2016 Honda Accord Sedan Review - Quintessential Family Hauler [Video]

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes
Fast Facts

2016 Honda Accord EX-L

2.4L DOHC I4, direct-injection, CVVT (185 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm; 181 lbs-ft @ 3,900)
Continuously variable transmission
27 city/37 highway/31 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
32.2 (Observed, MPG)
Base Price
$22,940*
As Tested
$29,405*
* Prices include $835 destination charge.

Accord sales are down 11 percent versus last year. Surprised? So was I. Looking at the numbers, the winner is even more surprising: the Chrysler 200.

Tim’s numbers at GoodCarBadCar tell an interesting tale. Overall segment sales are down slightly with most models seeing only modest sales differences. Then we have the Accord and 200. Honda sold 35,000 fewer sedans so far this year than last while Chrysler sold 72,000 more.

While the 200 is far from a sales segment leader, the increase is impressive nonetheless, and begs the question: Are Honda’s traditional buyers opting for an American alternative? It’s not possible to answer that question simply by the sales numbers, but it is an interesting question.

Despite Americans getting bigger in every generation, the family sedan’s focus on the back seat is in decline. This is partly due to the crossover revolution and partly because cars like the Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Kia Optima and even the Subaru Legacy are cutting rear headroom in an effort to look sexier from the 3/4 shot.

Fear not, families of four: Honda continues to carry the torch for pragmatic sedan shoppers with the refreshed 2016 Accord.

Exterior


Honda’s exteriors are usually buttoned up and professional. Despite the 2016 tweaks, the same goes for this Accord. The nose ditches the chrome “smile” for a bigger chrome bar that looks awkward at some photo angles but better in person. Top end trims get new Acura-styled LED headlamps and all but the base LX gets a set of new LED foglamps.

The main selling points for the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry have been reliability and family hauling practicality — and 2016 is no different. Unlike the “coupé-like” side profiles we get in almost every other entry, the Accord’s large and low greenhouse says “I have kids,” leaving descriptives like “sexy” and “dramatic” to Mazda and Ford. The benefit? You can actually see out of the back of the Honda and tall passengers won’t bump their head on the ceiling.

Restrained styling seems to be back in vogue these days. The Sonata is channeling Hyundai’s inner Volkswagen, the Chrysler 200 has gone for “suppository round” leaving “dramatic” and “aggressive” to the new Malibu and Camry. The Mazda6 and Fusion are still the top picks in this segment for design, but they are both getting a little old.

Interior


Honda’s interiors have long been known for simple functionality and ergonomic design, not opulence and elegance. (In theory, that’s what Acura is for.) This theme continues in 2016. You won’t find quilted nappa leather, wood trim or the variety of luxury options you see in alternatives. Instead, Honda gives us standard goodies like dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth integration, a backup camera, active noise cancellation and a standard 8-inch screen in the dash. Surprisingly, the faux wood trim that was banished in 2013 has made a comeback, but at least it’s more believable than what you find in the Sonata.

When it comes to front seat comfort, the Accord still ties with the Nissan Altima for the top spot in base models. The standard seat design found in the Accord LX, Sport and EX trims features aggressive fixed lumbar support which is my back’s preference. If you want something more adjustable, EX-L and above trims offer 2-way power adjustment. The seats in the 200 and Optima can be had with 4-way power lumbar, but I didn’t find them any more comfortable for my 6-foot frame.

Thanks to the Accord’s upright profile, getting in and out of the back seats is an easy task, something I can’t say of the average mid-sized sedan. Once inside, the height pays further dividends with more headroom than essentially every other midsizer. Close by fractions of a millimeter are the Camry and Passat, while essentially every other entry (yes, including the Subaru Legacy) has surprisingly limited rear headroom. This lack of vertical space in the “family sedan” segment makes me scratch my head. Just like with luxury four-door-coupé models (CLS and A7), the sexy profile comes at a price that is too steep for me. Despite the claims to the contrary, the only resemblance these sedans have to a “coupé” is in the limited noggin room.

