Honda Accord grows to exceed expectations

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Back in the summer of 1976 we were stopped at a rest area along Interstate 95 in southern Virginia when a new Honda Accord pulled into a parking spot.
It was a revelation because we had heard and read about the Accord and seen pictures of it in auto magazines, but it was our first sighting. We edged over for a closer look.

We had become enamored of the tiny Civic CVCC three-door hatchback in 1974, the predecessor of the modern Civic. We tried to buy a new one, powered by a 52-horsepower 4-cylinder, for commuting to work and running errands during the “gas-crisis” months. But the dealer was not in a negotiating mood and we weren’t ready to pay full sticker price for a tiny relatively obscure Japanese model no matter how fuel efficient.

Later we became interested in the new “grown up” Civic CVCC called the Accord. It was a 162-inch-long compact hatchback with a small 93.7-inch wheelbase powered by a 68-horsepower version of the Civic four-cylinder engine. And it could actually hold four passengers.

The Accord was the new big boy in the burgeoning Honda lineup. By today’s standards it was a tiny runabout measuring just five inches longer, but with a three-inch shorter wheelbase, than Honda’s new small car, the Fit. And it managed with 41 less horsepower than the 2008 Fit.

We bring you these tidbits of historical information to point up the steady, dramatic growth the Accord has exhibited, expanding generation by generation into a family sedan for all occasions.

Entering its 32nd year and eighth generation, the Accord is bigger than ever, and by our estimation after spending a week with a loaded 4-cylinder EX-L with Navigation, and having driven all three sedan variants including the V-6, and the V-6-edition of the coupe in the Boston area last summer, we proclaim it the best Accord ever as well.

Of course we expected nothing less.

The Accord’s growth, which has reached 120 cubic feet of interior and cargo volume, pushes it into the large car class by EPA standards. It’s nearly five inches longer than its chief competitor, the Toyota Camry.

It’s almost to the point that we may risk asking, has the Accord grown too big?

The answer after extensive seat time is no. It may feel like a big car sitting behind its extensive curving dashboard, but it still drives like a mid-sized car while offering comfortable accommodations for four adults, and mid-sized car fuel economy. Fuel efficiency as measured by the EPA using the more stringent 2008 standards is exemplary. Both 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines — one with 177 horsepower and the other generating 190 — are rated at 21 miles per gallon in city driving and 31 highway. The 3.5-liter V-6, now with 268 horsepower and three-way cylinder deactivation — three, four or six cylinders — is rated at 19 city and 29 highway.

Perhaps Honda was seeking to kill two birds with one big stone, so to speak, by going after both the Camry and its larger sibling, the Avalon. The new Accord is only three inches shorter with a one inch smaller wheelbase than the biggest Toyota sedan. Interior volume is nearly identical.

The Accord’s performance, fuel economy, ride, and handling are all noteworthy. It’s the new styling that may throw you off. The Accord has been a stalwart member of the bland design club for years, so we should applaud a slight deviation from the norm.

But our applause is being withheld until we live with the sedan a bit longer. The thing that throws us off is the big nose, a styling direction that has gained a foothold as automakers, particularly European and Japanese, design front ends that must meet pedestrian safety requirements.

From the side we like the character lines that angle downward from the taillights into the front fender.

We found the car looks better in person than in many pictures.

But the car is so refined for its class that most people, we think, will put styling far down their priority list when considering whether this time around it will be a Camry, Altima, Fusion, Malibu or Accord.

Most people will surely agree that the interior styling is attractive. It has a lot of curves and contours with much thought given to detail. Cubbies and cupholders are in good supply. And a biggie — the liquid-crystal gauge display can be read with polarized sunglasses.

On the downside, there is a plethora of look-alike buttons and knobs to sort out. Once you become familiar with the layout, it becomes fairly intuitive, however.
The Accord's increase in size has translated into rear-seat stretch-out room. Getting comfortable in back is a cinch for most people.

If you have to stretch the budget to get into the new sedan, the base 177-horsepower LX edition can be purchased for $20,995 with a five-speed manual transmission or $21,895 with a five-speed automatic.

Standard stuff on the base car includes full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, fold-down rear seats and a six-speaker audio system with CD/MP3 player.
We found the smaller-output four-cylinder to be energetic enough to handle all driving situations.

But most people will probably opt for a version of the 190-horsepower 4-cylinder or the V-6. The four comes in an EX trim level and both come in EX-L or EX-L with Navigation trim levels.

The V-6 is energetic, but we feel it suffers a bit in performance with the continued use of a five-speed automatic. Many competitors have gone to six-speed transmissions. That being said, we can’t argue much with 0 to 60 performance that has been measured in around 7 seconds.

A manual transmission can be matched to either four-cylinder engine, but the V-6 gets only the automatic.

Perhaps the best buy is the 190-horsepower four-cylinder mated to the five-speed automatic. It returns excellent gas mileage as noted above and it offers satisfying performance. The EX with a load of amenities begins at $24,495 with automatic.

Our test car was an EX-L with Navigation and automatic transmission carrying a bottom line price including destination of $28,695. Standard equipment includes leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and satellite radio. The EX-L V-6 sells for $28,695 and the EX-L with Navigation V-6 sells for $30,895.

The new Accord is spacious and quiet and offers impeccable driving credentials. What more can you ask of a family sedan?


Base price, $20,995; as driven, $28,695

Engine: 2.4-liter inline 4 cylinder

Horsepower: 190 @ 7,000 rpm

Torque: 162 foot-pounds @ 4,400 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Drive: front wheel

Seating: 2/3

Wheelbase: 110.2 inches

Length: 194.1 inches

Curb weight: 3,386 pounds

Turning circle: 37 feet

Luggage capacity: 14 cubic feet

Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)

EPA mileage: 31 highway, 21 city

0-60: 8.0 seconds (estimated)

Also consider: Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu

The Good

• Excellent passenger space for the segment

• Outstanding fuel-efficient performance

• Good balance between ride and handling

The Bad

• Too many look-alike buttons on the dashboard

The Ugly

• Will public accept the somewhat quirky styling?