Were you not acquainted with the Honda Accord Type R, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was going to be a bit… well… rubbish.
Let’s face it: this generation of Accord was better known for providing solid but soul-sappingly dull transport for those of a certain generation. The idea of one with a spoiler the size of a small humpback bridge would seem rather tragic, if you weren’t in the know.
Of course, you are in the know. And if you aren’t, you should probably have read the buyers’ guide on the left, rather than skipping straight to this bit. Go on, off you go. We’ll wait here for you.
Finished? Good. So now you’ll be aware of the fantastic underpinnings that make the Type R so special. And that’s before we even get started on its impressive heritage, building on a successful BTCC tie-in as well as the years of Type R lore before that.
With all this in mind, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little let down upon climbing aboard your first Accord Type R. The dashboard is robust and well built, as you’d expect from Honda, but the plastics are dour and the italicised font on the dials looks cheap and rather dated.
Fortunately, the Recaro seats are brilliant. Beautiful, figure-hugging and clad in Alcantara, they’re every bit the sort of seats you’d want to see in a touring car for the road. Together with the metal gearknob and a few slivers of carbonfibre, they lift the interior just enough to endow it with a sense of occasion.
In typical Honda style, the Accord’s engine purrs into life quickly and settles to a mill-smooth idle. And at everyday speeds, it’s docile and easy to drive. But unlike many Type Rs, it isn’t completely devoid of low-down punch – thanks largely to the H22A7 lump’s 2.2-litre capacity. Although it hasn’t quite got the brawn of, say, a V6-powered Ford Mondeo ST200, neither does it feel completely flaccid.
Of course, all that changes once you hit 5000rpm or so, at which point the VTEC starts doing its thing. Unlike more modern VTEC systems, the kick with the Accord Type R is visceral; a noticeable switch, at which point the engine tone’s edge hardens and your head jerks slightly as the car surges forward.
From then on, it’s pure excitement, right to the rev limiter. The soundtrack has hints of racing car about it, and unending shove has you changing gear quickly to search for more. The problem is, the long gearbox drops you just below the VTEC engagement point on an upshift – although that does have the side effect of giving you a moment’s anticipation as the revs build into that sweet spot once again.
At this point, a corner will be rapidly approaching, so it’s time to come to another frequent Type R trope: steering feel, or a lack of it. Again, that isn’t a problem here, as the Accord features hydraulic, rather than electronic, power steering. Together with the standard limited-slip diff, the result is plenty of feel as the front wheels snatch and grab at the road surface, finding whatever grip is there to tug you around the bend, but never so violently as to kick the wheel back in your hands. It immediately becomes clear that this is a beautifully set up frontwheel-drive car, and one with an absolute corker of an engine, too.
That it’s also a car that can carry the whole family and be bought for a pittance only swells the Accord’s appeal. It might not have the cult appeal of an Integra or a Civic but, at the moment, it’s cheaper than either, almost as sweet to drive as the former, and even more involving than the latter. Buy one now, before everyone else cottons on.