EXPERT REVIEW

AZCentral.com's view


Honda Accord targets the hearts and minds of car buyers yearning for a midsize sedan that is dependable, practical, economical and refined.

Maybe not the most exciting automobile to drive (though I hear the new V-6 coupe is pretty cool), Accord stands tall as a superb piece of honest and affordable transportation. I’ve never heard anyone express regret over buying an Accord.

New for 2008, Accord enters its 32nd year as a bigger, roomier and more stylish sedan than the rather generic craft it replaces. The second-best-selling car in the United States in recent years, behind Toyota Camry, the smooth-running Accord continues to hit the sweet spot for American drivers.

The test car was the most-popular Accord model, a mid-range LX model with four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. Easy to drive, with good fuel mileage and nimble handling, this is the heart of Accord’s formula for success.

Yet, there are those drivers who crave something more engaging in their everyday cars, maybe with a sportier feel or edgier driving sensations. Hard to define, really, but if that’s not an issue for you, Accord seems tough to beat.

Besides the 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower four banger in the LX, there is another 2.4-liter four that makes 190 horsepower due to freer-flowing exhaust and some tuning revisions. The top engine is a 268-horsepower V-6 with variable-cylinder management, which shuts off two or three cylinders when cruising for better fuel mileage.

Accord’s interior has grown big enough for the EPA to consider it a large car instead of midsize. But there was a major clinker: nasty front-seat headrests that angled forward and wouldn’t let me sit up straight. Any tallish driver would feel the same. For me, that would be a deal breaker.

Honda Accord LX-P

Vehicle type: Five-passenger four-door sedan with front-wheel drive.

Engine: 2.4-liter inline-4, 177 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, 161 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed automatic.

Wheelbase: 110.2 inches.

Overall length: 194.1 inches.

Curb weight: 3,236 pounds.

EPA rating: 21 city, 31 highway.

HIGHS: Four-cylinder performance, sharp new styling, roomy interior.

LOWS: Nasty headrests, numb steering, needs a better catch for gear shifter.

Performance: The least-powerful Accord engine had plenty of pull for most driving situations, including decent acceleration and highway cruising. Quiet and smooth, another example of fine Honda engine design.

The five-speed automatic worked seamlessly. The shifter needs better differentiation between the top two “drive” settings.

Overall fuel mileage was about 25 mpg.

Drivability: Though driving enthusiasts might find the standard Accord too soft, most people will be pleased by the sedan’s tractability and handling. I found the steering too numb and kind of vague. Otherwise, nothing much to fault, but not much to get excited about, either.

This year, Accord comes standard with electronic stability control, as well as antilock disc brakes with brake-force distribution and panic-stop assist, side-curtain airbags and “grade logic” that keeps it from rolling back when starting on steep hills.

Styling: Accord’s styling is much improved, with sharp-edged character lines and a sporty stance.

Interior: Roomier than expected, with decent backseat space and plenty of desirable features. Those headrests I hate are safety features, “Active Front Head Restraints,” though I’ve driven cars with similar setups that don’t make my neck hurt.

Bottom line: There are some new midsize entries from domestic and import automakers that threaten Accord and Camry’s domination, especially the revamped Chevrolet Malibu, which has gone from economy lump to serious contender.

Pricing

Base price: $20,360.

Price as tested: $22,795.

OPTIONS

Premium package, includes 16-inch alloy wheels, security system, chrome exhaust finisher, automatic front power windows, eight-way power driver’s seat, $1,000.

Automatic transmission, $800.

Shipping, $635.

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