Honda Accord VS Volkswagen Passat
- Slick design
- Brilliant packaging
- Single well-specified variant
- Ride hardly luxurious
- Engines are so-so
- Executive styling
- High quality cabin
- Extensive safety equipment
- More expensive than competitors
- Engine is just okay
- Dual-clutch auto jerkiness
It’s honestly a wonder we’re seeing Honda’s new Accord at all, given it enters the least favourable market conditions for sedans that Australia has ever seen.
Honda even knows it, which is why the company is bringing this new 10th-generation Accord to our market in conservatively low numbers to begin with.
In fact, the only reason we’re getting this Accord is because the Japanese brand acknowledges the sedan is part of Honda’s DNA, and that there’s a dedicated fanbase of Accord owners who won’t buy anything else.
If you’re one of those fans – pat yourself on the back – this car is just for you. So, what’s it like? We went to its Australian launch to find out.
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
The once-ubiquitous family sedan segment championed by the home-grown Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore is, in 2020, a shadow of its former self.
Dwindling sales in the face of the growing popularity of SUVs has forced nameplates like the Ford Mondeo, Subaru Liberty and Insignia-based Holden Commodore to be discontinued in Australia, leaving just a few models to compete against the dominant Toyota Camry.
Does Volkswagen do enough with the Passat 140TSI Business sedan to warrant a look over a more popular rival or SUV? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Honda’s new Accord is a miracle in that it was brought here seemingly simply for fan service.
I think those fans will mostly be pleased. The 10th-generation car is high-tech, sensibly specified, safe, and certainly Honda-like behind the wheel. Just don’t expect it to be as luxurious as Japanese flagship sedans of days past.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The VW Passat 140TSI Business sedan might not be the last word in styling, performance or dynamics, but it offers a tech-laden interior wrapped in a smart package.
Those after a dependable, easy-to-drive commuter with room to spare for the family and luggage can do a lot worse than VW's Passat.
Sure, the competition might offer attention grabbing features like a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain or fashion-model-like styling, but the Passat is so perfectly adequate at everything it does, it really is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Accord looks swish! It carries so much of Honda’s up-to-date design language through its entire body.
This majorly includes the chrome strip across the front, up-to-date LED headlights, and swoopy coupe roofline.
These are offset by a curvy line running down the rear half of the car’s profile, accented by a chrome strip. As mentioned, those wheels look bigger than they are, and add to the Accords presence by sticking way out to the edges of the chassis.
It’s referential to other vehicles in Honda’s range, like the Civic and even S660 kei-sized sports car. Fans will be happy to know the overall package is more restrained than something like the zany Civic hatch.
The cabin is almost exactly what you’d expect from a luxury Japanese sedan. This means throne-style plush leather trimmed seats (that are genuinely nice to sit in) a wide symmetrical dash look and familiar Honda touchpoints throughout.
It’s all well built and ergonomic, so there’s no complains on that front, but there are some areas where the Accord is showing its age in the design department already.
There’s a shift knob that sits too far out of the centre console (hardly a ‘high-end’ look), an odd retracting panel in the dash like its 2004, and the ‘wood trim’ that runs across the dash appears to be a plastic fill – it has no texture!
The rear seats are just as - if not more - comfortable than the fronts, and there are no complaints when it comes to packaging – the Accord's cabin is mostly a great place to be.
Volkswagen's Passat has always tilted towards a more conservative design, and the current sixth-generation version is no different.
From the front, the Passat wears the same corporate identity as seen on most other Volkswagen models with an emphasis on the horizonal grille that incorporates the headlights, the latter featuring a segmented design akin to luxury cars from Germany.
The lower bumper also wears a chrome strip that ties together the LED fog lights to give the Passat a wide-but-not-aggressive stance.
In profile, the Passat's standard three-box design is as innocuous as they come, though the grey-coloured 18-inch 'Dartford' alloy wheels adds a bit of visual flair.
The rear of the Passat is punctuated by wraparound tail-lights and prominent badging, while the lower bumper hides the exhaust outlet from view.
If we had to describe the styling of the Passat in a word, it would be inoffensive, and the single-grade Business moniker is likely a pointer to the target demographic.
If wearing a suit or smart business attire is part of your day-to-day wardrobe, then think of the Passat as an extension of the same corporate look.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with that aesthetic, the Passat – much like an off-the-shelf suit – doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd and can look quite bland amongst the sea of competitors.
