free revving 2.4L engine that loves to be taken to the extremes and delivers 148kw of power with a frugal 8.9l/100kms in ADR testing. However in the real world, with its own iteration of Honda's unique i-VTEC, the engine operates in economy mode at low rpms and performance mode at high rpms. As a result better economy is easily achievable with the Euro achieving 7.5l/100kms in the 2010 Energywise rally. This provides the best in real world driving, for both performance and economy.

Enjoyably, it’s the driver’s choice between an economical meander or a more liberating dash. The 5 speed-auto gearbox is well tuned to the car, seeming to predict the driver’s next move and be in the appropriate gear, helping to balance the car on its taut chassis and suspension combination. Honda's "Gear Logic Control" keeps gears longer and stops gear hunting on the twisty bits – another reason why the Mangakino route proved to be a good test. Combined with steering wheel mounted paddle–shift, the drive-train provides plenty of options for any driving style.

The trip computer keeps an eye on things and provides an array of information, including seat belt reminders for all seats, journey time, distance to empty and two customisable speed warnings (a setting I had activated around town), and on the Euro L, parking sensors as standard. Cruise control is also standard on all models and a good way to keep your speed from running away with the moment.

Honda's philosophy for design is to let the driver lead, and their efforts at integration and tuning of systems, chassis and suspension mean that restrictive safety systems such as Electronic Stability Control are able to be as unobtrusive as possible, allowing the driver to really bring the car to life when they want to. With an exciting road such as this drive, it's not about straight speed, but enjoying the refinement and balance like a good skier through moguls, whilst not losing momentum.

It is a car that suggests an impromptu drive to a remote lunch destination will be more rewarding than your local haunt, and it is right.

The return journey back on highway 27 was the easy option for comparison, and while the Euro lapped up the sweeping curves and long straights, it felt like it was hankering for something a little more interesting, as I also was.

The Accord Euro is a well-appointed and strongly styled sports sedan or Tourer and comes with some of the best thinking in the auto world behind it. It is worth taking for a test drive, just make sure you do both yourself and the Euro justice by making it a long one. Nothing important is to be learnt by a quick trip down the motorway and back. To top it off, the drive matched the coffee: strong, bold and immensely satisfying

Book a test drive today.