Honda has unveiled its fully redesigned Japanese-specification Accord line, offering a saloon plus an estate car with innovative one-handed rear seat folding and power tailgate. This line will be exported to the UK and Europe with only detail specification differences.

The Japanese Accord is narrower than the US-market version (made as a saloon and coupe) and there are no obviously interchangeable body panels. Nose styling is similar to the US model but the tail is quite different.

There are however many common components in the Japanese model’s platform and drivetrain while the interior layout and dashboard design are broadly similar to the US car.

In contrast to Honda US, which sells over 400,000 Accords a year (and the US model also is built and sold in other markets, notably Thailand and Australia), Honda Japan is aiming to sell just 60,000 units annually.

The new Accord Tourer (a.k.a. estate car or station wagon) has a claimed world-first ‘one-motion’ fold flat-rear seat. One pull on a lever flips the head restraints forward as the seat base rises to a vertical position. The seat back and base then fold totally flat in tandem, taking integrated seatbelts with them. Lifting the seatback moves all components of the rear seat back into position.

The power tailgate, similar to those used on many US-made minivans, can be opened and closed using a button on the remote locking key fob or via a switch on the lower edge of the tailgate. Manual operation is also possible.

Honda has boosted the Japanese market Accord estate’s wheelbase by 50mm and increased overall length 85mm. Load volume is 576 litres with all seats in place and folding the rear seats increases space to 921 litres.

Available equipment on both saloon and estate models includes dual zone automatic air conditioning, front, side and curtain airbags and a DVD-based satellite navigation system with touch screen operation, similar to the system introduced with the 2003 US Accord line.

The Japanese-market Accord has two- and 2.4-litre four-cylinder engines with five-speed and six-speed manual transmissions respectively, plus the option of a five-speed automatic transmission with (clutchless manual) Sequential Shift. The V6 offered in the US cars is not available in Japan.

Japanese sales of the Accord sedan have already begun, the estate car is available in late November and UK sales start early in 2003.