Long considered a top contender in the family-sedan market, the Honda Accord is among the best of a crop of superb midsize cars. Accord comes in four-door sedan and two-door coupe form, with a wide variety of engine and transmission choices. The Honda Accord was completely redesigned and re-engineered for the 2013 model year.
An Accord Hybrid sedan joined the lineup for 2014, boasting an EPA-estimated 50-mpg City fuel-economy rating from its smooth, advanced two-motor gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Also new for 2014 was an Accord Plug-in Hybrid with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine, which could be recharged overnight by connecting to an electrical outlet. The regular Accord Hybrid returns for 2015, but the Plug-in edition is absent, dropped after just one season on the market. Honda plans to announce its intentions for continuation of a Plug-in Hybrid model at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, in January 2015.
For 2015, four-cylinder EX-L and EX-L Navi trim levels of the Accord sedan and coupe gain a standard HomeLink universal remote system, programmable with codes for up to three devices. The four-cylinder EX coupe adds the Honda LaneWatch display, which uses a camera and in-dash screen to provide an enhanced view of the passenger-side roadway. All coupes of EX-L level and above get an auto-dimming inside mirror.
The 2015 Honda Accord comes standard with a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s a smooth, enjoyable engine and, on sedans, gets an EPA-estimated 27/36 mpg City/Highway with the CVT (continuously variable transmission), or 24/34 mpg with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Sport Sedan and Coupe models with CVT are rated 26/35 mpg.
An available 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers 278 horsepower, and is EPA-rated at 21/34 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed automatic transmission; V6-powered Accord Coupes rate 21/32 mpg with automatic. The Accord V6 coupe is also available with a sporty 6-speed manual gearbox, estimated at a less-thrifty18/28 mpg.
Equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, the Accord Hybrid seamlessly blends electric-only drive, gas-engine drive, and a combination of the two. The result is excellent fuel economy and smooth cruising. Accord Hybrid is EPA-estimated at 50/45 mpg City/Highway (47 mpg combined). We got better than 50 mpg while driving normally, though Consumer Reports managed only 40 mpg during its testing. Hybrid sedans come in three trim levels.
On the road, a Honda Accord is quiet and controlled, a blend of isolation from annoyances with responsive road manners. Overall, it feels smooth, well-rounded and refined, doing everything better than average.
All Accord models have room for four adults, or five in a pinch. Sedans, as expected, have more backseat space than coupes.
The midsize segment has plenty of viable competitors. Among them: Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Volkswagen Passat. Drivers who want more space, performance or features might consider a Nissan Maxima or Toyota Avalon. Hyundai’s Genesis Coupe is another option, for those who favor two-doors. Choices in the family sedan segment are bigger and broader than ever, and car buyers are the winners.
The Honda Accord sedans and coupes look fresh, having been completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. This ninth-generation Accord blends curves, creases and angles, in a more cohesive shape than before; it’s incrementally lower, wider and three inches shorter than pre-2013 models. Styling is neither as dramatic as some, nor as bland as others. There are no changes for 2015.
Honda has always favored slender pillars, lots of glass and a low hoodline for good visibility. Amongst the growing trend toward making four-door sedans resemble coupes, this generous window area is refreshing. Where the window line on many cars extends from the top of the hood to the top of the trunk, the Accord’s runs more from the headlight cut-line to the top of the tail lights. This yields not only a credible sedan profile, but also adds to the airy cabin spaciousness and proper rear-seat headroom. From overhead the center section is mildly barrel-shaped; the widest point where front and rear doors meet appears pointed relative to the smooth lines of the roof above it.
The Accord coupe is nicely proportioned and, like the sedan, uses a higher than average roofline over the back seat for better-than-normal rear-seat room. Unlike the sedan, the tail lights do not extend into the trunk lid, and the chrome lower molding is much wider. Also unlike the sedan, the rear reflectors on the coupe are vertically oriented and the tailpipes are semi-inset within a deeper bumper. You actually see fewer mechanical parts from behind the coupe than from behind the sedan.
Up front the dual-bar horizontal grille is all Honda, with a more stylish lower half. An attractive honeycomb lower grille and chrome strip at the bottom edge are handsome without being edgy. Coupes get a more pronounced center section, honeycomb grilles top and bottom, with round fog lights in square openings for more attitude. Coupes are the same width as sedans, just an inch lower. On V6 models the daytime running lights are LED, and the Touring sedan uses LED for low-beam headlights as well.
