In the last couple years, Honda has put a lot of work into its lineup. The Civic is now in its tenth-generation and has special, sporty new models, the Fit received some significant updates, the CR-V was recently redesigned, the hydrogen fuel cell Clarity made its debut, and the long-awaited, redesigned Odyssey came out. In short, the company’s lineup is modern, good to drive, easy to live with, and, in many cases, exciting. The Honda Accord is one of the company’s last big-sellers to get some special treatment, and Honda certainly took the time to make the tenth-generation Accord special.
Honda invited us out to beautiful Bretton Woods, NH, to drive the new Accord among the quickly turning leaves and beautiful landscape. After a brief presentation, Honda let us, along with many other journalists, take our pick of the Accords they had available and drive up into the mountains. We chose a 2.0-liter Touring model to start our day and headed on our way.
The Total Redesign is Thorough
This is no minor revamp of the Accord. It’s a full redesign. Just about everything in the car is brand spanking new. The exterior is wider, the overall length is shorter, the wheelbase was lengthened by about two inches, and the center of gravity and seating position were lowered. The A-pillars were moved further back, made thinner, and more steeply raked, providing better visibility out the front of the car. The body is stiffer and the weight of the vehicle was reduced by about five percent.
The extra length in the wheelbase has basically all gone to the rear seats. The car’s sleek roofline makes it look like the Accord doesn’t have much of a trunk. Actually, Honda has worked their packaging magic here, and the trunk offers almost a full cubic foot more of space than the current Accord. Passenger volume, rear legroom, and trunk space are all better than the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry, which Honda obviously sees as its chief competitor.
Powertrains are another big update for the car. Gone is the V6 and the current generation’s 2.4-liter four-pot. In its place are two turbocharged four-cylinder engines and a new hybrid powertrain. The smaller of the two is the 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder that makes 192 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque (30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway). That engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or a CVT with paddle shifters (more on transmissions and engine performance later). The next step up is the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque (23 mpg city and 34 mpg highway). That engine is mated to either a ten-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.
There’s also a new hybrid powertrain in the form of two electric motors and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The size of the power control unit for the hybrid has been reduced by 15 percent and the new Intelligent Power Unit is 32 percent smaller. This means the interior volume and cargo volume of the Accord Hybrid is the same as the gasoline version of the car.
The trim level range for the Accord includes LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, and Touring with the 1.5-liter engine, and Sport, EX-L, and Touring with the 2.0-liter engine. Honda had both the 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter cars in either Touring or Sport trim for us to try out. Honda also had a pre-production version of the Accord Hybrid on site, and we did get a chance to drive the model for a short route. The Accord Hybrid comes in four trims, a base Hybrid (which is a new trim), EX, EX-L, and Touring.
It Looks Like No Other Accord Before It
The Accord’s sleek, sloping roofline, long hood, short rear, and short overhangs give the car a sporty look. There are a few creases on the hood that give it some character up front and a few lines down the side that stand out. The sparing use of chrome keeps it from looking garish, and the few black accents and LED lights give it a modern appearance.
We don’t care too much for the wheels on the Accord. The spokes look kind of chunky and have too many sharp angles. Honda has put similarly styled wheels on its other cars as well, so although we’re not huge fans, we weren’t surprised by the choice. Another interesting styling choice is back by the D-pillar. Honda doesn’t use a Hofmeister kink, but the window line of the car does have a weird little lift near the rearmost pillar. It seems unnecessary and distracts from the car’s other sleek and seemingly natural lines.
The Interior Travels Upscale
The interior is a major improvement for several reasons. First off, the infotainment system is leagues better than the current Accord’s system. Gone are the full touch-based controls and Honda put in a number of knobs and physical buttons that work well and don’t feel cheaply made. Pair that with a 7-inch (LX trim) or 8-inch (pictured above) touchscreen display and you have a good infotainment system. It’s equipped with Bluetooth and most trims get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system is quick and its controls clear, though we didn’t find it as intuitive as some of the other systems out there from competitors. Aside from the infotainment system, the cabin is simple and attractive with plenty of storage bins and high-quality feeling materials even in the lower trim levels.
A couple of features that stood out to us were the near field communication (NFC) automatic phone pairing, digital screen in the instrument cluster, and wireless charging. There is an interesting little emblem (pictured above) on the dash and all you have to do to pair your phone to the car’s infotainment system via the NFC technology is touch it to the dash. Currently, this only works with Android phones, but Honda assured us iPhone compatibility was coming. Additionally, in the center storage compartment beneath the climate controls is a wireless charging pad. This eliminates the need for annoying cords.
The final interesting feature is the 7-inch digital screen (pictured below) in the instrument cluster. It shows all kinds of vehicle information. The screen extends from the left side of the cluster all the way to the non-digital speedometer. It sounds great until you realize that most of the screen is concentrated inside the small circle that typically shows the tachometer. This limits its functionality and customizability.
Honda keeps equipment upgrades confined to the trim levels so if you want the full LED headlights, head-up display, adaptive dampers, two-mode driving system, NFC phone pairing system, ventilated front seats, wireless phone charging, and next-generation HondaLink Assist, you’re going to have to get the Touring model.
