A new bout beginsMay 18th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Lifestyle, On Wheels
The first Accord in India was a paradigm of quality, comfort, class and more - making the best-seller in its class. The current generation Accord, launched last year, has further impressed buyers with the right blend of equipment, space and personality. Something that rivals have tried to take a stab at, yet failed to arrive at the magic formula.
The bell sounds and a new bout begins. This time the new contender is the Skoda Superb. It looks nothing like the Accord, which could be a good thing for buyers who want something different. It comes loaded with features that rivals don’t even offer as options - this at a price that makes every car in its class seem grossly overpriced. But is that good enough to make it a winner?
If only it was that easy to beat a Honda. More so the Accord, which has a terrific feel-good factor about it and a better sales and service network. Let’s see if the new challenger can dethrone the king of its class.
The new Accord has gone in for more of an upmarket look. The current design has a nice, flowing silhouette that will please most.
It is comparatively wider than the Superb which automatically means more interior space. Step inside the cabin and the generous volume is immediately apparent. The front and rear seats get a good amount of legroom and headroom but the seats are placed a little low.
The driver’s seat comes with the option of electric adjust. You also get height-adjustable belts and a fully adjustable steering wheel, which means finding an ideal driving position is quite easy. We sorely missed audio controls on the steering wheel. The attractive beige-and-black cabin feels luxurious. The neatly laid-out dashboard gets a multiinformation screen, which provides stereo and air-con temperature details, among other things. However, the centre console is a mass of buttons which are not intuitive to use. General quality of plastics is good but there is scope for improvement. Driving around in the city is easy enough once you get used to the Accord’s generous proportions but you’ll still feel its girth in tight city traffic. The Superb is no longer boring to look at, unlike the previous model. Though it is marginally shorter than the Accord, the Skoda is generous when it comes to legroom at the rear. Passengers won’t complain about sitting here, even on long journeys.
Just like the exteriors, the Superb’s cabin lives up to the car’s name. The combination of soft-feel plastics finished in beige and black, along with healthy doses of leather and high quality chrome exude a luxurious feel. Everything from the meaty steering wheel to the little buttons ooze quality and are a delight to use, and feel as if they could last for years.
Tall passengers will appreciate the front seats which get an all-electric adjustment and the driver’s seat gets seat memory settings. The seats, while not as soft as the Accord’s, are still quite comfortable. You also get audio controls on the steering wheel which are very convenient to use. Operating the stereo is similar to using an iPhone.
The Acoord’s 396-litre boot is just about adequate but seems woefully meagre when compared to the Superb’s warehouse- sized 565 litres of space, which could swallow a baby elephant. The Accord though redeems itself ever so slightly with split-folding rear seats which add to the practicality. The Accord is powered by a 2.4-litre unit that belts out 177bhp and 22.2kgm of pulling power (torque). It comes coupled with a five-speed auto transmission that is a tad lethargic and feels like it is sapping a lot of the engine’s power.
That said, Honda motors are known for their refinement and this i-Vtec is no different. At idle, you won’t be able to tell if the engine is running. It feels silky smooth all the way up to its 6800rpm redline. In town, it responds well enough at slow speeds, but the real action is towards the top end of the powerband.
Once past 4000rpm, the engine steps up the pace and power is available all the way till the top. Thanks to this, the Accord is a quick car. Zero to 100kph comes up in 11.76 seconds, which is slower than the manual Accord’s 9.19 seconds, but quick nonetheless. Top speed is pegged at 223kph.
The Superb is now powered by a 1.8-litre direct-injection petrol unit that puts out 160bhp and 25.5kgm of torque. Being turbocharged, the motor feels a bit lethargic at low engine revs when in high gear.
The seven-speed DSG gearbox helps mask this to a great extent though once past the 2500rpm mark, the turbo comes on, the engine pulls strongly and revs crisply up to its limit. Zero to 100kph at 9.10 seconds is slightly quicker than the Accord and the top speed is 220kph. In terms of overall refinement, both the engines are match well and it’s hard to choose one over the other.
The Accord has a soft suspension set-up. As a result, the ride at low speeds is exemplary. Bumps are taken care of easily and very little gets transmitted into the cabin. But as the speeds pick up, the Accord has a tendency to bob with undulations. Straightline stability is commendable but it lacks that solid feeling that you get in the Superb. Handling too takes a hit. The light steering is direct but there is considerable body roll and overall grip levels could have been better. The Accord does well when driven in a relaxed manner but those looking at attacking corners will be disappointed.
The Superb has European road manners. The suspension is stiffer than the Accord’s, so some bumps at low speeds do creep into the cabin. At higher speeds, the car tackles most bumps without breaking into a sweat. Straightline stability is good and the car feels rocksolid at high speeds. The stiff suspension also aids handling; body roll is well under control and the steering provides ample feedback. The Superb will follow steering inputs gamely and is generally the more fun to drive of the two.
The Honda Accord automatic retails for Rs. 21.25 lakh. You get a good amount of features which includes climate control, electric mirrors, alloy wheels, ABS and six airbags. But the Superb is more value for money as it gives you more features than the Accord at a lower price. In addition to the Accord’s features, you also get touch-screen interface, steering- mounted controls, sun blinders, traction control, auto down and up funtion for all four power windows, traction control and eight airbags. Even on the fuel efficiency front, the Skoda Superb has the edge. It gives about 8.3kpl in the city, which is more than the Accord’s 6.9kpl. However, spare part costs are higher on the Skoda, so servicing the Skoda will be much more expensive. Plus Skoda’s workshops lack the finesse and faster turnaround time that comes effortlessly to Honda dealerships.
The Superb comes with a standard warranty of two years for unlimited kilometres. The Accord has a standard warranty of two years or 40,000 kilometres, which you can extend upto four years or 80,000 kilometres.
After much deliberation, we adjudge the Skoda Superb as the winner. The Superb’s quality, comfort and refinement levels are so good that it actually feels like a car from a more expensive class. But the Accord loses with the least margin. It offers a classy experience with its well-appointed cabin and refined engine. What lets it down though is its disappointing high-speed manners, a high sticker price and its lowerthan- the-Superb’s fuel economy. That said, we wouldn’t blame you if you still wanted one.