Every entry in this segment slashes content in order to deliver a low base price. The stand-out cost cutting measure in the Altima is the lack of rear seat air vents for instance. In the Accord, the rear seats are what get bean-counted as the base LX model swaps the 60/40 folding seat you find in other trims for a less convenient single fold unit.

Technology


In a departure for Honda, we get options in the 2016 Accord. They still aren’t offering a laundry list like Chrysler, but there are now two options available in the LX, EX and Sport: Honda Sensing and a continuously variable transmission.

Honda Sensing is the new package name for all of Honda’s latest safety gadgetry brought down from Acura. The system adds a radar sensor in the front grille and a camera system to provide adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, autonomous braking, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist. Blind spot warning, rear cross traffic detection, HondaWatch (side view camera system) and parking sensors are available in other trims. Honda’s price tag of $1,000 is almost as surprising as Honda’s decision to allow this option box to be checked on the base LX model. This means for $23,950 you can get a mid-sized sedan with safety features you used to only find on highly-optioned luxury sedans.

All Accord models get a standard 8-inch screen set high in the dashboard that is used for audio information and your trip computer. If you are using Android Auto integration, you’ll also see next-turn info. EX models gain an additional 7-inch touchscreen LCD below the 8-inch screen and the same Android Auto/Apple CarPlay support. In the 2015 Accord, the two-screen setup struck me as a little half-baked since the two screens didn’t integrate as well as I would have hoped.

The addition of the next generation smartphone integration gives the touchscreen a real purpose. In a nutshell, the 7-inch LCD is taken over by your iPhone 5 or higher or certain Android OS phones. Voice commands, navigation, audio, text message support and future apps are all running on your phone where the video is generated and shifted to the car’s display. The car is therefore reduced to a glorified keyboard and mouse.

Factory navigation is optional on EX-L and standard on Touring trims. It operates mainly on the 8-inch non-touch LCD. This means that CarPlay can still be used while operating the factory navigation.

Drivetrain


The majority of Accord models on the lot will have Honda’s latest 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Dubbed “Earth Dreams” (because all the catchy names were taken), the engine uses the same offset cylinder bores that we see in the CR-V, along with the latest combustion chamber design and direct injection technology for increased efficiency. Despite the offset design, the Accord hasn’t received the same kind of complaints we see in the CR-V for vibration issues. The engine’s 185 horsepower arrive at a very Honda-esque 6,500 rpm, but thanks to the direct-injection sauce, the 181 lbs-ft of torque peak at a decidedly un-Honda 3,900 rpm. This means that if you choose the 6-speed manual, you don’t have to rev the nuts off the engine to get the car moving.

However, most shoppers will find a CVT under their Accord’s hood, although they may not even notice. Why? This is quite possibly the world’s best CVT. Yes, I know I have a rep for the love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, but hear me out.

What makes the Honda CVT different is the speed at which it can change its ratios and how Honda chose to deal with “downshifts” and “upshifts.” With a Nissan CVT, you press the pedal, revs rise slowly as the CVT varies its ratio from high to low for acceleration, then it hangs out at that high RPM for a brief moment even after you’ve lifted. That’s the classic “rubber band” feel you often hear about. Honda chose a different course. Putting the pedal to the metal in the Accord is met with a very brief pause while the CVT rapidly shifts to a low ratio, and then you’re off. The feel is more like a quick shifting modern automatic. When you lift in the Honda, the CVT rapidly upshifts without the “rubber band” effect.

Should you need more shove, there’s still a 275-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 capable of 252 lbs-ft of torque. Unlike Nissan, Honda isn’t prepared to mate its V-6 to a CVT, so you still get a 6-speed automatic. The 3.5-liter engine has a well-tuned exhaust note and scooted to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds in our tests. On the downside, the Accord is slower and thirstier than the CVT equipped Altima, which accomplishes the same task in 5.5 seconds while getting 4 mpg better economy in the real world.

Drive


The purists in the crowd are no doubt still upset that this generation of the Accord has lost the double wishbone suspension it had long been known for. The reason is as you’d expect: cost. MacPherson setups are a little less expensive to design but also less expensive to maintain in the long term. The downside, for those that aren’t suspension geeks, is that the tire’s contact patch is less consistent as the suspension moves up and down.

