THE fifth generation of the Honda Accord is likely to be regarded as a benchmark for the entire automobile industry. The brief reign of the Ford Taurus as America's best selling car looks set to end as the new model Accord moves in to regain the title for Honda. Reliance Motors, the Hong Kong Honda distributor, hopes that the remodelled saloon will have a similar impact in the territory. It has mounted an aggressive advertising campaign to back the car. The reworking of the Accord is extensive, with a radical change in looks. Gone is the boxy style of the old Accord. It's been replaced by a sleek and smooth profile, low at the nose and high at the tail. The style is more contemporary than the out-going model and the helpings are larger, but the Accord character remains the same. The Accord is bigger and better than its fourth generation sister in every way. The glass is flush and a crease line runs along the sides of the car to give it a striking profile. The front is plain, with a single bar running through the shallow radiator grille. But, from the rear, the new model has an impressive wide-tracked stance. The cabin is wide and spacious. Honda claims to have found an extra 25 millimetres of width and 10 mm of headroom inside the new shell, giving the Accord some of the most generous cabin space available. A two-tone colour scheme complements the inside, with an upper dark anti-glare section sweeping around the cabin at shoulder height and a lower light-coloured section adding a pleasant feel to the interior. Honda has stuck with its advanced VTEC four-cylinder engines for the Accord rather than opting for the V-6 power that other car makers are beginning to offer with their top models in this class. The VTEC engines have proved quick, smooth and economical. The 2.2-litre motor produces 145 brake horsepower. An engine of the same size in the outgoing model gave between 8.75 kilometres per litre and 10.85 km/l according to how hard the car was driven. The new and improved version should prove to be more economical. The chassis could certainly handle a great deal more power and, in Japan, a SiR version with 190 bhp is available, making it a very fast car. But Reliance Motors Ltd, the Hong Kong distributor, has opted for the lower-powered version, which it feels is the most balanced Accord. And it is the balance of qualities that makes the Accord special. The new car has a combination of space, performance and style that other manufacturers will have to measure themselves against. For a limited period, the 2.2-litre VTEC Accord is available for $298,000.