The Honda Accord remains a smooth-operating, easygoing family car that practically defines the word “pleasant,” but newer competitors have it showing its age.
Since 1989, only three cars have held the title of “best-selling car in America”: the Ford Taurus (back when it was a midsized car), the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The current Taurus is an oddly sized entry that no longer competes with the Camry and Accord, but those two are so evenly matched and at each other’s throats that choosing between them can be tough when it comes time to find a new family sedan. Both are spacious, comfortable, reliable, efficient and safe ways to haul kids and cargo for those who don’t need or want the extra bulk of an SUV or minivan.
The big update to the Accord came for 2013, so for 2015 Honda hasn’t changed it much at all: The coupe gets Honda’s LaneWatch camera system, plus some odds and ends in the trim department (compare 2014 and 2015 models here). This means the virtually unchanged Accord has to compete with totally new versions of the Hyundai Sonata and Subaru Legacy, as well as a refreshed Toyota Camry. Can the carry-over Accord do that successfully?
Like most of its competitors in the midsize sedan field, the Accord doesn’t change its style much between redesigns. That’s part of Honda’s secret recipe for making successful products: keep the things that work, modify the things that don’t. The car itself has grown over the years, but its styling has kept it attractive and conservative instead of bloated and tired — it’s certainly more attractive than the Camry, with its creased sheet metal and angular accents front and rear.
The Honda Accord sedan is less generic than a Camry, Legacy or new Sonata, but not nearly as attractive as the sculpted lines of a Mazda6 or Ford Fusion. Suffice it to say, if you like the old Accord (any old Accord), you’re likely to find the new one appealing, and nobody will be able to fault you for buying something tacky or outrageous. Get one in beige or silver and you’ll all but disappear into the great unwashed masses.
Under the hood you’ll find a choice of two engines. Standard is a reasonably peppy 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 185 horsepower in LX and EX trims; it gives you 189 hp in the Sport trim. It’s mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission, and a continuously variable automatic transmission is optional. Like many of the Honda Accord’s competitors, a larger V-6 engine is also available, but only in the top EX-L and Touring trim levels. It makes a much more substantial 278 hp but is available only with a standard six-speed automatic transmission in the sedan (a stick-shift is available with the V-6 in the Accord Coupe).
My test car was a midlevel EX featuring the four-cylinder engine and CVT. It’s a perfectly suitable combination, including one of the best examples of a CVT I’ve experienced — smooth, reasonably quiet, unobtrusive. In fact, if you didn’t know you were piloting a car with a CVT, you likely wouldn’t notice until you really stomped on the gas. Even then, sufficient sound insulation prevents the usual droning wail you hear from the engine compartment, so it doesn’t feel like you’re flogging the poor engine whenever you ask for some acceleration.
Ride and handling are also very good. After a few miles in an Accord, one begins to understand why people have bought them in such quantities over the years: It’s smooth in just about everything it does. Steering feel and feedback, ride quality and suspension performance, the operation of the transmission, the sounds everything makes — all of it is like digging into a bowl of the finest premium vanilla ice cream. It’s rich, it’s pleasant, you know it’s good — but it’s not likely to set your mind racing or your pulse pounding. But then, it’s not meant to.
Fuel economy is excellent, thanks to that CVT and Honda’s “Earth Dreams” four-cylinder engine. The combination is EPA-rated 27/36/31 mpg city/highway/combined, and during a recent comparison test we observed 30.2 mpg combined over a dedicated mileage loop. The more powerful V-6 sedan’s fuel economy drops to 21/34/26 mpg, while the available Accord Hybrid can achieve up to 50/45/47 mpg thanks to its gas-electric powertrain. If you want even more mileage, splurge for the Accord Plug-In Hybrid, which can go an EPA-estimated 13 miles on electric power alone. By comparison, the standard Toyota Camry four-cylinder is rated 25/35/28, while the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid Ford Fusion clocks in at 25/37/29 with its optional 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Like the Accord, however, the Fusion is available as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, albeit with lower mileage estimates.
The cabin will be very familiar to Honda fans from a design, materials, switches and displays standpoint. That’s part of the reason the Accord is so popular — it’s well-designed and feels like a quality piece of equipment. The seats are formlessly wide and flat, just like those in the Toyota Camry, but they’re covered in decent cloth and can accommodate a wide variety of body types, even if they’re not the most comfortable or supportive chairs in the segment. The backseat features plenty of room, as well, with sufficient headroom and legroom for full-sized adults.
