IT’S not unusual in this game to be asked by friends, family and workmates which cars they should buy.
You have to tread carefully because, as I have discovered, many people already know they want and are really just looking for affirmation.
A case in point was a workmate who approached me not long back.
He said he was looking for a well-built family car with a high degree of style priced between $30,000 and $35,000.
“How about the Honda Accord?’’ I proffered.
“Oh, isn’t that more of an older guy’s car?’’ he replied.
That was when I realised he had not quite come to grips with being 53.
It’s true, the Honda Accord has attracted support from the more distinguished gentlemen in our society, as well as picking up the teachers who didn’t go for a Camry.
But enter the eighth generation of Accord, which has grown from a mid-sized proposition into a bigger, bolder offering.
We are, of course, talking about the larger, wider Accord built in Thailand, not to be confused with the smaller Euro model made in Japan.
The newcomer is longer, more powerful and less thirsty than a Commodore and priced from $29,990.
Add to this stunning looks, top-class dynamics and exceptional comfort and safety features and you have the most compelling of packages for family buyers.
We tested the entry level 2.4-litre 4-cylinder VTi, followed by the luxury 3.5-litre V6 variant and both were brilliant.
The VTi is $500 cheaper than the outgoing model and comes with four airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, Vehicle Stability Assist (VHA) with TCS, steering wheel audio controls and cruise control as standard.
VTi Luxury ($36,490) adds leather seats, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, curtain airbags, fog lights, automatic head lights, and 17 inch alloys.
The 4-cylinder engine provides more than enough power for most people, developing 133kW at 6500rpm and 222Nm of torque at 4300rpm.
A major plus is fuel economy, with the 2.4-litre Accord consuming a modest 8.8 litres for every 100km covered - an eight per cent improvement on its predecessor. With mainly highway driving, this drops even lower.
For those with power lust, the V6 is the go, developing 202kW at 6200rpm and 339Nm at 5000rpm.
Despite the increased performance, the larger engine still averages around 10 litres of unleaded per 100km.
It is helped by remarkable variable cylinder technology that enables the engine to operate in three different modes. Under full steam, all six cylinders are running. Ease back on the throttle and the unit seamlessly switches to four - or three - cylinder mode.
Both engines are quiet and intelligent and mated to a smooth and responsive 5-speed automatic transmission.
The V6 is priced from $38,490 (up from $37,490) and V6 Luxury is up $1500 to $46,990, for which you get the added bonus of satellite navigation, reversing camera, HID headlights and a better sound system.
Accord has undergone considerable cosmetic surgery to give it a sharper, more chiselled appearance.
My mother, who has an eye for style but not badges, paid it quite a compliment when she said: “Oh Peter, I love the Jaguar you are driving this week’’.
The interior also has been given a makeover and now has more of a cockpit feel, with the dashboard wrapping around the front seats.
Space is generous in the front and rear and five people are better accommodated with more knee and elbow room.
The boot is massive with a flat floor and full size spare underneath.
At 4945mm - an increase of 115mm - the Honda is longer than a Falcon, Commodore or Aurion.
It is 1845mm wide - 25mm broader than the previous Accord - and has a wheelbase stretched 60mm to 2800mm, which is shorter than Falcon and Commodore, but bigger than Aurion.
Accord connects well with the road and is a more lithe and dynamic package overall. The suspension is plush, cushioning occupants from even the harshest of Queensland potholes.
Safety is well catered for thanks to ABS, active head restraints, front seatbelt pretensioners, four airbags in VTi and six in the other variants.
The exterior colours are extremely conservative, or classic, depending on which side of 50 you are. They come in black, grey, silver, white and, wait for it, beige.
Honda expects to sell about 800 Accords each month and this target should be well within reach thanks to the many improvements to what was already a fine car.
The increase in size, added pizzazz and enticing price of the base model should prove irresistible to a host of family buyers. And then there are the older guys who can’t stay away from it.