The Honda Accord comes in sedan and coupe versions. Either way, the Accord is big on efficiency, be it getting the most power and range from a gallon of gas with the least emissions, making the largest interior available given the exterior space it takes up, or providing the smoothest, quietest ride possible in the lightest weight. Whether moving four people comfortably at 30 mpg or enjoying the long way home, the Accord is up to the task.
Completely redesigned for 2008, the Honda Accord grew in exterior dimensions and interior roominess, safety, and value.
The 2009 Accord is available with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines, two transmissions, and LX and EX trim levels. A new premium package adds more convenience bits to an LX, and EX-L models add leather and luxury features.
The Honda Accord competes with the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Saturn Aura, and Chevrolet Malibu. The extra space offered by the current-generation Accord means that shopping list might also include the Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and VW Passat.
The Accord Coupe competes directly with the Nissan Altima coupe. The stylish, two-door Coupe is available with a six-speed manual and V6, the only Accord with that combination, and it comes with larger anti-roll bars and low-profile 18-inch tires and wheels.
This latest-generation Honda Accord stays true to its roots with contemporary yet conservative design highlighted by a strong character line that slopes down and forward like that of the Acura TL. Honda hallmarks like narrow windshield pillars and a low cowl for good forward visibility remain, and the rear door pillars share the kink popularized decades ago by BMW and becoming ever more frequent.
While you can see the hood and the top of the fenders where they meet the hood, the edges are not so visible; the swept-back light housings minimize protruding corners and ease maneuverability but exercise caution until you're certain where they are. Many modern design elements are the result of auto/pedestrian collision standards and the Accord is not immune, even the wiper arm mounts are designed to break away when hit.
Forward lights are aptly described as hawk-like and look fiercer on coupes because they use projector headlamps as opposed to the conventional reflector design on the sedans; V6 models include fog lamps. At the rear the lamp elements appear cut off at the style line rather than extending up to the top trunk seam. This contributes a sense of heaviness and more closely mirrors the princess rear end styling of the Acura RL rather than the taut crispness of the TL.
Following trends, the new Accord is larger than any before, and although it competes in the mid-size market segment it is by EPA interpretation a large car. It is about five inches longer than primary competitor Camry, and about four inches longer that the Nissan Altima and Maxima.
The coupe has grown similarly from the last Accord Coupe but you won't confuse it with a large car. Virtually every dimension save width is 2-4 inches smaller outside than that of the sedan. The Coupe is sleeker yet still fits the Accord mold. All Coupes use projector headlights, body-color rocker panels and add a passenger side easy-entry feature for rear seat access.
Honda (and Acura) owners will feel right at home in the Accord, one reason repeat buyers account for a good chunk of sales. It is light and airy, spacious, with thoughtful layout and plenty of elbow room. Everything you touch feels right for the price, everything you need seems to be here, and everyone on board should be comfortable.
LX models provide pleasing design and materials and a variety of storage areas for modern conveniences and old-fashioned vices. Stepping up to an EX-L with leather adds features, but the basics like seat design and driver ergonomics are shared by all Accords.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering column provides a good range of adjustment to complement those available on the seat so all the masses can find a good driving position. There's a clear view all around outside, to the instrument panel with proven dial-and-needle gauges, and the information display or navigation screen is inset under a shade at the same height as the gauges; glare is controlled and it can be viewed with polarized glasses.
EX-L models come with leather on the seats, steering wheel, manual shifter and door panels. The EX-L leather appears of high quality and assembly as does the rest of the car. The driver's seat has multiple power adjustments and good support for the long haul or around-town errands.
Our only complaints with the Accord cabin were minor: The lumbar support on all front seats (regardless of power or upholstery) is stout and we occasionally wished for less of it; and the front seats have lots of room around them causing some slender pilots to say the door was too far away for a comfortable armrest or leg brace.
The extra width of the newest Accord translates directly into a wider cabin, especially in front. The center armrest was designed to be big enough for two adults to share without awkward glances.
Rear-seat passengers will have few complaints as few do in large cars. Seat cushions and backrest carry right out to the door without wheelwell intrusion, offer space for a six-footer to sit comfortably behind another one, and easy entry and egress. The center seat is better padded than many, and as such it loses a bit of headroom to the outer seats. There are no rear reading lamps.
Three interior colors are offered on the sedans, black, gray, and ivory, while the coupe goes black or ivory only. Although it may show dirt more, the ivory includes wood-look accents where the other colors make do with silver trim pieces, so the ivory interior comes across as more elegant.
Coupe models make use of the larger door panels by adding a return sweep and pull handle to the armrest trim.
Controls for lights and wipers are on stalks. Honda's graphics for the variable intermittent wipers are among the simplest: Rather than bars, lines or dots of differing size, the Accord uses one raindrop for long interval and three raindrops for more frequent wiping. The shifter is right at hand, and the proper handbrake has short travel.
Controls for sound, climate, and navigation are central below the navigation screen and vents. On lower-line models, the big round knob controls volume; on others it is the interface through which you work various menus. Even on fully equipped cars with navigation, the layout is less daunting than the number of buttons first suggests. One row of switches controls audio input (AM, XM, CD, etc.) and another row has six audio presets. Climate controls are to the sides, so you needn't wait to approve the legal disclaimer on the screen before you can ask for heat or air conditioning in extreme weather. Voice activation can handle a multitude of chores without a hand ever leaving the steering wheel.
All Accords except the LX sedan include active noise cancellation, but we were hard-pressed to notice the difference between LX and EX. Vibration and engine buzz are kept to a minimum on the four-cylinder engine and are negligible on V6, so all Accords come across as very quiet; with everything off and the windows and roof closed, tire and road noise come in first, but it's never anything more than background. Bottom line: The Accord is smooth and quiet with or without noise cancellation technology.
