Ubiquitous Bestseller Edges Towards Sporty
Steve Schaefer, Fri, 20 Apr 2007 08:00:00 PDT
The Accord is Honda's midsized sedan and coupe that does everything well and some things wonderfully. It is well built and reliable. It has been their bestselling vehicle year after year and manages to clean up in the awards department-even from the automotive buff books (magazines), which are run by folks who crave Ferraris and Corvettes. Consumer Reports gives Accords lots of red dots (top marks).
Most Hondas for American consumption are built right here in the American heartland, in places like Ohio and Alabama. A high percentage of the parts are sourced here, too. Naturally, the Accords are sold and serviced by U.S. residents, too. Hondas are becoming as American as Chevrolets and Fords in that regard, except that some Chevrolets and Fords are built outside the U.S.
Accords are big enough to carry five people in comfort, but small enough to park easily. They are attractive without being flashy, have incredible resale value, and can be bought for as little as $18,625.
Accords are environmentally friendly. You can choose a sprightly 166-horsepower inline four or the muscled-up 244-horsepower V6. With the V6, you're looking at ULEV-Ultra Low Emission Vehicle-status, and with the 4-cylinder, you're into the PZEV, or Partial Zero Emission Vehicle arena.
The Accord Hybrid is the ninth best vehicle in the entire American car market, with an AT-PZEV rating and a rating of 28/35. That's hardly worse for the ecosystem than riding a bicycle. The EPA gives the V6 models a miles-per-gallon rating of 21 City, 30 Highway and 26/34 to the inline four-equipped models with a manual transmission. I averaged 22.0 mpg in the V6 model.
Honda Accords routinely get five-star frontal impact ratings in the U.S. government's crash tests-a top rating. Accords are filled with the latest style of airbags and carry other safety equipment, too, such as antilock brakes and daytime running lights.
The preceding paragraphs may have convinced you that the Accord is a smart car to buy and to own, but it has likely generated little real excitement. The Accord that I just tested, however, is Honda's attempt to add a little sizzle to the mix. I drove a silver EX V-6 model with a six-speed manual transmission. Matched with the 244-horse V6, it feels a bit closer to a sports sedan than a nice family ride.
In America today, most drivers opt for the ease of an automatic, so it's hard to find V6-powered cars with a stick if you're inclined to want one. The question becomes-will an Audi or BMW intender actually step into the Honda dealership and write a check for an Accord?
Well, if you're going on looks, probably not. Although Accords have become more expressive over the years, the sedans are still pretty conservative, despite some incredibly pointy headlamp units on the current model. The German vehicles are not the flashiest either, but they are trending that way, and anybody who cares can tell a BMW with its blue-and-white roundel on its nose or an Audi with its four interlocking rings in its grille.
If you're interested in features, it's a better case. The EX is the top non-Hybrid Accord, and it's loaded with leather seats, shift knob and steering wheel. It's got automatic climate control, power everything, and extras like a power moonroof, alloy wheels, and a six-disc CD changer. Honda's navigation systems are easy to use and have handy touch screens.
As for performance, the 244 horsepower V6 competes more or less with Audi's 255 horsepower V6 in its A4 and A6 and also against BMW's 230-horsepower engine in the 3 Series and the 215 and 255 horsepower units in the 5 Series. The Accord driving feel is quite different from the Germans, as you might expect, but it is far from a slug or a land yacht.
But what is really remarkable here is the size/price comparison. For example, my test Accord, with all the trimmings, had a price of $29,400. The V6-powered Audi A4 starts at $35,540, and the Audi A6, which is closer in size to the Accord, starts at $41,950. The same story works for BMW, where the 3 Series begins at $32,400, and the 5 Series, which is closer in size to the Accord, begins at $43,500--and that's with the 215-horsepower engine.
There are many subtleties and not-so-subtleties that make Audis and BMWs particularly desirable, and the Accord can't claim to compete directly with that list. But for supplying an entertaining ride for significantly less money, Honda offers a sporting alternative. And bolder designs are coming next year, so look out!
Miles per gallon 21/30. EPA - Air Pollution scale 7. Greenhouse Gas 6.