For 2003, Honda's strong-selling midsize Accord sedan underwent a massive redesign that included more-powerful engines. A five-speed-automatic transmission replaced the former four-speed unit, and a V-6-powered coupe with a six-speed-manual gearbox joined the lineup.
For 2005, side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are standard in all models, sedans receive new taillights, and lighted steering-wheel controls are new.
Sedans come in DX, LX and upscale EX trim levels, as well as LX V-6 and EX V-6 versions. Coupes are offered in LX and EX trims, also with four-cylinder or V-6 power.
An Accord Hybrid with a gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain went on sale late in 2004 as a 2005 model.
(Skip to details on the Accord Hybrid)
Honda designers said they used the cheetah as an influence when styling the latest Accord because it runs low to the ground. The sedan's styling features faceted corners and geometric headlights. Sculpted bodysides are accompanied by nearly flush window glass.
Honda says the current chassis is tuned for a sportier, more European feel by using larger, more performance-oriented tires: 15-inchers for DX and LX sedans and 16-inchers for EX and V-6 models. The EX V-6 coupe equipped with a six-speed gearbox gets 17-inch tires, while other coupes use 16-inch rubber. Sedans ride a 107.9-inch wheelbase, while coupes have a 105.1-inch span.
All models seat up to five occupants and feature a relatively high belt line. A sliding center armrest is standard, and the driver faces a large round speedometer.
All models have LED instrumentation, and a multifunctional key eliminates the need for a separate remote key fob. An optional DVD-based navigation system features voice activation and 3-D route visualization.
Under the Hood
The Accord's 2.4-liter four-cylinder develops 160 horsepower. The available 3.0-liter V-6 generates 240 hp. A five-speed-manual or five-speed-automatic transmission can mate with the four-cylinder, but V-6 sedans come only with the automatic. The EX V-6 coupe can have a six-speed-manual gearbox. In California, four-cylinder LX and EX Accord sedans with the automatic earn a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating.
Antilock brakes, dual-stage front airbags and rear head restraints for all seating positions are standard. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are now standard in all Accords. LATCH child-safety seat anchors and tethers are installed.
Solid, quiet and refined, the Accord makes a fine family sedan. Any Accord model is exceptionally pleasant in virtually every respect, but the sedan trails a bit in the ride comfort category. Generally, the ride is smooth, but some bumps are bothersome.
Apart from slight steering deadness on-center, the firm suspension pays off in confident handling. Performance with the V-6 and automatic transmission also excels by delivering quick bursts of acceleration. Seat comfort and support are appealing, the brightly lit gauges are great, and the air conditioner is potent. Space is either adequate or ample all around, but the cockpit feels cozier than some midsize cars.
The new Accord Hybrid gets a next-generation gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain that promises the power and performance of the regular Accord's 3.0-liter V-6 and the fuel economy of a four-cylinder-powered Civic sedan. Rated at 255 hp, the Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system will deliver near-peak torque across its full operating range, according to Honda.
For additional economy, Variable Cylinder Management technology deactivates three cylinders while cruising and during deceleration. Special touches on the Accord Hybrid include a unique grille, a trunklid spoiler and special 16-inch wheels. Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard.
The Accord Hybrid performs as promised -- delivering energetic acceleration -- but its auto-stop system can be somewhat overzealous. In stop-and-go city driving and even in rush-hour highway traffic, the gasoline engine tends to shut off and restart repeatedly. The transition between gasoline-only operation and kick-in of the electric motor is often accompanied by a light thump. Honda's Civic Hybrid is more seamless in operation. Fuel economy in a moderate-length trial fell well short of the EPA's estimates.
Otherwise, you get all the virtues of the Accord experience, including a generally comfortable -- though less than gentle -- ride and confident, controlled handling.