Honda Accord — Mid-sized sophistication

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Not long ago the mid-sized sedan was the largest segment outside of full-sized pickup trucks. But with the exploding popularity of the crossover SUV, the typical family sedan has become an also-ran. Because sales have dramatically dropped over the past couple of years automakers are re-thinking new models. For example, Fiat Chrysler and Ford have announced the termination of many of their car-type vehicles over the next several years.

There is a glimmer of hope that the segment won't disappear from the automotive landscape — at least in the near term. Japanese automakers in the U.S. — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — are betting on the future with billions of development dollars, building all-new models of the Camry, Accord and Altima.

While the new Altima has not yet reached the market, we can report that the mid-sized sedan segment has a good chance of showing growth in 2018 with noteworthy improvements in both the Camry and Accord. In fact, the Accord — which was named 2018 North American Car of the Year — has been improved in just about every aspect.

A quick walk-around of the new Accord may actually elicit some emotional appeal, which has not always been the case with new editions. But with the new model it seems designers have taken a new direction with a more fashionable-looking car. The Accord's upright greenhouse has been eliminated in favor of a fastback-like roofline, which combines with a pronounced curving character line just below the beltline from the headlights to the taillights giving the car a more athletic appearance. Overall we think this is a handsome car.

While the new Accord is slightly smaller than the outgoing car by .3-inch, the wheelbase has been stretched 2.1-inches giving the car tighter front and rear overhangs making it look longer and sleeker. Inside, the Accord has as much passenger room as before and a larger trunk going from 16 to 17 cubic feet.

Perhaps to the dismay of a few, the V-6 engine has been dropped in favor of a new detuned Civic Type R 2.0-liter turbocharged four making 252 horsepower and a prodigious 273 pound-feet of torque at just 1,500 rpm. Know that this modern engine is faster than the outgoing V6, capable of 0-60 in 5.5 seconds and a quarter mile in 14.2 seconds mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission while deriving superior gas mileage of 22 mpg city, 32 highway and 26 combined on regular gas. (Note: a 6-speed manual is available with the same gas mileage ratings.)

The engine is quiet and powerful and the 10-speed offers quick and unobtrusive shifts. And the dreaded turbo-lag is all but nonexistent. The Accord is as close to a sports sedan as any mainstream family car built today, smooth and composed when you want it to be, but ready and willing to take on a rural winding road. And to top it off — the new Accord is extremely hushed inside.

We think most will opt for the new 1.5-liter turbo four making 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque capable of 0-to-60 in 7.3 seconds. Gas mileage is above average for an engine with this output, EPA-rated at 29 mpg city, 38 highway and 33 overall with a continuously variable transmission. A manual is also available for those who like to shift for themselves

The interior offers a modern, stylish design with user-friendly controls and an infotainment system that is easy to use with an easy-to-navigate screen. And we are happy that Honda has returned to good old-fashioned knobs for audio tuning and volume. Perhaps unimportant to most people — but very important to us — the Honda system has the best XMSirius satellite radio readout in the business displaying lots of information in large, easy-to-read fonts.

The front seats are comfortable and we found it easy to obtain a just-right driving position with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Rear seats are equally comfortable, and legroom is abundant.

Our top-of-the-the line Touring 2.0 test car was loaded with the latest in safety equipment called Honda Sensing. It includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning with cross traffic alert and rain-sensing wipers.

Prices start at $24,445 for a well-equipped LX, and rise through four additional trim levels — Sport, EX, EX-L and Touring. The LX comes with such items usually reserved for higher trims or as options including dual-zone climate control, rearview camera, a 7-inch touchscreen, and a load of safety equipment including adaptive cruise and forward collision warning. Our Touring included everything in the Accord arsenal for $36,675.

Base price: $24,445; as driven, $36,675
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4 cylinder
Horsepower: 252 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 273 pound-feet @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111.4 inches
Length: 192.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,298 pounds
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 22 city, 32 highway, 27 combined
0-60: 5.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu

The Good
• Powerful and fuel-efficient engines
• Many standard safety features
• Spacious cabin
• Upgraded infotainment system

The Bad
• Low seating position

The Ugly
• Nothing ugly about this car