Quick Summary You've heard of "putting lipstick on a pig?" Well, think of the 2016 Honda Accord as an example of putting lipstick on a model. Noteworthy changes to the infotainment system, features list, suspension, vehicle structure and styling for 2016 have improved a midsize family sedan that was already highly desirable and Edmunds "A"-rated. Honda could've stood pat with an excellent product, but at the risk of switching metaphors, raising the bar is never a bad thing.
What Is It? The 2016 Honda Accord is now the only midsize sedan with a two-door coupe sibling, but for this test's purposes, we'll be focusing on the four-door. There are four- and six-cylinder engines available, manual, automatic and continuously variable transmissions, and the singular "choice" of front-wheel drive. There are also several trim levels: the surprisingly well-equipped base LX, more aggressively styled Sport, midlevel EX, abundantly equipped EX-L and the near-luxury, top-of-the-line Touring shown here. Only the latter two trims are available with the V6 engine.
What's New for 2016? In this day and age, let's start with how the 2016 Accord gets along with, presumably, your most prized possession: your smartphone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard on the Accord EX and above, making it one of the first cars to offer what is considered by many to be the future of in-car tech. CarPlay and Android Auto allow you to operate a selection of apps/functions (text messaging, phone, maps/navigation, music and podcasts) using the Accord's new touchscreen interface and/or voice controls.
Other noteworthy new tech features are those designed to keep you safe (especially should you be a little too involved with that aforementioned prized possession). The Honda Sensing package available on all trims includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, and lane-departure warning and keeping assist.
Styling updates for 2016 include a new front fascia that's more expressive than those of past Accords. It looks good, and with the Touring's standard LED headlights, there's more than a passing resemblance to cars made by Acura, Honda's luxury division.
Behind that new face are a lightweight aluminum hood, increased body rigidity, retuned steering and a revised suspension that includes adaptive dampers on the Touring trim. The backseat is thankfully now split 60/40 in all but the base LX trim, while the Touring adds several new features for 2016, including automatic wipers, parking sensors and heated rear seats.
What Is the Interior Like? Apart from some new trim and upholstery types, as well as the infotainment changes described below, the Accord's cabin carries over from last year. It has excellent materials and bulletproof construction that makes it feel likely to last a very long time.
Interior space is also unchanged, meaning this Accord retains the large, airy cabin that makes it so popular. The Accord's thin pillars, large glass areas and comparatively squared-off roof line also make it feel open and inviting. The front seat offers average leg- and headroom, which in the midsize segment basically translates into "abundant." When it comes to backseat legroom, headroom and a comfortable seatback angle, only the Toyota Camry comes close.
There's also plenty of room for your stuff. The armrest bin and glovebox are of a useful, average size, there's a large flat space forward of the shifter and a new, enclosed bin above with a USB port for a smartphone. The trunk offers a generous, but typical 15.5 cubic feet of space and a large, wide opening.
How Does the New Tech Interface Work? There were previously two tech interfaces available on the Honda Accord. One was a more traditional series of radio buttons with a large screen above, while the other system standard on the EX-L and Touring featured a confusing combination of a touchscreen, a larger display above and a hodgepodge of buttons and a multipurpose knob below.
For 2016, the traditional setup remains only on the LX and Sport. Everything else gets a new "Display Audio" touchscreen that controls everything, as there are no accompanying buttons, or much to our annoyance, a volume knob. The large upper display sticks around only as a configurable second display that can show audio info, turn-by-turn navigation directions (either from a smartphone app or the available in-car system) and general trip computer data. This is certainly a more sensible system than before, but the touchscreen can be a bit slow to respond, some icons are too small and transitioning between the Honda and Apple/Android systems can be clunky and confusing at times.
Which brings us to the newfangled interface of tomorrow. No, Honda hasn't simply turned the keys over to the folks at Apple and Google when it comes to controlling the car's myriad infotainment functions. If you want to change a radio station, play a CD (remember those?) or perform any number of other vehicle functions, you'll be using the Honda-designed interface. However, plugging in your smartphone and pressing a somewhat buried menu button opens a door into the portable device world (just remember to "unlock" it or you'll sit there wondering why it isn't working).
We tried Apple CarPlay, which displays as a black background with a series of familiar app logos. The Music, Podcast and MLB At Bat apps worked particularly well, but we're not fans of Apple Maps (Android Auto presumably has a leg up here thanks to Google Maps). We also found that the speech-to-text technology did not work especially well. Among other issues, trying to speak a reply via Siri completely froze the system — not just CarPlay but the entire infotainment system. The trusty method of turning the car off and on again fixed it, but it was the last time we attempted to send a text message.
What About Fuel Economy and That Thing Under the Hood? Before smartphone connections, people were quite often most concerned with a car's engine. In this case, the Accord provides a choice of two engines (there are also separate Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models). Standard on all but the Touring trim is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque (the Sport trim makes slightly more). It's unchanged for 2016, so we have every reason to expect that with its continuously variable transmission (CVT) it will still get the Accord from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which is one of the quickest times in the segment. Fuel economy is also excellent at an EPA-estimated 31 mpg combined (27 city/36 highway).
