Standing out from the masses

by Haney Louka . Mar 23 2018
HondaThe Accord is second in sales for the Canadian mid-size sedan market, behind the Toyota Camry and ahead of the Nissan Altima.

Honda

The Accord is second in sales for the Canadian mid-size sedan market, behind the Toyota Camry and ahead of the Nissan Altima.

Volume sellers are often not on my list of recommendations when people ask me for car buying advice. The reason is simple: if it appeals to the masses, it’s probably not very interesting. Or so it normally goes.

With the Accord, however, Honda has a long tradition of building a crowd-pleaser which also delivers a worthwhile driving experience. And this 10th-generation version is the best yet.

For the first time in a long time, the Accord (and the Civic, with which it shares showroom real estate) is quite the looker. A slick, fastback-style profile and upright snout make the Accord look distinctive without being goofy.

The Canadian mid-size sedan market has shrunk by 25 per cent year-to-date compared to last year; to call this a collapse is not overstating the situation. Crossovers of all shapes and sizes are taking their place on buyers’ shopping lists; never mind cars are dynamically superior to taller utility vehicles, whether it’s handling, efficiency or comfort you’re after. But I digress.

The Honda’s sales numbers put it second in its class, behind Camry and ahead of Altima. But this all-new Accord is the one making headlines of late, winning numerous awards, including both Canadian and North American car of the year honours.

Pricing starts at $26,490 for the LX, which is within $100 of Camry and $200 of Altima. Yes, it’s a tight race. Paying that sum for an Accord will net you a six-speed manual gearbox or CVT automatic, 17-inch wheels, a suite of active safety systems (lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise and more), LED lights, dual-zone climate control, rear-view camera, push-button start, remote start, heated front seats and Apple Carplay/Android Auto. This is a good place to start.

We had the opportunity to try two upper-trim examples of the new Accord recently in Winnipeg, in the form of the Touring and Touring 2.0.

The Touring has an MSRP of $35,790, a big jump from what is already a well-appointed machine (there are also Sport and EX-L models in between). That extra cash buys 19-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, head-up display, wireless device charging, leather seats with ventilation in front and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Most Accord trims, including the Touring, get motive power courtesy of a 1.5-litre direct-injected and turbocharged four-banger. That may seem diminutive for a car this size, but power is rated at 192 horsepower, backed up by 192 lb-ft of torque spread over a broad range of engine speeds. While the LX and Sport trims can be had with a manual gearbox, a continuously variable automatic transmission is the two-pedal option.

The Touring 2.0 name might make you think sequel, but it actually refers to the larger engine under the Accord’s bonnet.

Displacement jumps to two litres and horsepower to 252. Torque gets an even bigger boost, to 273 lb-ft. And get this: you can get the stick shift with the bigger engine in the Sport 2.0 trim. Go ahead and try getting a crossover with those specs.

Things get more impressive on the automatic side as well, where the CVT gets ditched in favour of a 10-speed automatic.

This engine/transmission combination elevates the Accord Touring from a very competent base sedan into a true gem in the cookie-cutter sedan segment.

The 10-speed also gets Honda’s nifty push-button gear selector which cleans up the centre console and is surprisingly intuitive to operate.

At $38,790, the Touring 2.0 is a $3,000 upgrade, which is well worth the money. The same boosted engine can be had in the Sport 2.0 for $32,790. Call it the performance bargain of the segment.

And it’s not just the power upgrade that justifies the premium for the Touring 2.0. Adaptive dampers do a nice job of tailoring the ride/handling balance according to the driver’s mood.

Great throttle response, precise steering and confident braking are all part of the new Accord’s repertoire. And it possesses these traits within a quiet, refined package, which is sure to please the masses.

After my week with the Touring 2.0, I’ve developed a newfound respect for Michelin’s Pilot Alpin winter rubber. These 35-series, 19-inch tires didn’t look like they’d be of much use after a heavy snow, but I had the chance to put them through their paces in snowy and icy conditions and was duly impressed.

Regardless of which trim you choose, just know Honda has made great strides with the new Accord. When it comes to the interior, I can’t decide whether it’s the upgraded materials or improved user interface that leave a bigger impression. The view from behind the wheel is much cleaner than before, with a three-spoke wheel, satin trim and attractive open-pore black wood grain inserts across the dash.

But most significantly, the goofy dual-screen setup is gone forever, replaced by a single display with honest-to-goodness knobs for volume and tuning. Look at that — we’ve moved forward by looking back to what has worked for decades.

The return of the volume knob is just the beginning. Honda’s overall user interface has improved to a point where I no longer want to put my fist through the screen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed poking fun at how ridiculously complicated it was to complete simple tasks, like entering a navigation destination or making a phone call, but the truth is the old system was so frustrating it contributed to the very distraction such systems are designed to eradicate.

There are even hard buttons for switching between functions on the screen. That’s important, because hard buttons can be found and pushed with minimal attention from the driver.

So, the new Accord is perfect, right? Well, not quite. For one, the car has automatic headlights and automatic high-beams by default. What that means is occasionally the high beams will turn on even when driving in the city. This function should be driver-controlled, not a default.

I also have a few minor quibbles about the level of customization available on the various electronic displays, but overall this is a difficult car to fault. The major question arises when considering the loaded Accord’s price tag and the lack of an all-wheel drive version. It’s not like all of the competitors have such a choice — in fact, only the Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy offer it — but the dollars are getting up there, and an AWD Accord would make for a very appealing car indeed.

But as it is, the Accord is as much a great daily driver as it is a crowd-pleaser. And that is no small feat.

autoreviews@mymts.net

HondatThe redesigned 2018 Honda Accord has won multiple awards, and for good reason.

Hondat

The redesigned 2018 Honda Accord has won multiple awards, and for good reason.

HondaInterior view of the 2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T.

Honda

Interior view of the 2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T.

Honda2018 Honda Accord LX pricing starts at $26,790 with the Touring 2.0 coming in at a beginning cost of $38,790.

Honda

2018 Honda Accord LX pricing starts at $26,790 with the Touring 2.0 coming in at a beginning cost of $38,790.