Trunk space in the sedan is 14 cubic feet in a fairly useful shape, and the contents need not be heaved waist-high to load in. The rear seatbacks fold for more room. A lock is provided on the pass-through behind the armrest on some models. The DVD-drive on the upper edge of the trunk is somewhat protected by a stout steel band.
The latest Honda Accord is an easy drive with good manners regardless of model, engine or transmission. It comes across as firmer than most Camry models but smoother and softer than the Altima.
The Accord LX 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matches Nissan's 2.5-liter with a bit less fuss or raucousness, and a good deal more ponies than the Camry's four-cylinder. Since the Accord isn't too heavy, its 177 horsepower is plenty to keep up with the Joneses, whether you choose the manual or automatic. Every Accord compares well against competitors in terms of mileage and emissions, and runs on regular unleaded.
The EX models get the same basic 2.4-liter engine with some minor changes and a higher rev limit to bring 190 horsepower, clearly besting the competition (VW's 200-horsepoer Passat 2-liter turbo is the exception) with no degradation in economy or emissions. With the automatic this engine delivers instant downshifts and response for passing, and upshifts at full-throttle well before redline. The console-mounted shifter has no manual mode, and the detent between Drive and D3 is soft, so we found ourselves checking the dash indicator to make sure we had selected the most economical choice.
The five-speed manual has low clutch effort with smooth engagement, and the shifter offers good action if not the short, crisp movement of the Civic Si. But the manual allows you to get the most out of the engine, which cleanly revs happily right past the marked redline. That lets a 177-horsepower 2.4 manual keep up with a 190-horsepower 2.4 automatic. Of course, the 190-horsepower 2.4-liter and five-speed manual are the most entertaining of the four-cylinder models and will appeal to that segment of the Accord audience that enjoys driving and believes shifting is done with hands and feet, not thumbs.
If you don't know whether to choose the 177-horsepower or 190-horsepower version (setting aside trim considerations) ask yourself how often you floor the throttle and run your engine to redline: If the answer lies between never and seldom the 177-horsepower will prove quite satisfactory.
In terms of fuel economy, all Accord sedans with four-cylinder engines are EPA-rated 22/31 mpg City/Highway with the manual, 21/30 mpg with the automatic. Four-cylinder coupes are rated 22/31 mpg with the manual, 21/30 mpg with the automatic. V6 sedans are rated 19/29 mpg. V6 coupes are rated 19/28 mpg with automatic, 17/25 mpg with the six-speed manual.
The 3.5-liter V6 was new last year and rated 268 horsepower, which Honda has raised to 271 for 2009. The company said it has made no changes, but that actual production engines have tested better than the prototypes. So rated torque is up, too, from 248 pound-feet to 254. That also means the Accord V6 now rates more horses than not only the Camry V6, but the Altima's Z-car-based engine as well (if only by a nose). It's a smooth engine and quieter than the Altima's, more than adequate for any purpose, and uses the latest version of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management (VCM).
Like GM and Chrysler systems designed to save gas on big V8s, VCM changes the number of engine cylinders working at any given time and load to save fuel. The previous example switched off three cylinders (half the V6) when they weren't needed, but this new one changes between six, four, and three cylinders for more fuel-stretching choices. The system is completely automatic and unknown to the driver except for two things: The Eco light illuminates on the dash when the system is on, and there's a slight hunting sensation as it switches back-and-forth between four and three cylinders at certain speeds, but you'll need to be paying attention to notice that.
Coupes with the 190-horsepower four-cylinder manual or automatic or the VCM V6 automatic use the same powertrain setups as the sedans. However, the V6 used in the coupe with the manual six-speed transmission is a different engine. While size and output are the roughly the same (it is rated 271 horsepower and 251 pound-feet), it uses a different intake system for stronger midrange and no VCM because its intended buyer isn't springing for the sportiest model to save gas by letting pistons coast along for the ride.
The softest-riding Accord is the LX by virtue of 16-inch tires with a larger sidewall, and the mildest suspension calibration. It's also the lightest and best balanced model. Not as mellow as the Camry but gentler than much of the competition, the Accord LX handles bad roads with aplomb and basically goes where it's pointed. Electronic stability control will help get it back in line if you point it wrong. The Accord LX stays relatively flat in the corners, doesn't nosedive under braking, and makes stable transitions working down a winding road or through city clutter. Steering is light, direct, and makes quick work of a U-turn, though there isn't as much feedback about how hard the front tires are working as some Camry versions and all Altima models offer.
Accord EX models receive very slightly firmer suspension calibrations but most of what you'll notice comes from the lower profile tires on 17-inch wheels: lane divider dots, expansion joints, bridge seams, manhole covers and so on. Apart from slightly quicker response to steering and braking, the EX is essentially the same easy-going Accord. Trips of any duration are accommodated comfortably, with a nice compromise between the isolated, creamy Camry and the adrenaline-induced Altima. Enthusiasts could live happily with an Accord sedan serving as a spouse's daily commuter, or they could opt for a V6 manual coupe.
In general the coupe models trade a smidge of ride comfort for greater handling precision and grip. Most of the change comes from larger anti-roll bars and lower weight since tire choices mirror sedans.
The closest successor to Acura's defunct CL Type-S coupe, the Accord Coupe with a V6 and manual gearbox has a character all its own. The engine snarls and growls under a heavy foot, the shifter and clutch have more weight behind them, and the 235/45YR18 wheel and tire package adds another level to crispness and grip.
The latest Honda Accord is easy to operate, well-engineered and well-mannered. It's a great midsize sedan and it's also available as a stylish, trouble-free coupe.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Santa Monica, California.