New Zealand is almost the only market in which the V6 Accord doesn't outsell the Euro by about eight to one. It's the second-best selling car of any size or description in the United States, and in most markets where both types are available, the little Euro is a minor player.
Honda New Zealand is hoping that the arrival of an all-new Accord V6 will turn things around a little. Armed with cylinder de-activation – for reasons of economy and emissions – as well as a striking new bodystyle, there's no reason why the new car can't take some drop-offs from less-than-satisfied one-time Australian six-cylinder fans.
The car will be here around the end of the first quarter of next year, and Honda is working hard with its advertising people here to create a marketing proposition for the car that will help give it a significantly larger share of the V6 market than the current model's.
The car takes both four cylinder and V6 engines elsewhere, but for New Zealand, the larger- bodied design will have six- cylinders only. A Euro replacement due in the latter part of next year will carry the four-cylinder baton for the brand.
Known as the Inspire in Japan, the new car will be badged as the Accord V6 here. As well as having a special new 3.5-litre engine, developing 197kW and 337Nm, it drives through a far crisper, better-sorted five-speed automatic transmission.
The car also has a much more elegant body, with the dramatic crease along its side from the front wheelarch to the rear transom creating a much more chiselled side profile. There is also a sharp new six-sided corporate grille, stylish main lamps and significantly improved cabin space.
I was only able to sample the car on a test track, but can report that the new Accord rides more competently than the old car on rain-ridges, though it feels a little more taut when making sudden lane-change-like manoeuvres.
The Accord's chassis is all- round independent, with double- wishbones up front, and a new multilink design at the rear.
It feels good, with a little body movement present but displaying a very stable attitude on high- speed banking. By easing off the throttle it's possible to coax the cylinder deactivation light into life in the car's classy instrument panel.
This indicates that the engine- management system has decided that you're not going quickly enough to need the services of all six cylinders.
It can be made to occur at around our speed limit, and though my ears and backside are not sufficiently sensitive to detect how many cylinders are in use at any one time, I'll trust in Honda that it will be possible to enjoy the kind of fuel savings being reported by owners in the US, which run to about 17 per cent.
The latest cylinder deactivation effort adds a four-cylinder mode to previous models' three- and six-cylinder modes. Honda says this allows the Accord to cruise as a four at open-road speeds with the three-cylinder mode designed to kick in for low speed light-throttle commuter activity.
One of the advantages of a car designed in the first part for the US market is that the seats are crafted for larger bodies.
The front buckets are big and cosy with excellent side bolsters, while the rear bench feels wide and cosy enough to cosset three full- sized occupants. The rear legroom is improved and the boot appears to be larger too.
I'm not too sure about the new grille, and that deep gash in the car's side rather lacks the subtlety of similar treatments by Mazda and Nissan, but overall it's a good looker.
With a power-to-weight ratio better than every other six on the market, as well as that clever and potentially frugal cylinder deactivation set-up, maybe this will be the six-cylinder Accord that finally makes a solid mark on the New Zealand market.
- The Dominion Post