Another important thing to note is the safety features of the new Accord. For 2018, Honda has made its Honda Sensing suite of safety features standard on all trim levels. This includes traffic sign recognition, driver support information, collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist. Additionally, all trims get a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, driver attention monitor, straight driving assist, and automatic high beams.
We found it odd that Honda chose to exclude blind spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors the list of standard equipment when. Those features are only available on the EX trim level and above. Honda was quick to point out that the Accord has more standard safety features than most of the competition. For example, the Camry does not have standard low-speed following capability, road departure mitigation, traffic sign recognition, and driver attention monitoring. Despite this, we still feel that blind spot monitoring and parking sensors should have been included on all trim levels of the Accord.
It Stays True to Accord Driving Dynamics
The lower center of gravity, lower seating position, and wider stance makes the Accord an excellent car to drive on a curvy road. There is little body roll and you feel very confident putting the Accord through complex maneuvers. It grips the road well and offers a smooth ride over bumps and gaps in the road. The steering is precise and well-weighted, without feeling artificially heavy.
We started the day in the Accord Touring with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the 10-speed automatic transmission. The car performed well, and the 2.0-liter offers plenty of power at both low and high speeds. Passing on the highway is easy and the 10-speed automatic provides quick upshifts. It also downshifts quickly, making it enjoyable even in spirited driving situations. There are also paddles allowing you to select your own gears, but we found it more enjoyable to let the transmission do its thing. Ten gears are just a lot to work with.
Next up was the Accord Sport with the 2.0-liter engine and the six-speed manual transmission. Again, the engine offers plenty of power at both high and low speeds. The transmission felt light and gear selections notchy, but we weren’t thrilled with the way the clutch grabs. The bite point was higher than we expected and this took some getting used to. However, if you drove the car on a regular basis, you’d get used to it and not think twice about it.
For the third car, we took a short spin in the 1.5-liter Touring with the CVT transmission. The CVT does a decent job delivering power appropriately. However, the engine drones on quite a bit with this particular transmission. The paddle shifters allow you to control the revs to a certain extent, but we found the other transmissions to be more enjoyable. Part of the noise issue with the CVT is that the 1.5-liter engine has to work harder than the 2.0-liter, to begin with. If you don’t like the sound of the 1.5-liter then you definitely wouldn’t want to get this transmission.
After the CVT Touring model, we hopped in the new Accord Hybrid. Honda made a point to note that the Hybrid we drove was an early pre-production model, and it will be refined before it's for sale. We found the hybrid smooth and powerful. The transition from electric to gasoline power was unintrusive, and the car performed well on the short loop we drove. It felt as well-planted and agile as any of the other models we drove. Honda didn't give any information on the expected mileage numbers for the hybrid powertrain. Instead, the PR team focused on the fact that there is no interior space compromise with the hybrid, which should increase the number of people who go for the model.
The last Accord we drove was the Sport with the 1.5-liter and the six-speed manual. This was the most engaging to drive. The clutch bite point was lower than in the 2.0-liter engine, and it was easier to drive right off the bat. The 1.5-liter engine doesn’t offer as much power, but with the manual transmission, you can easily manage the power that you do have. Also, 192 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque is nothing to sneeze at. This engine moves the car along plenty fast enough for us. We found ourselves shifting more often in this car, but that only made it more fun to drive especially on New Hampshire’s twisty mountain roads.
Our favorite version of the car was the 1.5 with the six-speed manual transmission. It was easy to drive, fun, and had plenty of power for most situations. We didn't get to test this model at highway speeds, but it felt as though it would have no problem overtaking a car on the freeway. If, however, you wanted more power, the 2.0-liter engine is there, and the fact that Honda offers it with two very good transmissions is definitely commendable.
Honda had a couple 2018 Toyota Camrys there for us to test alongside their new Accord. We only had the chance to drive the Camry SE with the 2.5-liter engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. The drive route we took the car on only lasted about 15 minutes. Judging from that short drive, we’d have to say the Accord feels smoother, lower, and sportier. The Camry is definitely excellent to drive, but its slightly higher seating height and center of gravity made it feel less engaging. Still, we’d have to drive the Camry for a longer period of time before calling a true winner.
Should You Buy It?
If you’re in the market for a midsize sedan, we have to say that the Accord is near or at the top of the pack. Honda has put a lot of features into the model and redesigned it to make the driving dynamics better than ever before. That being said, there wasn’t any single specific thing that really stood out to us and made us say, “Yes, I want to buy this.” The car is improved in just about every way, but there was no specific feature or characteristic that we absolutely loved.
At first, this bothered us, but then after thinking about it, we decided this is a good thing. Honda focused on the whole car not just one special aspect of it. The interior is bigger than before, the car drives better than before, there’s more safety tech, more features, and a better infotainment system. If we spent a week with the vehicle, we could go through each of the infotainment screens and point out the things we didn’t like or go around the exterior of the car and pick on small styling choices we don’t agree with. Overall, though, there is little to complain about.
The 2018 Accord is new and improved. Prices start at $23,570 for the base 1.5-liter LX and go all the way up to $35,800 for the 2.0-liter Touring. The car offers a lot for the price and shows up most of the competition in terms of tech, driving prowess, and interior space. However, with Hyundai's Sonata stepping up its game and the Camry's recent redesign, it's hard to tell if it will be as successful as it has been in the past. All that being said, if a midsize car is in your future, the Honda Accord had better be on your shopping list.