EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view

Honda’s Special Edition Accord is an intriguing combination of value and performance.

Honda says the SE is “more luxurious than ever, yet it has stayed true to its original mission as a practical automobile that combines economy and value with sporty style and spirited performance.”

The SE won’t knock your socks off with any one feature, but considering its sticker price of just over $22,000, it has a lot to offer at a very reasonable price.

The four-cylinder test car had a base price of $21,625, not including destination fees. The SE has four-wheel anti-lock brakes; front, side and side-curtain airbags; a fold-down rear seat; power windows; power locks; cruise control; alloy wheels; steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; and an AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer and six speakers.

Unlike some middle-of-the-pack sedans, the Accord SE isn’t a price leader intended to lure buyers into the showroom in hope that they will buy a more expensive model once there. It comes popularly equipped, has sharp looks and is the kind of reliable everyday car that will make its owner happy for many years.

The 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine has 166 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. Even coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission, this engine feels lively from the first twist of the key. Dab the throttle and you’re greeted with more than adequate acceleration. The fact that this engine produces maximum torque at relatively low rpm means that its low-speed throttle response is more like a small V-6’s.

This engine has four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing and Honda’s i-VTEC system that enables the engine to produce both low- and high-speed power. Another plus is the fact that this engine is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway. Assuming that these numbers are a bit optimistic because they are generated by the Environmental Protection Agency in a controlled setting, highway mileage of 30 mpg or more is excellent given the size of the vehicle.

The current Accord is not a small car. The 107.9-inch wheelbase is long enough to create a cabin that easily has room for four people. Guests who rode in the back seat of the test car were quite complimentary about the roominess and comfort of the back seat. A fold-down center armrest contains two cup holders.

For hauling things like bikes, bags of mulch or boards, the back seat folds down to expand the trunk space. The size of the pass-through from the trunk to the back seat is fairly small, but it is large enough to be useful for many items.

The trunk has plenty of space in its normal configuration.

The test car’s cloth seats were quite firm and had excellent lateral support, particularly for the upper body. These seats don’t get soggy or soft during long drives, and that prevents driving fatigue.

The test car’s seats, covered in light tan upholstery, looked like they would show dirt easily.

The faux carbon fiber trim panels on the console and door panels looked tasteful. The bottom of the center stack has a handy cubbyhole with a flip-up lid. The center armrest also opens for storage.

Honda is known for sporty cars, and the Accord’s suspension is dialed in for a firm ride and responsive handling. The four-wheel, anti-lock brakes were quite powerful. Price

The test car’s base price was $21,625. Add destination and the sticker price was $22,220.

Warranty:

Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Specifications:

Engine: 2.4-liter, 166-hp 4-cyl.

Transmission: automatic

Front-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 107.9 inches

Curb weight: 3,192 lbs.

Base price: $21,625

As driven: $22,220

MPG rating: 24 city, 34 hwy.

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