Short of a supermarket computer telling you that there is an unexpected item in the bagging area, there are few things in life more trying than the relaunch of a car. More often than not, it's the same vehicle with a badge in a new font, a slightly improved engine, and an amended reversing light.
However, the relaunch of the Honda Accord is an exception. The changes are predictably minor. Its shape has been subtly enhanced. It is a little quieter, with higher density foam under the bonnet, revised underfloor noise insulation and a 0.9 mm increase in the thickness of the rear window glass. It is fractionally better to drive, with a stubby, sporty gearstick which makes gear changes feel snappy. And, needless to say, there is an amended reversing light.
But all these small differences somehow add up to a transformed car. When I reviewed the old 'new' version of this car, in Tourer form, some time ago, I complained: 'Honda has tried hard to make it a meaningful alternative to traditional premium manufacturers ... but it lacks the grace, conviction and oomph of its German counterparts.' But I can't say that any more.
The new Accord, at least with the feisty engine in the Type S version, is almost as good to drive and look at as equivalent BMWs and Mercedes. It's certainly as handsome: I lost count of the number of people who asked about it as I drove around town.
The only real letdown is the graphics on the satnav and entertainment system. It may seem a minor quibble, but it bothered me intensely. If your eyes are a window into your soul, the central satnav and entertainment console in a car is a window into its technological heart. As it happens, the heart in this car is sophisticated enough. But in a world where a BMW proffers 3D outlines of buildings as you drive past them, blocky graphics that struggle to convey the shape of a motorway are inexcusable. I'm not sure how a manufacturer can spend so much time revising a car and make such a glaring omission: it's surely just a question of updating software. Still, it leaves something to sort out for the next relaunch.
4 OUT OF 5
HONDA ACCORD TYPE S
Engine: 2,199 cc, 4-cyl, turbo diesel Power 178 bhp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 280 lb ft @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel consumption: 50.4 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 147 g/km
0-62 mph: 8.8 seconds
Top speed: 136 mph