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Honda Euro made in Japan

The new Honda Accord Euro has a bigger cabin and will be available with only a minor price increase over the current model.

In Europe, it comes with 2-litre and 2.4-litre petrol engines or Honda's new 2.2 i-DTEC diesel. Australians have to make do with the 2.4.

Honda Australia is pushing hard for the inclusion of the wagon for the local line-up. But even if it did appear it could trail the sedan version by at least 12 months.

This is the eighth generation of the Accord (the first came to Australia in 1976), and with 16 million sold since, it has become a core model for Honda.

It is one of the few Honda passenger cars manufactured in Japan since the company built factories in Thailand. Jazz, Accord V6 and CR-V are built in Thailand.

The Accord Euro, which is only available with a four-cylinder engine to differentiate it from the bigger V6 Accord, has a higher level of features and safety over the current model.

It comes standard with safety equipment including a new electronic stability control linked to the car's steering system, which helps the driver steer safely in demanding conditions.

Options will include lane-keeping assistance (which alerts the driver when the car starts to move out of its lane); adaptive cruise control and a collision mitigation brake system to warn the driver of a possible accident and prepare the brakes for an emergency stop.

The new Euro is bigger than its predecessor to boost cabin room. In styling, it is an evolution of the current model and shares some styling clues with its main rival, the Mazda6, which was also released as a new model.

The Australian 150kW, 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine version drives either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with steering-wheel paddle shifters.

No prices have been announced ahead of its local launch, because the Mazda6 was released last month at an unexpectedly low price and it appears Honda will have to follow suit. Only a minor price increase over the existing model is expected.

Meanwhile, Honda has announced an additional hybrid sedan and the fast-tracking of its stunning fuel-cell car to production. Honda president Takeo Fukui said a “dedicated” hybrid would go on sale in 2009 to support the existing Civic Hybrid.

This new car is smaller and is expected to cost about two-thirds of the Civic price, making it the cheapest hybrid on offer in Australia.

This sedan is confirmed for production but the news is slightly more blurred about Honda's cute CR-Z sports coupe that is also slated for a hybrid powerplant.

The CR-Z, a successor to the popular CR-X of the mid-1990s, was first shown at last year's Tokyo motor show.

Better news for Honda's medium-sized fuel-cell car, the FCX Clarity, which goes on sale in the US in June and in Japan in October. The FCX theoretically has a market in Australia, although Honda Australia spokesman Mark Higgins said an immature infrastructure for hydrogen would delay local sales.

The FCX will be the first fuel-cell car to reach the global market though it is being hotly pursued by other manufacturers.

Honda also released details of a sophisticated, low-emission 2.2-litre diesel called the i-DTEC. This engine will appear first in the European-spec Accord but won't come to Australia for at least two years.