An accord is, by definition, a compromise. While enthusiasts bemoan the Honda Accord’s increased size and lowered fuel efficiency, in truth, the automaker’s done the right thing. They’ve relentlessly identified and ruthlessly removed every possible reason why a cost-conscious American car buyer wouldn’t sign-up for a four-cylinder Accord. In my responsibility to my readers, I can highlight a couple of places where they’ve missed the bloat, I mean boat. But it ain’t easy…
Style isn’t one of them. Unlike previous Accords or the current Civic, the newish Accord is solid without being stolid. The four-door achieves this gravitas via a blatant pastiche/rip-off of the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 3-Series sedans. From the Accord’s indented, downwards sloping side swage line, to its wide stance and beefy proportions, it’s quietly— though defiantly— not Japanese. Richtig?
More to the point, the Accord doesn’t look like an economy car. In fact, closing a door is an exercise in cognitive dissonance; everything about the Accord’s exterior leads you to expect a basso profundo Germanic thunk. All of which means that car buyers seeking to protect– or elevate– their position on the status-related automotive food chain can buy the Accord without the slightest tinge of badge-related remorse.
Once inside, the base model’s front seats serve the only reminder that you won’t be spending big bucks down at Fritz’ House of Pain. The LX’s lateral support-challenged, cloth-covered chairs are like a tiny stone in a pair of Cole Haan loafers; the proximity to perfection calls attention to itself. Meanwhile, the Accord’s newly enlarged rear accommodation– and attendant trunk space– is now that of a full-size sedan, for the cost of a couple of mpgs. You tell me: why not?
Because the AC is no longer powerful enough to cool the cavernous cabin quickly and efficiently? Anyway, although the Accord’s plastic fantastic controls and bin lids don’t respond with oil-dampened precision, the interior still manages to feel minimalist rather than miserly. Honda’s allocated resources where it counts. The large, silver-rimmed gauges are a study in muted elegance and ergonomic clarity. Soft touch polymers form the dash and the much-appreciated digital display rabbit hutch. But most importantly of all, the steering wheel.
This writer has long argued that the steering wheel is a car’s single most important design element; it’s the one control that puts you in uninterrupted contact with the machine. The Accord’s wheel is perfection. I’m not speaking of the cheap-feeling radio and cruise control buttons. Nor am I impressed with the helm’s faux aluminum TIE fighter insert. It’s a simple matter of size, diameter and feel. The Accord’s steering wheel instantly and constantly signals this is a car for driving, not mindless wafting.
And here’s where things get a little strange…
The last time I drove a base Accord, the over-boosted steering was as sharp as a crack dealer’s lawyer and twice as annoying. Turn the wheel too quickly and you’d have to turn the wheel too quickly again, guesstimating the car’s immediate and eventual direction. A single ill-timed sneeze could send the sedan into another lane. I found it difficult to believe that Honda would cater to American drivers— long known for their predilection for slow-acting Novocain steering— with a car that required so much vigilance.
Sorted. Not since BMW surrendered its best helm feel props to Porsche in pursuit of [realized] mass appeal has a mainstream motor provided such a wonderfully direct and satisfying steer. I don’t know whether it’s down to a software upgrade for the Variable Gear Ratio (VGR) Power-Assisted Rack-and-Pinion system, or the Dunlop Sport 7000 rubber. But what was a chink in the Accord’s armor has become a major selling point.
Mind you, the LX is no sports sedan. There is neither the power underfoot nor the chassis control needed for genuine hustling. The Accord’s 177 horsepower four-banger is willing enough— save an accelerative dead zone around 35mph— and the chassis is appropriately safety (i.e. understeer) biased. So let’s call it precision wafting. Yes but–
The Accord’s ride quality sucks. As the American-built whip has a double wishbone suspension up front and a multi-link deal out back, I blame the aforementioned cheap ass all-weather shoes for the fact that you feel every bump; whose suppression causes a low frequency concussion throughout the cabin. When I hit a rough stretch of road, I could almost hear David Byrne telling me it’s fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa better to run, run away.
How long before Honda addresses this econobox issue and eliminates yet another customer “objection?” Keyboards may already be clicking. Never mind. I doubt the broken pavement spinal assault is a deal breaker for the vast majority of Accord loyalists or defecting intenders. (Clever salesmen will know which roads to avoid.) There are simply too many reasons NOT to not buy it: style, safety, comfort, economy, reliability, depreciation, price, etc. And now one compelling reason why you should.