To emphasise the point even further, six exterior colours are available though only one (Aquamarine metallic) is not a variation on white, black or grey.
Inside, the Passat looks much like any other modern-day Volkswagen, with controls that are ergonomic and easy to use.
We appreciate the physical volume knob on the multimedia system, while the large touchscreen also shifts the cabin closer to premium than economy.
Speaking of packaging – it’s consistently a Honda strong point, and that’s no different in the new Accord. As already mentioned, front and rear passengers get heaps of room for their arms and legs, and there’s decent storage areas throughout.
That means two smallish cupholders and trenches in the doors, a large caddy in front of the shift-lever with that odd retracting door, and large cupholders in the centre console.
Like almost every Honda, the centre console box is colossal and hosts a single extra USB 2.0 port.
The back seat has leagues of legroom – almost limo-sized for rear passengers, although headroom is compromised a bit by the descending coupe-like roofline. The thick and low C-pillars also make getting in and out a little harder than it perhaps should be – but this is a common trait shared with other coupe-styled sedans in the class like the Peugeot 508.
Touchpoints everywhere are nice and plush, and there are only a few nasty plastics which are well hidden.
Rear seat occupants can make use of adjustable air vents, dual USB ports and a plush trimmed drop-down arm rest with two cupholders.
The arm-rest also reveals a ski port – an increasingly rare feature in today’s cars – which leads us to the boot. It’s massive at 570 litres (VDA) – that’s significantly larger than both the Camry and Liberty and the best part – it doesn’t matter whether you pick the petrol or hybrid, the boot space is the same.
Honda tells us that this is because it has managed to reduce the hybrid battery pack significantly in size – so that it can be placed under the passenger seats instead. Brilliant.
Every Accord has a space-saver spare under the boot floor.
Measuring 4775mm long, 1835mm wide, 1457mm tall and with a 2791mm wheelbase, the Passat is certainly large enough to easily accommodate four adults and plenty of luggage.
In the front row, storage solutions are available at every turn.
Two cupholders sit between the front passengers, good for a morning cup of coffee on the way to work, while the door pockets will easily accommodate a medium-sized water bottle.
The glove box is also cooled, though what practical function this serves is still unclear (are you really going to put a drink bottle in there?), while a roof console, driver's side dashboard cubby and storage pockets behind the front seats can accommodate all manner of paraphernalia.
The front passengers also have an armrest with storage box, while the rear occupants are treated to a fold-down armrest with cupholders.
The rear seats offer enough head-, leg- and shoulder-room for our 183cm (6.0ft) frame, but the middle seat is a bit of a squeeze.
As evidenced by our photos, a large and medium suit can fit side-by-side in the Passat's boot, leaving room in the side storage pockets for smaller items that may roll around once underway.
The sedan's 60/40 split rear seats can also fold from latches in the boot to boost storage capacity to 1152L, though the wagon (with its 650L/1780L boot capacity) is still the choice for those who value practicality.
Cargo restraining hooks are available, as are shopping bag hooks (always a win) and a 12-volt socket.
Price and features
Honda has chosen to bring the Accord in surprisingly limited numbers – just 150 units a year to begin with – and so there is just one specification level.
It’s the highest it goes though, a VTi-LX. Honda tells us there’s no chance of lesser variants, even if consumers are asking for it, so don’t hold out for an entry-spec car.
The single variant is split into two engine options. A familiar 1.5-litre petrol turbo, and a new-generation 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine with hybrid drive.
Naturally, as a high-grade car, the price is quite high. Honda is asking $47,990 for the turbo and $50,490 for the hybrid.
This is more expensive than highly specified traditional opponents, like the segment-dominating Toyota Camry SL hybrid ($41,090) and Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium ($37,940). You could also consider cross shopping it against something like Peugeot’s new 508 GT ($53,990) – but if you’re an Accord fan there’s a good chance none of those alternatives matter.
Standard spec is great. The Accord sports the best of Honda’s catalogue and then some. Standard are flashy 18-inch alloys that look big in the Accord’s wheel arches, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as marginally better software suite than the rest of Honda’s range (typically a sore point for Honda). Unlike pretty much every other Honda though, the Accord scores a 6.0-inch head-up display and one of its dual dials in the dash is digital, and configurable to several layouts including navigation.
You’ll also be getting a wireless phone charging bay, but no USB-C. At least it gets Apple CarPlay and Android auto from the get-go, unlike the current Camry which will need to have it retrofitted if you bought one prior to it being rolled out.
