CC Capsule: 2002-08 Honda Accord Tourer – The Acura TSX Sport Wagon That Never Was

We Curbivores are enthusiasts so, naturally, many of us love wagons. The dynamics of a sedan but with extra versatility: what’s not to love? And because of our intrinsic love of wagons, we are statistically more likely to own cars like the slow-selling Acura TSX Sport Wagon – our own Paul Niedermeyer has one! Unfortunately, the wider public would prefer an RDX or MDX, meaning the TSX Sport Wagon lasted only a generation. The Honda Accord Tourer upon which it was based, however, lasted two.

By the time the TSX Sport Wagon arrived in 2011, the US market was in the throes of its crossover obsession. Acura of Canada didn’t even bother to introduce the model. In its debut year, Acura shifted 3,210 wagons, rising to 4,234 in 2012. That largely lined up with Acura’s modest 4000 annual unit projection but paled in comparison to the sedan (27,725 sold in 2011) and even the disappointingly slow-selling first-generation RDX (15,196).

The Acura TSX, as you know, was simply a rebadged European Honda Accord (although there was a unique V6 variant for the second generation). The European and American Accord lines had diverged at the fifth generation of 1994. The first European Accord was offered only as a rakish four-door sedan, Honda supplementing it with wagon and coupe models imported from the US. This European Accord was also sold in Japan as the Ascot Innova.

The following generation of Euro Accord introduced a second body style, a five-door liftback. By now, the “global” Accord – up to its fifth generation – was no longer available in wagon form. Honda imported the American coupe but it was destined for niche status. European buyers much preferred wagons and most European and Japanese rivals had one to offer.

For the third generation of Euro Accord, Honda finally delivered. And like the neatly tailored sedan, now also sold in North America as the Acura TSX, the wagon (now “Tourer” in Honda parlance) was modern, wedgy and distinctive. While somewhat bluff, it avoided the dumpy, utilitarian look afflicted on rivals like the Opel Vectra C.

Befitting its repurposing as an Acura, the third Euro Accord was designed to be a little bit more special than an Opel Vectra or Ford Mondeo. Handling was crisp, the ride supple, and the interior thoughtfully designed and using higher-quality materials. Mid-size (D-segment) cars often had to compete against compact executive sedans like the BMW 3-Series so it made sense for Honda to make their Accord a little, well, nicer. Honda also switched back to importing the Accord from Japan, leaving the Swindon plant in the UK to manufacture Civics.

The Tourer was an exceedingly sensible proposition. Total length increased by 3.3 inches over the sedan, 2 of those in the wheelbase. The rear seats split 60/40 and folded flat, with total cargo capacity besting that of the Volvo V70: 20.34 cubic feet with the seats up, 32.52 down. As with the sedan, there was a choice of two four-cylinder gas engines: a 2.0 with 155 hp and 140 ft-lbs and a 2.4 with 190 hp and 164 ft-lbs. The smaller engine was available with either a five-speed manual or five-speed auto, the 2.4 swapping out the manual for a six-speed stick.

It was expected in Europe that all D-segment cars offer a diesel engine too and so Honda developed its first, launching to great praise from critics. The 2.2 common rail direct-injected four-cylinder produced 140 hp and a stout 251 ft-lbs and was available exclusively with a six-speed manual. It took 9.9 seconds to reach 60 mph in the diesel Tourer, the sedan beating that by 0.7 seconds.

Honda seemed to have really hit the sweet spot for a European D-segment offering: well-sized with a high quality interior, good dynamics, and with diesel and wagon versions available. Plus, there was Honda’s excellent reliability and build quality. The fruits of their labor were seen with an increase in sales: the Accord’s tally of 48,346 units in 2004 was its best in years. The Euro Accord was also successful in other markets where it was offered. For example, it became the third best-selling mid-size car in Australia for a period even though, uniquely, it was sold alongside the American Accord. Sadly, we didn’t get the Tourer or the diesel here. Nor did we get the wagon or diesel variants of the following European Accord. Even more sadly, despite being just as complete a package as the generation prior, the next (fourth) generation of European Accord proved to be the last.

Photographed in Potsdam, Germany in September 2018.

Related Reading:

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