The wheelbase of the Tourer has been increased by only 50mm over that of its saloon stablemate and the increase in overall body length is only an extra 85mm. No use expecting a van-like loading bay then. Still, a load volume of 576 litres with all the seats in place is no mean achievement for this class of car: that's over 100 litres more than the more ordinary Renault Laguna Sport Tourer can manage for example. This has been achieved through changing the design of the 5-link rear suspension so that both dampers and springs are positioned separately: as a result, the width between the wheel housings is dramatically increased.
The total volume of 921 litres with the rear seats folded is rather less impressive, but compensation does come in the form of a clever 'one motion' system for easy access of what space there is. The idea is that collapsing everything into a folded position should be a simple, quick, one-action, one-handed operation. As most estate car owners will know, that's not usually the case. To access all of the loadspace, you've to detach the rear head restraints and pull up the rear seat cushions before you can fold the rear backrest forward. It's a fiddly, time-consuming operation.
But not here. Positioned on top of the 60:40-split rear seat backs are the operating catches, one either side of the car. To fold either seat section, you simply pull the lever forward which simultaneously releases the seat back lock and automatically flips the headrest forward via an interlocking cable. You then continue to pull the seatback forward and, since this is interconnected with the seat base via a sliding linkage, the effect of this action is to flip the seat base up automatically into a vertical position behind the front seat. Since the headrest is flipped forward, it comfortably clears the seat base. There's no messing about with seatbelts and anchor points either, since everything is integrally designed into the seat mechanism. Easy.
Mind you, as Honda well knows, the 'one motion' system will be called into operation quite rarely (one reason why the relatively low total 'seats folded' luggage capacity of this car shouldn't hurt sales too much). Buyers in this sector attach greater emphasis to the size and versatility of the estate compartment itself. Fortunately, considerable thought has been given to this too.
Take the 49-litre compartment set into the rear half of the luggage floor. It's covered with a flush-fitting lockable lid that rises automatically 45 degrees so that you can easily access the contents. On either side of this compartment are two further lids that cover additional storage space. There are a couple of tricks missed here though: the tailgate glass doesn't open for easy storage of smaller items. Nor, a la BMW 5 Series Touring, does the loading floor slide out on rollers for easy access or impromptu tailgate picnics.
Still, you can't have everything - or at least that's what we thought until we came across the power-operated tailgate, standard on plusher Executive models. All right, so this is perhaps a bit extravagant, but you can easily see the likely benefit were you to arrive back at the car fully laden in a wet and windy car park. No need to place your shopping in a puddle while you filthy your hands on the tailgate catch: just click a button on the key fob and the tailgate will open or close in between five and ten seconds. Should you activate it from some way away and fail to notice that a car is parked right behind, then it doesn't matter: sensors reverse the motor should the tailgate meet any resistance. Moreover, should the motor fail, you can open and close manually as normal. In fact, you might choose to do that anyway, only using the motorised part of the operation for the final section of closing - a useful feature if, for example, you don't want to wake a sleeping child by slamming the tailgate.
Looking for inherent faults with a Honda Accord Tourer is a thankless task. Just check the car you're looking at to make sure the mileage seems genuine, that tyre wear is reasonable and that it hasn't suffered parking knocks or wheel kerbing. The service book should be perfectly stamped up to date and haggle hard if there re any minor imperfections.
(approx. based on a 2003 Accord 2.0 SE - ex VAT) You'll need around £220 for a clutch assembly and an exhaust system about £450. Allow a budget of around £48 respectively for front brake pads and £40 for the rear. A front headlamp should be around £195. A radiator is about £180, and a starter motor around £260.
Both petrol engines are sprightly performers with competitive CO2 emissions and decent economy. The 2.0-litre SE averages 38.2mpg whilst even the 188bhp 2.4-litre Executive model can manage 31mpg. Certain Honda trademarks continue - the gear change is excellent but the electrically assisted steering takes a little getting used to. The real star of the show, however, is the diesel powerplant.
The engine that powers the Accord 2.2 CTDi - to use the full nomenclature - delivers both more torque and better fuel economy than both the Audi A4 TDi130 and BMW's 320td. Honda's choice of these two cars as a yardstick is illuminating, showing the extent of their ambition. No longer do they regard the Accord as Vectra/Mondeo/Laguna fodder, instead pitching it as a superior quality proposition. The 2.2 diesel cranks out a hefty 138bhp at 4,0000rpm and is one of the more refined powerplants of its type. More soundproofing and thicker window glass help to isolate the diesel grumble and it's genuinely tricky to aurally differentiate it from a petrol engine at normal cruising speeds.
You'll know it's a diesel when you put your foot down. The 340Nm of torque mean that it's the most torquey Honda engine currently available, putting even the NSX sportster in the shade. Mid range acceleration is very crisp and typical motorway speeds see the engine revolving at a very restrained gait. The sprint to 60mph will detain you for just 9.9 seconds if you're hauling the additional bulk of the Tourer. Emissions are another area where the Honda excels, already complying with the tough Euro IV regulations that will slice another three per cent from company user's tax demands. The figure of 153g/km for the Tourer is excellent given that the Accord is such a substantial feeling vehicle.
As long as ultimate carrying capacity isn't the be all and end all, the Honda Accord Tourer is genuinely tough to fault. The styling may not win universal appeal, but beauty is subjective. What isn't is the way this car is screwed together. A safe used buy.