Bravo, Honda. You've actually made the new 2013 Honda Accord smaller and, well, slightly less boring. Now keep it up.
I think Honda got the message about making their latest bread-and-butter sedan a little better than the flabby outgoing model. It's three-and-a-bit inches shorter, ever-so-slightly lighter and, joy of joys, you can get a six-speed manual and a sunroof on a sedan.
I have fond childhood memories of the Accord. My favorite Accords are the third through fifth generations, 1986-1997. This is when Honda got the recipe family sedan, coupe and occasional wagon nailed down. They were fun-to-drive cars that just happened to be practical.
I remember my dad's '87 Accord LX (yay, pop-up headlights!) that he tried in vain to teach me to drive stick on. I think I was 15 at the time and unlike my mom's Saab that had all of these elastic responses, the Accord's were shockingly accurate –- even on his well-used example. That was the great thing about old Accords, that this handsome-but-nondescript sedan could be had with great steering, great handling and a precise five-speed manual.
My grandmother's last car was a fifth-generation Accord, a beige, autobox 1994 one that looked as nondescript as what all of the women in her quilting circle drove. Before buying, she looked at a Camry and said she didn't like the upholstery. Secretly, I think she nixed the Camry because it didn't have the VTEC engine. This is the same woman who had a 1969 Firebird with the big V8. Granny had a lead foot and the Accord's four-cylinder of this era was a sweet thing that revved and revved. And it's so freaking reliable it's still in the family today.
I borrowed it when I took my driving test, which was a great decision. In addition to the pin-sharp precision of the controls, old Accords were really easy to see out of, with a perfect amount of glass area and low hood and short lengths. This is how every teen's first car should be.
Not that the Accords made since 1997 weren't fine cars, but everything got too watered down. Where was the steering feel? Why did it take eons for the accelerator to respond to pressures from my right foot? Why does it feel like I'm sitting in a bathtub? If Accord types wanted it to drive like a Camry, we would drive Camrys.
The Accord was almost always boring to look at, but it didn't used to be boring to drive. Camrys and Sonatas are innocuous boxes to drive. But Accords? The ones that were good enough to induce a grin if you poked the gas pedal and stirred the gearbox. That's what made them so special. That's why I liked the old ones. If I wanted to buy a big, ponderous driving appliance, I'd buy a crossover.
There's hope for the ninth-gen because Honda has reinstated the less-is-more philosophy. I was never enthusiastic about Accords of the 2000s, but things like the six-speed Sport model could convince me to convince people who'd let me borrow their cars to buy one. I just want an Accord to make me grin again.
Maybe the shrinking size is a step in the right direction. Maybe they've learned from the new Honda Civic and are trying to correct for their grievous error and reclaim some lost market share.
Or maybe they'll cede all their ground to the 2014 Mazda6.
Photos credit Honda