Just when you thought the eulogy for midsize sedans was being penned, Honda introduces the 2018 Accord. Honda's completely redesigned 10th-generation Accord aims higher, looks sharper and is more spacious than ever.
2018 Honda Accord First Drive
Vying for Dominance Among Midsize Sedans in a Compact SUV World
Underneath the 2018 Honda Accord's new sheetmetal is an all-new car from stem to stern. But we won't blame you for buying one on looks alone.
Larger Size in a Smaller Wrapper
One look at the new Accord is all it takes to know how seriously Honda takes its midsize sedan, a longtime sales leader that is being threatened by an encroaching horde of compact SUVs. Its styling is at once bold and elegant, with more than a suggestion of a high-end German luxury sedan. It means business. Photos don't do it justice — this is a car whose visuals rely heavily on the third dimension.
More than just a pretty face, the new Accord delivers a big dose of Honda's traditional clear-headed functionality. The new car is marginally lower, wider and shorter in length than the outgoing Accord, while its 2.1-inch gain in wheelbase (now 111.4 inches) is devoted almost entirely to the benefit of rear legroom, which grows by nearly the same amount. It's positively vast back there. Even tall folks will have legroom to spare in the back seat, though rear headroom shrinks by a hair. In the bargain, the restyled rump liberated nearly 1 cubic foot of trunk space, growing to 16.7 cubic feet.
Accommodations for front occupants are similar to the previous model, save for a touch more headroom. Though the front seat space hasn't changed much by the numbers, the impression of space is amplified by the new car's slim dashboard and windshield pillars. The cabin simply feels breezy and spacious. It's more than an illusion because the larger cabin and trunk volume technically bump the new Accord's EPA size classification from "midsize" to "large," despite its somewhat smaller exterior dimensions.
Generous use of more advanced steel in the new Accord's construction has contributed to a stiffer structure, while weight comes down across the board. Depending on trim level, the new car has slimmed down by 114 to 187 pounds, or by about 5 percent. The trend toward lightness in the auto industry is real, it's gaining steam, and we like it.
Trim Levels and Engines
The Accord will be sold in five trim levels (six if you count the addition of navigation to the EX-L as its own trim level, as Honda does). In order of increasing feature count, they are: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L and a new range-topping Touring trim. Two turbocharged four-cylinder engines are the only available powerplants. Deep-sixing the optional V6 probably made the engineers responsible for engine bay architecture breathe a sigh of relief.
Eighty percent of Accords are expected to leave showrooms with the base 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). This is a familiar powertrain, seeing duty in the Civic and CR-V. For the Accord, this engine is modestly revised and produces a maximum of 192 hp. Its peak 192 lb-ft of torque is delivered over a broad range of engine speeds, giving the Accord a healthier shove than this number suggests.
We've found a lot to like about the CVT in the Civic, and it's even better in the Accord. It responds more quickly, reducing the occasional flat-footedness we've observed in the Civic. Plus, the CVT's lack of discrete gear changes makes it inherently smooth. It's a combination that works well.
The optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, offered in four of the Accord's six trim levels, adds a considerable amount of punch. Rated at 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, it's a fraternal twin to the engine that powers the rorty Civic Type-R. A smaller turbocharger finds it way onto the engine as installed in the Accord, and despite the heady boost pressure — nearly 21 psi — you'd be hard-pressed to find any turbo lag. You dip the accelerator, and it goes. It's mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which clicks off smooth shifts and gives the Accord a vast range of ratios from which to choose — first gear is a super-short granny gear, while sixth gear is similar the old car's fourth gear. Far from being a case of too many gears spoiling the plot, the Accord's 10-speeder moves between ratios with reasonable verve, never feeling overly busy.
An Accord Hybrid is also in the works, set to debut in early 2018. Equipped with the third generation of the company's two-motor hybrid system, it's said to be more efficient and generates a total output of 212 hp. The placement of the big lithium-ion battery under the back seat means there is no penalty to cargo volume, cabin space or seat-folding capability.
Raising the Bar in the Cabin
Attention to detail is a strong suit of the new Accord's cabin. Beyond the ample soft-touch surfaces, the design aesthetic is one of simplicity and elegance. The dark wood grain inlays of the Touring model, satin-finish metal accents and the way the outboard dash vents protrude into the door panels remind us of some of Volvo's latest designs.
Lifting its infotainment system from the latest Odyssey, the new Accord has a fast-acting 8-inch touchscreen that supports swipes and pinches just like a smartphone. Its position high on the dash is a nod to functionality, minimizing the downward "glance distance." Unlike its mortal enemy, the Toyota Camry, the Accord offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration on EX models and up.
Touring models throw the kitchen sink of creature comforts at the cabin — ventilated leather front seats, Qi wireless smartphone charging, automatic Bluetooth pairing, a head-up display, heated rear seats, plus continuously variable dampers and full LED headlights.
For 2018, all Accords are equipped as standard with a suite of driver assistance features including forward collision warning, emergency automatic braking, lane departure warning and intervention, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise and traffic sign recognition. It's becoming an arms race of safety, which is no bad thing.
What It's Like on the Road
We drove Sport and Touring models of the 2018 Accord, variously equipped with both engines and all three transmissions. Sport models are relatively bereft of features compared to other trims and are mildly enlivened by slightly firmer springs and thicker stabilizer bars. It's a modest effect, though the Sport does pivot slightly more eagerly into corners than do other versions. Sport and Touring models ride on 19-inch wheels and 235/40 all-season tires (all other trims have 17s with 225/45 tires), and though the Sport's ride quality is somewhat busier than that of the Touring, the effect is minimal. It still picks up its feet nicely when driven forcefully.
One refreshing twist is the availability of a six-speed manual gearbox with either engine, though the Sport is the only version that offers it. In typical Honda fashion, shift quality is slick and light, bordering on toylike, though the throws are reasonably short. When paired to the 2.0T engine, the Sport's not quite a hot rod, but it's still entertaining on the right road. If sheer speed is what you're after, the Camry's potent V6 will handily outdo the Accord 2.0T, but you can't get a Camry with a manual transmission. Life is so full of difficult decisions.
All Accords now carry a new variable-ratio steering rack that reduces the number of revolutions from lock to lock. You really appreciate this when whipping around for a U-turn. The steering feels natural enough, with heft that's just this side of light and with a hint of steering feel.
Engine noise is the sole downside to the Accord's new four-cylinder-only strategy. Neither engine sounds particularly good, and they're on the vocal side when you lay into the gas. They're quite smooth, though, and refinement of the base 1.5T with the CVT tops that of the latest Camry's base powertrain.
Fuel Economy and Pricing
Fuel economy varies a bit by trim level. The meat and potatoes versions with the 1.5T and CVT net 33 mpg combined (30 city/38 highway), with a slight drop for Sport and Touring models due to their wider tires. Opt for the Sport's six-speed manual and the numbers slip to 30 mpg combined (26 city/35 highway). EPA fuel economy values for 2.0T and Hybrid models aren't yet finalized.
Despite the nearly across-the-board improvements ushered in by the new Accord, prices have risen only slightly. The base price for the entry-level LX is $24,445, while a Touring 1.5T will set you back $34,675. Springing for the 2.0T over the 1.5T adds $2,000 for the EX-L and Touring trims and a thick $4,530 for Sport models.
There's a lot of appeal to the new Accord, which is set to re-establish the midsize sedan benchmark. If you want one, you won't have to wait long — 1.5T models reach dealers on October 18, while 2.0T variants arrive at the end of November.