The four-cylinder is a fine engine and given its acceleration, most shoppers will find it more than sufficient. However, the Accord's 3.5-liter V6 is smooth, incredibly refined, and with 278 hp, brought our Touring test car from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. That's the quickest in the segment and quicker than many entry-level luxury sedans (including the Acura TLX). It's less efficient than the four-cylinder, but with an EPA estimate of 26 mpg combined (21/34), it's actually relatively frugal thanks in part to its cylinder deactivation system. It returned 26.4 mpg on the Edmunds evaluation route.
We were also impressed with the six-speed automatic transmission's performance, or rather, its ability to smartly hold gears or downshift as needed when driving on hilly terrain. Too many cars these days upshift too early in a clumsy, ill-timed effort to save fuel. On the other hand, the Sport mode didn't ramp up these efforts sufficiently enough to live up to the Sport moniker. There's also no manual mode like those found on the CVT-equipped Accord Sport and most competitors.
What's It Like To Drive? Updates made to the structure, steering and suspension only bolster the Accord's already impressive repertoire of driving talents. The brakes are excellent, bringing the Accord to a stop from 60 mph in a short 116 feet, with consistent subsequent stops. The steering is light in effort, but it's consistent in that effort and fluid in its movement. It may not transmit as much feedback to your hands as Hondas of old, but it's still better than most in the segment (the Ford Fusion and Mazda 6 being notable exceptions).
Most impressive of all is the suspension. Every Accord stays resolutely controlled even over midcorner bumps, but the Touring trim's new "Amplitude Reactive Dampers" raise the bar even higher. Boasting two separate performance parameters Honda dubs "Ride Zone" and "Handling Zone," it is essentially akin to two automatically selected suspension tunings in one. Indeed, after displaying its surprising agility on the mountain road section of our 116-mile evaluation route, the Accord Touring managed to absorb the worst of what Los Angeles' poorly paved and maintained highway system could throw at it. It's easily one of the best driving vehicles in this segment.
This ability to simultaneously cater to those who want to feel connected to their car as well as to those who'd rather not be driving at all, is a feat every Accord manages to accomplish while also being quiet and refined in a way that rivals entry-level luxury cars.
What Features Come Standard, and How Much Does It Cost? Starting at $22,105, the 2016 Honda Accord is about average in the midsize sedan category, which is surprising given its general refinement and generous feature content. Every Accord includes alloy wheels, dual-zone auto climate control, a 7.7-inch infotainment display, Bluetooth phone and audio, a rearview camera and a USB port. That's pretty good, given that a quarter of all Accord buyers are expected to opt for this most "basic" trim.
Equipment and pricing ramps up from there the (Sport and EX-L are expected to be the other high-volume trims), with the Touring trim we tested at the top of the totem pole. It's priced ($34,580) and equipped like an entry-level luxury car, which isn't as crazy as it sounds given that we preferred it over the equally priced Acura ILX.
What About Safety? Every Accord receives five stars from the government for overall crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave it the highest rating of "Good" in its selection of crash tests.
Standard equipment includes a rearview camera, which is upgraded on the EX-L trim to include expanded angles. Standard on the EX trim and above is the LaneWatch camera, which automatically switches the 7.7-inch upper display to show what's in your blind spot. We're not sold on its usefulness, as properly positioned mirrors (or a simple integrated blind-spot mirror as offered by Ford) do the same job.
Now optional on every Accord (and standard on the Touring) is the Honda Sensing package that includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, and lane-departure warning and lane keeping assist. These are all great technologies that are useful in preventing accidents, but we found their execution lacking. The forward collision warning was hypersensitive, flashing its big red warning sign to "Brake!" far too frequently and when not really needed (such as when pulling into a parking spot).
The adaptive cruise control is also rather dim-witted, being far too quick to slam on the brakes and then too slow to speed up again. It generally does a poor job of keeping up with traffic and adapting to the changing speeds of cars ahead of you. We wanted to be able to turn it off in favor of old-fashioned cruise control, but sadly could not.
What Other Cars Should You Consider? The Ford Fusion offers arguably the sharpest styling in the segment, along with its own impressively balanced driving dynamics, abundant interior space and high-end cabin. Its turbocharged engines may match up with the Accord on paper, but are less efficient in the real world.
The Mazda 6 has always been known as the agile, fun-to-drive choice for those who want their family sedan to keep them excited. That's still the case, but now it offers the interior space, comfort and fuel economy to broaden its appeal.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Toyota Camry has branched out from its usual conservative ways with SE and XSE trims that come close to the Accord's balance of comfort and driver involvement. Its space, practicality and reliability reputation are similar to the Accord's.
Why Should You Consider This Car? It has a spacious, airy interior with first-rate materials that are precisely assembled. It also gets excellent mileage, drives as well or better than any car in the class and features the latest safety and technology features.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car? Some of the new electronic safety features can be overly aggressive when it comes to warnings and slowing the car down automatically. We're also not sold on the current integration of Apple CarPlay, as some functions don't work as well as they should.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.