Now it’s time for a reality check: It doesn’t matter.

Every other vehicle in this segment uses a modern strut design up front, and modern designs have limited the downsides as much as possible. Also, the Accord is still one of the best handling sedans in the segment, even without the wishbones. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Even Jack Baruth liked the Accord well enough to buy the two-door version. Mazda’s 6 undoubtedly transmits more information back through the steering column than the Honda, but actual grip is a hair better in the Accord Sport thanks to wider tires and a more dedicated sport suspension.

Acceleration in our four-cylinder tester was segment average at 7.3 seconds to 60 mph while braking distances were on the long side at 135 feet from 60 mph back to zero. The Accord starts with 205 width tires in the LX model, which is narrow for this category. Most trims (including our tester) get 215 width rubber. Sport and Touring get some of the widest tires in the segment at 235/40R19. In addition to affecting grip, tires also impact ride with the 65 and 55 series tires delivering a more polished ride than the Sport’s 40-series donuts. The Touring trim compensates for the low profile tires by borrowing Acura’s 2-mode damper system. It’s not an adaptive suspension like some outlets have mistakenly called it, but a traditional damper with two valves that allow it to react differently to small/large road imperfections.

If you need another reason to give the cogless slushbox a shot, the 27/36/30 mpg (city/highway/combined) rating should make a believer out of you. In my mixed driving, I averaged a stout 32 mpg. The manual will save you $800 at the checkout stand (notably less than when this Accord launched in 2013), but cost you more at the pump as economy drops to 24/34. In my testing, the combined number for the manual was some 5 mpg lower than the CVT.

Accord pricing (and midsize sedan pricing in general for that mater) is easy to explain because, when you adjust for standard feature content, basically every brand is within a few hundred dollars. The only exceptions are the Sonata and Optima if you count their longer warranty, and the Legacy if you count its standard AWD. The Accord LX manual starts at $22,105, our EX-L tester was right in the “meat” of the segment at $28,105 and pricing tops out at $34,580 with the V-6.

The key to understanding the modern midsize sedan is that car companies are trying to be everything for everyone with their family hauler. This reminded me of something a wise person once told me when I started my first job: You never want to sleep your way to the middle. Oddly enough, it seems that most cars in this category are trying to do just that. In the hunt for sales success, the midsized sedan options are trying to be sexy coupés, sporty sedans and luxury sedans while simultaneously being well-priced and as uncontroversial as possible. The “family sedan” part of this segment is being forgotten in the process.

Except for the Accord.

While Honda has leanings toward “sporty” with the Accord Sport, the Accord in general is still that solid, reliable, efficient family hauler that we remember.

Perhaps it’s because I’m heading toward 40 at an alarming pace. Perhaps it’s because we’ve started having the “maybe we should have kids” conversation. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always loved a big back seat (that’s my excuse for buying a 2000 Chrysler LHS). Whatever the reason, the Accord is the poster child of “easy to live with.” It’s the spouse you never argue with, the friend that you can rely on, that comfortable sweatshirt you can’t give up. After a week with the Accord, I am no closer to answering the sales question, but I am forced to wonder if this kind of sedan with a practical back seat and reasonable pricing is doomed to go the way of the station wagon. Will function follow form, even here? Let me know what you think.

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.15 Seconds

0-60: 7.3 Seconds

1/4 mile: 15.53 Seconds @ 91 MPH












Alex L. Dykes
Alex L. Dykes

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  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Nov 18, 2015

    I feel like the Accord always does stuff a little bit better than the direct competitors. Better image than the Camry and Sonata. More refinement than the Legacy and Altima and a better interior. More reliable than the other options, especially the 200. Options you want, packaged sensibly - V6, Sport, automatic/CVT, etc. And it looks good too, without the crap rear headroom and faux-coupe me too stuff.

  • DougDolde DougDolde on Nov 18, 2015

    A slick weenie-mobile of a car. I wouldn't be caught dead in one though it might make a nice coffin

  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hmmm get rid of the garbage engine in my chevy, and the garbage under class action lawsuit transmission? sounds good to me
  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
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