The humble Honda Accord has not sprouted into a sports car or been reborn as a limousine. But the new-for-2018 10th generation of the car is ergonomically excellent, mechanically tight and did I mention you can have it with the Civic Type R’s engine and six-speed manual transmission?
(Full Disclosure: Honda flew me from California to New Hampshire, put me up in the opulent Mount Washington Hotel and provided food and drinks for a few days so I’d tell you about the 2018 Accord.)
Now, the new Accord is nowhere near as rambunctious or full of character as the Civic Type R with which it shares some key components. It is, however, a lot more mature than Honda’s new hot hatch—and its own predecessor. The interior quality alone has made such a massive leap from the outgoing Accord that it almost feels like it’s moving in to make buying out of Honda’s luxury brand Acura totally futile.
Rumor has it that regular-ass sedans are going out of style, and any vehicle that’s not a compact crossover might as well think about growing a cargo hatch or giving up on life. But the new Accord makes a solid case for a simple sedan as your family’s main mode of transportation.
The Honda Accord is a modest mid-sized four door car that’s existed since 1976 in nine distinct forms. The 2018 model will be the car’s 10th body style: a sloped-roof sedan costing between about $23,000 and $36,000 depending on how many features you want in it.
The Accord is not Honda’s best selling product, but it’s close. As of September this year, the Civic and CR-V take that honor sitting on about a quarter million sales a piece while the Accord comes in third at 221,013 units sold to in 2017 to date, according to Honda.
This American-built vehicle is obviously tremendously important to Honda, since the company can’t pay its bills on Type Rs and NSXs alone. But it also matters to the thousands of drivers who want competence and reasonable comfort in their cars without having to spend serious money.
As ever, the Accord excels.
The new Accord is lower, wider and sports a longer wheelbase than the outgoing car though the whole vehicle is shorter tip-to-tail. That means rear passengers get about an extra two inches of legroom and trunk junk capacity expands to 16.7 cubic feet.
There’s no more two-door Accord Coupe, and as you probably know, the Accord Wagon hasn’t been a thing in America since Bill Clinton was president.
Honda’s engineers have also promised that the 2018 car is safer, stiffer and better balanced thanks in part to its center of gravity moved 10 millimeters Earthward.
Two engines are available in the 2018 Honda Accord: a 1.5-liter VTEC turbo rated at 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque and the 2.0-liter VTEC turbo out of the voracious Civic Type R. Sort of.
In the Civic, that powerplant claims 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. Here, it’s detuned to 252 HP and 273 lb-ft.
“But it’s designed to feel torquier at much lower RPM,” a Honda engineer told me. I mean, maybe. As far as I can tell it just feels... a little slower at all RPMs.
That’s because in the Accord, that 2.0-liter “Earth Dreams” [lol] inline-four has unique pistons, a different turbo running less boost (about two psi less), other changed internals and of course its own fuel map.
So, no, a 2.0-liter Accord Sport is not a few minor tweaks away from being an Accord Type R. But it is supposed to be able to return 34 mpg on 87 octane gas, unlike the Civic, which is lucky to only hit the high 20s on premium.
The six-speed manual transmission it can be coupled to is straight out of the Type R according to Honda’s people. But a longer stick throw, much longer clutch travel and no automatic rev-matching give it a significantly less aggressive feel.
But of course the driveline most people will end up buying is the 10-speed automatic, and frankly, it’s very good too. Its shifting is clean and consistent making for super-smooth cruising, passing and abrupt accelerating should you decide to do so.
The 1.5-liter engine option is also available with a six-speed manual, but the primary offering there is a continuously variable LL-CVT Advance. The CVT leaves a lot to be desired if you’re driving for fun, and it does feel like it take a little time to wind up when you mash the gas from a stop. As far as regular gentle driving, though, I couldn’t find much to complain about with it.
CVTs have come a long way since the early Xtronic Nissan Muranos everyone hated so much, and the Accord’s seems nothing less than adequate for casual committing.
Dropping into the Accord’s seat, whether its the leather in a top-trim Touring or synthetic fabric in whatever base model you peasants will have to make do with, is easy. The front thrones are comfortable and give you a commanding view of the road thanks to some very skinny A-Pillars and the rear bench really is ridiculously large. Like, two people and a grown Bernese Mountain Dog, no problem.