The Accord has an electronic parking brake, auto parking function and active cruise control to sweeten the deal, too. More on safety features later in this review.
Priced at $46,590, before on-road costs, the Volkswagen Passat 140TSI Business sedan is on the pricier end of the mid-size sedan segment.
However, Volkswagen Australia has taken the kitchen sink approach to specification, and thrown everything it could at its mainstream mid-size sedan.
As standard, the Passat is fitted with a tri-zone climate control, LED exterior lighting, second-row air vents, automatic boot release, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 18-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, electronically adjustable and massaging driver's seat, heated front seats, multi-function steering wheel, cooled glove box, leather-appointed interior, and rear window blinds.
An 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen system, with wireless Apple CarPlay/wired Android Auto connectivity, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, is also included.
While it is nice to see wireless Apple CarPlay come down to a 'mainstream' model instead of the usual upper-luxury suspects, we did notice the lack of digital radio in the Passat.
Instead, the Passat is fitted with a multi-function display nestled between the speedo and tacho, which works to convey driving data such as fuel consumption and speed warning, but feels much more budget than boujee in appearance.
It's also pleasing to see Volkswagen adopt a future-forward approach with three USB-C ports overall (two up front, one for the rear passengers), despite the current-generation Passat's underpinnings dating back to 2014.
A bevy of high-end safety equipment is also included at no extra charge, including adaptive cruise control and surround-view monitor (more information on safety down below).
The only option available to Passat buyers is the choice of premium paint, but the long list of standard equipment is tempered by the high price tag.
Engine & trans
The Accord will only get two engine options – the first is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which will be familiar from other Hondas where the same engine lives. Honda says it’s put a new head on for the Accord and tightened up the engine’s response. The result is the same 140kW power output, but an increase in torque to 260Nm. This engine is mated exclusively to a stepped-ratio continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The other option is a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder with hybrid drive. Combined system output is 158kW/315Nm, so it is the more powerful of the two choices.
It also has a different transmission which Honda refers to as the e-CVT – but it proved to behave quite differently as explained in the driving section of this review.
All Accords are front-wheel drive.
The engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that sends drive exclusively to the front wheels for a 0-100km/h sprint in just 7.1 seconds.
Volkswagen used to offer the Passat with lower-output engines, as well as a more potent Golf R-driveline-sharing 206TSI grade, but those versions have been discontinued in Australia.
The Accord has brave claimed/combined fuel usage figures of 6.5L/100km for the petrol-turbo and 4.3L/100km for the hybrid. If real-world tests can even come within a litre or two it will prove to be fantastic for the segment – but you’ll have to wait until we get one for a week-long road test for a fair real-world figure.
Honda says its engines are tuned to run on 91RON unleaded petrol, and the Accord has a 56-litre fuel tank in the turbo or 48.5L in the hybrid.
Official documentation pegs the Passat 140TSI Business sedan's fuel consumption at 6.4 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions are 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
In our limited week of testing (just before Melbourne entered the second wave of lockdowns), we managed a figure of 9.7L/100km limited exclusively to inner-city driving.
Our figure is still slightly higher than the 8.3L/100km urban consumption rating though, which can be chalked up to our very short and slow speeds to the local shop and back as our average speed over 523km is just 27km/h.
The Accord doesn’t quite drive like you might expect. It betrays its luxurious look and plush interior with a firm ride.
Honda says this is because it has imbued the “spirit of Accord Euro” into the development process for this new Accord – suggesting that it can appeal as much to fans of the sporty Accords of days past as much as it does for its Japanese luxury car fans.
I think they’ve gone overboard, though. The chassis and dampers are stiff. Too stiff. This car feels abrupt and crashy over larger bumps, and unsettled over smaller ones.
The flip side of that, of course, is that it is a blast to throw into corners. With the wheels way out to the edges of the chassis (the Accord is wider than ever) it simply refused to understeer, giving it handling prowess that eludes most front-drive sedans this size.
In some ways its like driving a giant Civic, and for those who enjoy driving, that will be a very good thing.
Both engine options don’t quite keep up with the abilities of the chassis. While the 1.5-litre petrol punches above its weight when it comes to power, it’s just not an athletic performer, especially when you’re demanding straight-line acceleration.
Its weak link is largely the transmission which tries to emulate a torque converter by stepping its way through 'ratios'. It has some typically negative characteristics of limiting the feedback, and changing the ratio at seemingly random times.