The upright roofline and large windows combine with the low beltline to continue a Honda Accord tradition of excellent outward visibility. When the car was under way, though, I found the Accord’s cabin noisier than expected — a sentiment echoed by a number of our editors who drove the car as part of our 2014 $27,000 Midsize Sedan Challenge. I found suspension noise to be more prominent than in other competitors, while my colleagues faulted the Accord for wind and road noise, as well.
The Honda Accord has some features that make it decidedly appealing at a midrange price, but its multimedia system still leaves room for improvement. The car features a display screen mounted high in the dashboard that Honda calls i-Mid. The screen displays audio information, the backup camera view and Honda’s nifty, optional LaneWatch blind spot monitor. Hit the right turn signal or push a button on the stalk to activate a tiny camera mounted in the passenger-side mirror, and a view down the right side of the car into the next lane appears on the screen. The display is complete with phantom marks that measure car lengths, in order to help you judge distance to possible objects in your blind spot. It sounds gimmicky on paper, but it works beautifully in real life; it’s one of those features you didn’t realize you needed until you tried it. Sadly, it’s about the only highlight for the Accord’s multimedia system. The rest of it is unpleasant to operate, with confusing menus that are difficult to find when driving, leading to distracted eyes that leave the road more often than is comfortable.
The Accord has one of the bigger trunks available in the segment, measuring 15.8 cubic feet versus 15.4 cubic feet for both the Camry and Nissan Altima and 16.0 cubic feet for the Fusion, but it faces a distinct and puzzling disadvantage over its competitors: the rear seat folds only as a single bench, not in a 60/40 split, as you’ll find in the Fusion, Altima and Camry. This limits the versatility of the Accord’s trunk, as the driver must make a choice between carrying passengers or cargo. If you have anything to haul that needs more length than the trunk can provide, only two people can fit in the Accord.
The Honda Accord has been rated a five-star overall performer by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2014 Accord a Top Safety Pick Plus thanks to results of “good” in crash tests, plus the optional forward collision warning system on higher trim levels. The aforementioned Honda LaneWatch technology is more useful than one might expect, and a backup camera is standard on all Accords. To get the more advanced electronic features, though — like lane departure warning, forward collision warning and a multi-view backup camera — one must choose a higher trim level. See what comes standard on the Accord here.
Honda makes it easy to pick an Accord by bundling most options into trim levels — very few features are stand-alone options. The cheapest version is the Accord LX, which starts at $22,895 including destination fee. Even at this price you get a decent amount of standard equipment, like dual-zone automatic climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, remote entry, Bluetooth, cruise control, a USB port, a backup camera and more. Moving up to the Honda Accord Sport trim brings fog lights, 18-inch wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel for $24,665. My test car was the next level up, the EX, which includes a power moonroof, heated side mirrors, LaneWatch, keyless entry, push-button start, power driver’s seat and a six-speaker stereo for $25,820. Interestingly, the continuously variable automatic transmission is an optional, extra-cost feature all the way up to the EX-L, which ranks above the EX and includes leather seats. The top trim is the Touring, which is full of bells and whistles. If you want the V-6, you’ll have to spring for an EX-L or Touring, as its availability is limited to those two high-end trims. A top-spec V-6 Accord stickers for $34,420 in non-hybrid trim.
Honda’s pricing is competitive with other cars in the class. The Camry ranges anywhere from $23,795 to $32,195 and features similar engine, equipment, safety and technology choices, plus it can match the Honda on interior space. Its onboard multimedia technology isn’t quite as good as Honda’s, and the Camry’s interior materials all feel decidedly a grade below the Accord’s fine appointments. The Altima also sometimes vies for the top sales spot, and it’s not hard to see why — a similarly powerful four-cylinder engine propels the roomy, well-appointed family sedan for a similar price. The Altima starts at $23,125 for the base 2.5 and stretches up to a leather- and V-6-equipped 3.5 SL model for $32,775. The Honda, however, edges out the Nissan in terms of multimedia sophistication and interior noise levels.
Rounding out the Honda Accord’s top competitors is the Ford Fusion, the most stylish member of this quartet. No V-6 is offered in the Fusion, only four-cylinder turbo and non-turbo engines, but all-wheel drive is optional, as are hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. The Ford starts competitively at $23,225, but base models feel ridiculously cheap, with almost laughably bad seat fabric and acres of gray plastic. Go upmarket a bit, and the Fusion gets quite nice: Load it up with every option, and you’ll get a powerful, efficient, stylish — if headroom-challenged — all-wheel-drive sedan for a tick less than $40,000. The hybrid and plug-in can cost even more. Compare all four top-selling midsize sedans here.