Hybrid sedans have unique front styling. The headlight housings and upper grille get blue accents; the hood, bumper and fog light apertures are different, and a black bar bisects the big single grille opening, as on many Audis. To our eyes, all the black trim is a bit much on anything other than a black car. The wheels are also gloss-black, with forward-climbing metal spokes, a sinister look more rapper than tree-hugger.
At the rear, a chrome strip across the trunk and clear backup/signal lenses separate trunk lid and rear window from the back of the car, the end result reminiscent of a Hyundai Genesis. A small lip spoiler adorns the rear deck of Accord Hybrid and Sport versions, and can be added to others. Sport and V6 models get dual exhaust outlets. All have a chrome bottom strip to complement the front, and the rear quarters are reasonably square even if you can’t see the edges from the driver’s seat. On Accord EX-L and higher trims, the brake lights and taillights are LED.
On models with the Lane Watch function, the passenger-side mirror is deeper than the driver’s to accommodate a small camera, lending a small imbalance when viewed from a distance. (Cars from Mercedes and other manufacturers have done this in the past, also.) We like symmetry on sedans and would prefer the same mirrors, but it’s a small thing.
All Accords have alloy wheels of 16 to 18 inches in diameter. Most handsome are the 18s used on some coupes and the Sport sedan. Just the wheel upgrade, small rear spoiler and dual exhaust outlets make the car more attractive to our eyes.
A single-piece dashboard is dominated by a speedometer so large that other motorists may be able to read it. The speedometer is flanked by a partial corona that changes color to green the more economically you drive, giving a Christmas-light effect against the red gauge markings on Sport and Coupe. We could not figure out how to turn it off, even if ECON mode was not engaged.
Hybrid versions get a unique instrument panel. Surrounding the corona-ring big speedometer are bar-graph indications for fuel and battery charge level, and the power/recharge scale. The display in the center offers powertrain modes, an economy guide that moves a car within a circle for better or worse fuel-efficiency, the requisite green leaves, turn-by-turn navigation, active cruise control, and so on.
Engine revs, temperature and fuel level indicators flank the speedometer; the digital center gives instant fuel economy, trip odometer, exterior temperature, gear selected, and so forth. Stalk controls are simple, the interval wiper industry-best, and the steering wheel switches quick to master. A few switches such as the ECON button, traction-off and lane-departure warning are less convenient to the left of the wheel. Do-it-yourselfers and tire technicians will appreciate the tire-warning reset switch on the dash.
All Accords have a central dash screen that displays an image from the rearview camera. Without navigation, the audio and information controls are just below that screen. The dual-temperature climate controls are grouped below that. On cars with navigation, the area beneath the screen becomes touch-screen audio with a volume knob, while the nav/phone/info controls move below climate control, replacing a storage bin on lesser-trim cars. Although further from the screen, those controls are closer to the shifter.
Cabin storage is good, with bins in the console, all doors, and a decent glovebox.
The trunk offers 15.8 cubic feet of space, which is competitive for the class. Under the trunk floor, there’s a temporary spare tire, but also room for the flat you take off. There are grocery bag hooks in the rear corners. A pull-lever in the trunk releases the rear seatback for large, awkward items, but the opening is small by class standards.
All Accords deliver a comfortable ride, coupled with a reassuring confidence that they can handle any situation. This latest-generation Accord feels more refined than pre-2013 models.
The standard four-cylinder engine features direct injection for efficiency and power. Honda’s 2.4-liter engine idles smoother than many big fours. It doesn’t encourage winding it to redline, but you don’t need to. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers 185 horsepower. Accord Sport gets an extra 4 horsepower and 1 pound-foot more torque because of dual tailpipes; we could hear more difference than we could feel. The Sport also adds shift paddles to the steering wheel, like some Coupes, on the CVT version. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder with CVT is EPA-rated at 27/36 mpg, versus 24/34 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual transmission.
The manual gearbox is easy to use, with shifter and clutch action that have Honda’s characteristic light, crisp feel.
The CVT provide shorter ratios for acceleration and taller ratios for highway cruising. By using only what engine power is needed to move the car and not climb through gears, the CVT improves fuel economy and makes less noise. If you use the shifter’s S position rather than D, it revs higher sooner for better motivation, and slows better on long grades or braking for a corner. As there are no separate gears, there are no 1, 2, or OD-off settings.
Fuel economy for the 3.5-liter V6 is an EPA-estimated 21/34 mpg with 6-speed automatic or 18/28 mpg with 6-speed manual. Regular gasoline is recommended for all models. The Accord V6 Combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 26 mpg matches or betters V6 competitors.
