What's New for 2003
The Honda Accord -- one of America's favorite vehicles -- has been substantially changed for 2003. Continuing as a sedan and a coupe, the 2003 Honda Accord features more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, increased safety and higher levels of interior comfort. A voice-activated GPS navigation system is optional, and a sporty EX coupe debuts in early 2003.
Introduction: For the 2003 model year, an all-new Accord will be rolling into Honda dealerships across the country. Unlike many automakers that launch a new car and leave it to molder for nearly a decade, Honda prefers to keep its vehicles fresh and competitive; thus, a new Accord arrives even though the old one is still plenty better than most of the competition on the market. The 2002 car was a favorite of family sedan buyers nationwide. It had a proper size, a low price, high fuel economy, plenty of occupant comfort and high safety scores. Oh, and don't forget its renowned dependability and strong resale value.
This time around, Honda wanted to introduce some excitement to the Accord lineup. People are expected to consider the Accord for emotional -- as well as practical -- reasons. Performance was quickly identified as one area where improvement was necessary, and to this end Honda has boosted engine power, improved the suspension and reworked the transmissions. The company also created a new V6 sport coupe with big tires and a six-speed manual transmission.
Two advanced engines are available in the 2003 Accord: a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder and an extensively revised 3.0-liter V6. Both have more peak power and torque than their predecessors, as well as improved midrange and bottom-end performance. Along with these power gains come lower emissions and improved fuel economy. Like the CR-V and Acura RSX, these engines feature Honda's latest variable valve timing system, called i-VTEC. The four-cylinder makes 160 hp and 161 lb-ft of torque, while the V6 makes 240 hp and 212 lb-ft of torque.
Wisely, Honda decided to stick with the previous-generation Accord's double wishbone suspension front and rear. Modifications in front amount to revised geometry to suppress body roll, dive and squat. In back, similar changes are employed, along with increased rear subframe stiffness. The result is a tighter ride with less thump and thrum from the underpinnings.
It also helps that the Accord's structure has been strengthened for 2003, with torsional rigidity increased 27 percent. Feeling more buttoned-down and stout under all driving conditions, the new Accord exhibits a solid feeling of heft uncommon in a Honda. The steering system has been fitted with a new type of damper that reduces kickback without canceling out road feedback.
It should come as no surprise that the primary allure of the Accord continues to be what it was good at before. In most respects, it's even better. The styling is more polarizing than before, but is still somewhat timid when compared to the Nissan Altima and Mazda 6. And as far as sport sedan performance goes, well, both the Nissan and Mazda are emotional driver's cars. This Honda is not.
Yet our initial impression of the new Accord is quite favorable overall, and we expect it to be a bestseller. This is certainly a car you'll want to consider for your 2003 family sedan shopping.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The least expensive model is the DX. It does without air conditioning, keyless entry, power door locks, power mirrors, rear stereo speakers or a seat height adjuster; all are standard on the LX. Unlike other Accords, it has smaller 15-inch wheels, black door handles and black mirrors.
The approximate $2,500 price walk to the well-equipped and most-popular LX model is worth it. This model represents the quintessential Accord and is the most sensible choice in the lineup. It is quiet, peppy, refined, a decent handler and quite comfortable. It exudes quality in terms of materials and construction. Not terribly exciting, this LX model, but it will serve the needs of the average American family perfectly.
A V6 version of the LX is also available. A few extra goodies, such as a six-disc in-dash CD changer and a power driver seat, are also included. Top-line EX models get a bounty of features, including a power sunroof, alloy wheels and steering wheel-mounted stereo controls. Get the EX V6 Sedan, and you're living large with heated leather seats, a power passenger seat and dual-zone climate control. If you opt for leather on the four-cylinder model, you'll also get similar equipment. The EX V6 Coupe with the six-speed manual transmission includes 17-inch alloy wheels and a 180-watt sound system. Also available on the EX models is a voice-activated GPS navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance: Driving the front wheels is either a 160-horsepower 2.4-liter inline-four or a 3.0-liter V6 engine. The 3.0-liter V6 pumps out an impressive 240 hp. Four-cylinder 2003 Accord models come with an improved five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic (replacing the previous four-speed auto) is available for both engines. The manual transmission in the V6-powered EX Coupe is a short-throw six-speed manual transmission.
Safety: Testing has yet to be performed. Honda claims this new car can achieve five-star ratings from the NHTSA and a "good" rating from the IIHS. Side airbags are optional on DX and LX models with the four-cylinder engine and standard on other models. Only the Accord EX V6 can be equipped with the side curtain airbag system. For 2003, four-wheel-disc ABS is standard on all Accords.
Interior Design and Special Features: Honda has done a nice job of tailoring the interior to meet the needs of the American family. The sedan has plenty of thoughtfully designed nooks and crannies. The trunk, however, measures has 14 cubic feet of volume. Cars like the Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat offer more.
Driving Impressions: In practice, we find the four-cylinder models to be more entertaining on twisty roads. Less weight over the front tires translates to crisper steering and handling. In the city, the four is sprightly enough, especially when matched to a manual transmission, but the deceptively quick V6 Accord is our preference for freeway driving.