New Or Used?: Replacing The 20-Year Old Accord

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used replacing the 20 year old accord

TTAC reader JeremyR writes:

My trusty 20-plus-year-old Accord is getting a bit long in the tooth, and I’m starting to think about a replacement. While the car will be used primarily for commuting, I’d like to maximize the “fun to drive” quotient while respecting some other requirements:

* must have a manual transmission

* must be reasonably efficient (30mpg+ highway)

* must be reliable (though I don’t mind occasionally getting dirt under my fingernails doing some maintenance)

* must be able to seat four in reasonable comfort (the back seat should be adequate to transport two adults across town)

* should be a five-door hatch (but other configurations will be considered)

* should be under $10K (USD)

Obvious choices would be the Mazda Protege5 or Mazda3, or the occasional Honda Fit that wanders down into $10K territory. Ford Focuses (Foci?) are cheap and plentiful, although the repair history is spottier for some years than others. I’ve always liked the look of the Saturn Astra, but the reliability and availability of parts down the road scares me a bit. Then there’s the VW Golf, but the fabled reliability of out-of-warranty VW’s is downright scary. A MINI Cooper would probably peg the fun-to-drive meter (for this segment), and may even be worth the somewhat-cramped rear seat, but would an older MINI prove to be a money pit?

On the other hand: Just over the horizon, the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 look promising, although I’d have to open my wallet a little wider for one. Decisions, decisions…

Sajeev Answers:

Your budget and fuel economy criteria keep you in the small displacement, hot hatch category. You know, if that genre still existed outside of the Mazda 3. Perhaps I’m not being generous, as the Focus, Lancer, Civic and maybe even the Corolla XRS are right up your alley. Maybe even the recently-released Lancer 5-door “Sportback” fits the bill, as new car incentives might get the actual purchase price close enough to your budget. Compact crossovers are worth a test drive, but I’m reaching even deeper for my pick: a totally mundane (yet still somewhat fun) Hyundai Elantra.

Sure, the Elantra doesn’t look very special, but is your current Honda a babe magnet? And taking advantage of Korean depreciation levels (while we can) means you get more car, a newer car, a car with a better warranty for the same coin. Might be hard to find with a stick, but it’ll be an fitting successor to your Accord.

Steve Answers:

Holy cow. Either I must be getting younger or Sajeev has an incurable case of the 30’s. The Elantra was at the very top of my list. Why? Well, it’s not easy to explain. It’s got the aspiring reliability of a Corolla. A fairly reasonable set of features and options to make it a good ride for the long haul. The five speed snicker in the middle. A pretty interesting GT version for the prior generation. Plus it will satisfy the four person itch you so brazenly desire.

But I don’t know… something’s missing. Hyundais until very recently have always struck me as a cheap Toyota with a more tinny feel to them. Mazdas I like. In fact, I may just have to say drive one of those. But there’s something missing in this mix. Something a bit more contemporary and versatile.

My choice would be the Nissan Versa S hatchback. The international Model T of modern times just strikes me as a more roomy, economical and pleasurable cruiser for the long-run than any of them. It’s a car you can haul people and stuff in. Get married. Have kids… and then keep running it until the next ice age. As it becomes older in the year 2020 or so, it should have plenty of cheap parts at the local auto recycling centers. Who knows? You may be one of those brilliant souls who only needs three cars for their entire lifetime.

As much as people bitch about the Renault-esque styling, I would think that it would really be the successor for the ‘too Japanese’ Accord of the late 80’s. Buy a two to three year old version and call me again when the real estate market recovers.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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3 of 98 comments
  • Honfatboy Honfatboy on Jun 30, 2010

    I guess I don't know much, but three weeks ago I had the same requirements as JeremyR with a budget of $6000. My extensively researched choice? A 6th-gen (1998-02) Accord with a stick. I've found it to be lots of fun. Reliable, safe and really holds through corners with decent steering feel. Slick tranny and adequate power. I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned it, because several of the other cars mentioned were on my list. I couldn't find a stick 6 in LA, or a 3 in my price range (10K would be admittedly different). TSXs are no where near that price around here. An 02-05 Civic Si would be fun, but I'd still take my 01 Accord.

  • JeremyR JeremyR on Sep 20, 2010

    Epilogue: After further vehicle and market research, I narrowed the field down to three finalists: Ford Focus, Honda Fit and Mazda3 (I can't bring myself to write "Mazda Mazda3"). All offer engaging driving dynamics, good fuel economy and at least reasonable reliability in a five-door package. But in the end, I could only bring home one car. Ultimately, the Fit got the nod. I found a 2007 (GD3) Sport in Vivid Blue Pearl, with 40K miles and change, for a bit under $11K--just a little over the $10K target I had set. While I probably would have been happy with any of these cars, the Fit has a slight edge in fuel economy, reliability and versatility. An added bonus is that the Fit's wheels fit the old Accord, which has assisted in troubleshooting an odd vibration that has appeared recently. Even though I had the Accord's wheels rebalanced, I couldn't entirely rule out the wheels as a factor. After an afternoon spent with a floor jack and a tire iron, now I can. But that just raises more questions... I had a chance to get acquainted with the Fit on the drive home from Houston (some 1000 miles). While not Lexus-quiet, the Fit is quite livable on the freeway. Based on comments from others, I was a bit anxious about living with engine noise from running 3500+ RPM at 75+ MPH for hours on end, but I didn't find the noise level objectionable by any means. If I had to complain about something, it would be that the shifter, while quite precise, feels a bit light with rather long throws. Nothing that can't be fixed with a short shifter and a nice, weighty shift knob...

    • Itsgotvtakyo Itsgotvtakyo on Sep 21, 2010

      Congratulations on the purchase! You're going to have a long, rewarding and fun ownership experience. I will warn you that a short throw shifter can seriously truncate your transmission's life though. They're all the rage in the enthusiast community but for more make believe reasons than practical ones. Honda obviously designed every aspect of their transmissions, shift linkage and shifter very precisely for a reason. When you start fooling around with that geometry and start banging off shifts like a race car driver with a short (actually lengthened, as the part you don't see underneath the car is longer than the stock unit) shifter you're not giving the transmission enough time to respond and you'll cause premature wear. It won't be a problem today or tomorrow but it will catch up to you. This has been noticed and proven time and time again. A weighted knob will give you a more positive feeling throw with no ill effects if you must have a different feel. Good luck!

  • Art Vandelay I’d grab one of these if I’d spent my working life at GM for sure!
  • Analoggrotto The factory is delayed due to an investigation of a peter puffery ring lead by VoGhost, Tassos, EBFlex a Chevrolet Volt.
  • FreedMike Looking forward to the protests at the factory accusing Toyota of excessive woke-ism. First,, grooming. Lord help us all.
  • MrIcky I remember when Gladiators came out and everyone was shocked at how expensive they were. Now all the off road specials have caught up or passed it financially. I like this truck a lot, but I'd still take my Rubicon over this. I'd take this over the Ranger Raptor or Tacoma TRD though. When I found out the increase in track for the new TRD was just wheel offset-I knew they were just phoning it in. Why spend so much R&D on those stupid seats when you could have r&d'd longer arms or a front locker.
  • Alan Hmm, I see a bit of politicking here. What qualifications do you need to run GM or Ford? I'd bet GM or Ford isn't run by experienced people. Anyone at that level in an organisation doesn't need to be a safety whip, you need to have the ability to organise those around you to deliver the required results.