The 6-speed automatic has only Drive and Sport positions for forward motion. Drive works as normal; Sport upshifts later and downshifts for inclines or braking, but it takes a while to learn exactly when it will downshift without surprising you.
A V6 6-speed manual gearbox is offered only on the Coupe, and mileage doesn’t match the sedan because that engine does not use Variable Cylinder Management. VCM switches off the front half of the V6 engine when little power is needed. As a result, the V6 sedan often cruises on level ground with economy like a 1.75-liter three-cylinder, but without the vibration or roughness. Manual-gearbox V6s are a favorite of Accord speed-freaks but their rarity caused the last generation to occasionally garner a premium price at dealerships that had them.
The sleek profile of the Accord Coupe means a bit less rear-seat room and less-convenient access.
Active noise cancellation works like noise-canceling headphones to minimize annoying mechanical racket, and it’s standard on all Accords. Also contributing to reduced noise and vibration is electric-assist steering. This has light effort but doesn’t feel artificially light, nor elastic or floaty, as some do on long sweeping bends. Response to the helm is quick, and it’s not rubbery just off-center when you begin to turn or make minor corrections.
The Accord Sport model features firmer shock, spring and antiroll bar rates, but these are subtle changes and not big whacks. Steering effort is higher than with the other models, a combination of the fatter 235/45R18 tires and tuning of the power assist, and it needs an additional 1.5 feet of space for a U-turn. There’s no detriment in ride comfort. We’re not sure we would opt for either Sport model. However, while the V6 manual coupe is clearly the fastest Accord, an Accord Sport sedan’s lighter front end and slightly better balance might be our choice for a 70-mph world.
In back-to-back drives in Accord, Camry, Sonata and Altima four-cylinder models, the Accord felt the most refined. It didn’t feel as light and lively as the Altima, but rode better, especially on rough roads. A Camry V6 felt just as quick as an EX-L V6, but didn’t have some of the Honda’s feature set.
Hybrid models promise a range of 673 miles. Extended driving in several Accord Hybrid sedans revealed them to be smooth, quiet and sophisticated. The suspension is relatively taut, firm enough to slosh a cappuccino and make handwriting difficult. It is perhaps too firm for some, but right for others. The payoff is crisp handling, which it delivers. The gasoline engine and the electric motors kick in and out so seamlessly that it’s difficult for the driver to detect, and passengers will be oblivious. They will just think it’s a smooth sedan.
We were told that when starting the Accord Hybrid, it can be helpful to rev the engine a few times to charge the battery a bit, which results in better fuel economy. Using the B-mode on the shifter changes the driving character a bit, which is handy on winding roads because it engages the regenerative braking more and slows the car on downhills when you take your foot off the accelerator. Regenerative braking is a strategy that uses braking energy to charge the battery. Because the Hybrid sounds different from a gas-powered car, acceleration performance feels slower than it actually is. Overall, the Accord Hybrid is a very enjoyable car to drive and would be easy to live with.
Outward visibility is very good. Slim pillars at the windshield and between the doors block little of the view; they do not hide an entire car adjacent or oncoming, like some GM sedans. The articulated rearview mirror mount and tall windshield means no ducking to see overhead lights or working around the mirror for uphill right turns, such as interstate on-ramps. Only Subaru and VW come to mind as equally easy to see out of. On higher-trim Accords, the rearview camera becomes multi-angle and all left-side mirrors have a wide-angle element.
Honda’s LaneWatch feature shows a camera image of the lanes to the right in the center dash. It can be set to on, off, or on with the right signal. With the signal is most sensible (if you use the feature), but note that if the control beep is enabled, it beeps each time the signal/image goes on and off. Sitting at a traffic light with the signal on ties the screen up at a good time to be fiddling with things while you’re not moving.
Road noise is well controlled, and we tried both 17- and 18-inch wheels on some poor road surfaces. Engine noise is muted until you go to maximum acceleration, wherein a pleasing mechanical growl enters the cabin. We did notice wind noise at highway speeds, primarily around the pillar between front and rear doors.
The Honda Accord is smooth, easy to operate and enjoyable to drive. Nearly all versions get excellent fuel economy, some better than others, yet performance is responsive. We found all powertrain combinations enjoyable, so choosing among them is a matter of preference and priorities. The cabin is comfortable and the trunk is capacious. Options for entertainment and telematics, trim and interior mean there is an Accord for everyone. The coupe is nice, but the sedan is what makes the Accord great. The Accord is arguably the best midsize car available.
G.R. Whale filed this report after his test drive of the Accord models in Southern California; with NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reporting on the Accord Hybrid from San Antonio.