The hybrid is better, both on power and in terms of its transmission, which locks up when needed. It’s still no true performer though.
Neither option seems to be capable of spinning the front wheels, either through lack of power or design, so if nothing else, it’s predictable and feels safe.
Handling proved to be good, with Honda’s direct and fast steering being on-point, and the signature chunky leather-bound wheel offering a satisfying way to interact with the car. The steering does have a slight artificial tinge to it, especially with the seemingly computer-weighted ‘Sport’ mode, but Honda has also reduced the turns lock-to-lock, making it fast to park in city scenarios.
I was surprised to find that road noise in both variants wasn’t great. It’s better than in the Civic, but Honda claims it has gone to lengths to deaden it, so I had hoped it would be quieter inside. The engine noise is better – relegated to a distant hum unless you’re really wringing it.
Overall, it’s a good – if a little firm – driving experience. It just doesn’t quite live up to the luxury promise set out.
Well, the opposite is true of something like the sedately-styled Passat 140TSI Business sedan.
Don't be mistaken, though, as that is not meant as a form of criticism, and those looking to buy a Passat generally aren't looking for a canyon carving track attack weapon.
Instead, the Passat feels very neutral and easy to drive day-to-day.
With the punchy 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine serving up the 320Nm of torque from a very low 1450rpm, the Passat feels responsive around town, while the smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) works smartly and seamlessly.
There can be some jerkiness from the DCT when slowing to a stop as the start/stop system likes to cut the engine early to save fuel, but that can be remedied by simply turning if off with the press of a button.
The 140kW available is also never really enough to overwhelm the front axle, and the Passat handles with predictability and precision.
The suspension set-up is also geared much more towards comfort and compliance than sportiness.
This mean the Passat is easily soaks up bumps and road imperfections instead of transmitting every jolt through the chassis to the driver.
While the Passat can feel a little numb to steer, the light steering is a plus at slow speeds around town, making U-turns and parallel parks easier.
Though VW offered a less powerful and more potent engine in the old Passat range, we're glad to see the brand stick with the sole 140TSI engine that hits the sweet spot of usable performance in real-world situations.
The Accord impresses with a fairly comprehensive standard safety suite, helped along by the fact that the brand only needs to bring one variant to market.
On the active safety front, it gets auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian detection), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, and Honda’s strange Lane Watch camera suite in place of blind-spot monitoring.
It also gets an expanded suite of cameras with a wide angle top-view to assist with parking.
On the expected front, the Accord gets the standard suite of stability, brake, and traction controls as well as front and side curtain airbags which have ‘safety vents’ to prevent airbag injury and ‘roll-over sensors’ which can keep the airbags deployed for longer in the case of a prolonged rollover scenario.
The Accord has not yet been rated by ANCAP.
The Volkswagen Passat wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, though the current-generation model was first tested in October 2015.
At the time of testing, the Passat scored 14.89 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, while the side impact and pole examinations yielded the full 16 and two points respectively.
Overall, the Passat was awarded a score of 35.89 out of a possible 37, though ANCAP's testing criteria has since become much more stringent.
For starters a five-star car must include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard across the range, a technology that is now fitted to all Passats.
Other standard safety equipment includes Volkswagen's 'IQ Drive' safety suite, which bundles together a drive attention alert system, lane-keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, automated parallel parking, surround-view monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.
ISOFIX anchorage points are also available in the two outbound rear seats, while there are three top tether spots.
Honda covers the new Accord with its five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise – which is competitive against both the Camry and the Liberty as well as other mainstream brands.
The Accord requires servicing once every 12 months or 10,000km whichever occurs first or when the engine computer tells you.
While you might be at the mercy of the computer, services are capped all the way out to 10 years/100,000km at just $312 a visit. That’s mega cheap.
There are a few things not covered under the “base service price” but they shouldn’t throw up too many red flags. The most expensive is the ‘HCF – 2 fluid’ every three years at a cost of $172, or the spark plugs every 100,000km at a cost of $289.
Like all new Volkswagen vehicles, the Passat 140TSI Business sedan comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with 12 months of roadside assistance.
Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first.
The first, third and fifth service costs $389 each, with the two-year/30,000km and four-year/60,000km maintenance blowing out to $602 and $923 respectively.
So, the first five years of servicing will set you back $2692, though buyers can also opt for a three- or five-year car plan at the time of purchase for $1300 or $2300.
Each care plan includes scheduled servicing for that time period, saving up to $389 compared to paying for each individually.