Better give that dog a side seat though, or everybody’s going to be covered in drool once the driver hits the gas because the 2.0-liter car will chirp tires in first, second and third with an ambitious person on the pedals.
The larger-engined Accord isn’t really neck-snapping, but it is swift. And the manual transmission is a genuine joy to operate. If you like the placid personality of a commuter car but don’t want to give up shifting, the six-speed option is a blessing and absolutely worth getting. You should get it if you want it, too, because finding a used one in a year or two is going to be like an Indiana Jones quest.
But if you’re not into the three-pedal thing, get the hell off this website. Kidding, we’re not cruel. And neither is the 10-speed automatic. Actually, it fits the Accord’s “can do, chief” personality very well. It just... works. You’ll barely know it’s there.
And for the vast majority of Accord customers, who probably don’t give a shit about acceleration or engine noise, they will still have something to get excited about: The Accord’s interface upgrades might be the coolest thing about the new car.
Replacing the main gauges with that little calculator-resolution information center the outgoing car had is a beautiful digital, customizable display area which can feed you speed, navigation, trip information and other numbers you might want to read.
The real triumph is the infotainment rig on the dashboard, though: rendered in remarkably crisp resolution, it’s elegant and easy to use and has an actual knob(!) for volume again. Those disappeared on some of the newer Hondas for about a year to near-universal disdain, and now the automaker is quickly reversing course.
There’s a tuning knob, too, for making fast radio station changes or selections through menus if you don’t want to touch the screen. Both work beautifully, and I know I’m not the only one who will be celebrating the demise of Honda’s dumb volume bar-thing.
In the climate control knobs, little LEDs briefly shine blue or red if you’re turning toward cold or hot. Neat!
Honda has decided that simple beeping and visual warnings were insufficient for reminding you to buckle your seatbelt, shut the door or release the parking brake. So it’s brought back some ’80s-ass answering machine voice to say things like “BUH-kel dry-ver SeatbElt.”
If you missed the sweet nothings of your talking LeBaron Turbo, you’ll be stoked for the new Accord.
I can’t imagine why Honda felt compelled to add this feature. When pressed, all I could get out of the company’s reps was “it’s something we’ve added in a few cars now.” And you just had to make it speak like a sampling machine, huh?
Annoyingly, the car’s lane-keeping system didn’t seem much smarter. A camera and radar based suite of driver aid theoretically keep the Accord from crashing, even at the hands of an inattentive pilot, but I could only get the car to tell I was leaving a lane about 60 percent of the time.
And while it is undeniably awesome that Honda saw fit to bless the big-engine option of this car with a good manual transmission, the 2.0-liter engine-six-speed-stick combination is only available in the Sport trim. Sport, somewhat oddly, does not have Sport mode, which stiffens the car’s suspension, adds weight to the steering pops a boost gauge on the dashboard.
You have to spec the top-trim Touring to get that, so the “almost Type R” 2018 Accord does not get the benefit of the car’s most aggressive shocks and steering feel. That, and the fact the clutch pedal travel seems strangely long, keep an earnest enthusiast-spec Accord from existing.
The 2018 Accord does not seem to be harboring any easter eggs or interesting mysteries, though I am curious to see how owners end up liking the car’s driver aids and how many people make the right decision and get the manual transmission. But mostly I just want somebody to swap a Civic Type R engine and shift knob into one to make a, uh, civil Type R.
More realistically, keep your eyes open for news about the 2018 Accord Hybrid which should land in a few months. We’ve always liked that car around these parts, even though on paper it seems like the opposite of what we should, so I expect the new one to be impressive too.
Even with a stick shift the 2018 Honda Accord doesn’t have a ton of personality, but it’s comfortable no matter what seat you’re in, and even the modest 1.5-liter CVT car doesn’t suck to drive.
If the nameplate’s solid 41-year history is any indicator of future reliability, the new Accord should be trustworthy enough to take you to the moon and back. Or at least to work and back, over and over and over again.
I wouldn’t count on a well-equipped Accord to reignite a relentless passion for driving, but it does do a great job of sprinkling some happiness into the mundanity of daily travel.
Get the manual and gearshift your way to joy without worrying about looking like a doofus who’s got something to prove. And hey, the aftermarket just might let you turn this thing into a business casual tuner car by the end of the year.