It's always been a little hard to get too excited about family sedans like the Honda Accord. Even for buyers of the things, the release of another four-door was rarely met with much enthusiasm -- and that was before crossover SUVs came in and started shaking up the marketplace. But now, with buyers increasingly opting for taller, pseudo-rugged options, the cards seem even more stacked against the humble sedan's favor.
It's a good thing, then, that Honda has made the 2018 Accord way more interesting than ever before. It's more powerful yet more efficient, has more performance yet also more cargo space and, on paper, it looks like a markedly better car. But numbers don't always equate to real-world success, so join me as I put Honda's latest, and perhaps most important, car through its paces.
All the updates
It's actually a little hard to iterate through all that's changed on the 2018 Accord, the 10th generation of the car that's now celebrating its 41st year of being sold at American dealerships, not to mention 35 years of being produced in an American factory. So, let's start with the dimensions, because those adjustments impact everything else.
The 2018 Accord is 10mm wider and 10mm shorter, yet rolls on a 55mm longer wheelbase. It's also 15mm lower, and the seating position has been lowered even further, a total of 25mm. All of this gives the car a much more planted look and feel, which does great things for the driver engagement factor, but those who struggle to get out of lower cars may want to take note.
The car is significantly lighter, between 114 and 187 pounds depending on trim, yet also stiffer and, with available adaptive suspension, has a better mix of ride qualities to suit your need -- and your mood. The same goes for the variable ratio steering and the trio of transmission choices available.
The leanest of the bunch is a continuously variable transmission, only available on the smallest engine: a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers a nice, square 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. That motor, with the CVT, is rated for 30 MPG in the city, 38 on the highway and 33 combined.
Your only other engine choice (until the hybrid drops in early 2018) is a 2.0-liter turbo four. Yes, the V6 is gone, but don't cry too much, because while the new four-cylinder's 252 horsepower is slightly down on the V6, its 273 lb-ft of torque is significantly up, and its estimated EPA rating of 23 MPG city and 34 highway are better, too.
That motor comes with a 10-speed automatic, but interestingly you can also option a six-speed manual transmission on either motor. Yes, a manual, with a clutch and everything, and former boy-racers will be glad to know it's the same unit that's found in the new. Just like the motor itself is quite similar to that hot hatch's lump.
None of that matters worth a lick if the car doesn't drive well, and so I'm very happy to report that it drives quite nicely indeed. I started off with the base 1.5-liter engine with the CVT, expecting to hate it and came away... maybe not in love, but satisfied, at least. 192 horsepower is a respectable amount, plenty enough to enable safe passing on the twisty, two-lane roads where I did most of my testing. The car never struggled on hills and, while a CVT will never be my first choice, this one was respectably well-behaved. That is to say, it didn't annoy me.
What would be my first choice? A manual transmission, of course, so I was very eager to try that out. That, too, didn't disappoint. Throws do feel longer than the six-speed, as found in the Civic Type-R, but they're no less precise and very nearly as rewarding. But, the transmission most people will choose on the 2.0-liter engine is the 10-speed auto, and that impresses too. Shifts are frequent but nearly seamless, and the box is more than happy to skip a cog or two when you really get on the gas.
Honda has put plenty of smarts into that transmission, for example ensuring it doesn't upshift during hard corners. And, for those who want a little more control, a pair of petite shift paddles sit on the wheel. That wheel turns quite freely with its new, variable-ratio rack, but still the precision is good and the turn-in sharp.
"Sharp" is a good way to describe the impression overall, a feeling that was cemented when I took a turn in last year's. While not a bad car by any means, it takes no more than a minute behind the wheel to feel and appreciate all the differences in 2018. Even less time is required to hear them. With laminated glass, insulating foam in the roof and a new active noise cancelation system, the 2018 Accord is wonderfully quiet at any speed.
And reassuring, too. For 2018, Honda Sensing is now standard on all Accords, meaning they all have adaptive cruise and a proper lane-keep assist system, one that doesn't just make the car ping-pong between the painted lines but actually helps steer. Honda's multi-angle rear-view camera is also standard, while blind-spot alert and rear cross-traffic alert are available as options.
On the infotainment side, the 2018 Accord is rocking Honda's latest dashboard software with a few major enhancements. Namely: volume and tuner knobs. Previously Honda saddled its cars with touch-sensitive volume sliders that were almost universally hated. The good ol' knobs are a welcome return, while continued support for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is excellent. The car also gains Qi-compatible wireless charging and NFC pairing. Get a new phone? Just tap it to the dashboard and in just a few seconds it'll be automatically paired. No more digging in menus. It's bliss.
Cream of the crop?
We'll need more time with the new Accord before we can deliver a final verdict, but after a day spent driving every trim plus many of the competing mid-size sedans in this segment, I have to say this is really looking like the car to beat. The additional safety features plus the infotainment improvements make for class-leading smarts, the driving dynamics are unparalleled in this class and, while some may lament the passing of the V6, the extra torque of that 2.0-liter does make for a more engaging drive.
There's very little not to like and very few things to fault -- and that applies to the pricing too. The 2018 Accord sedan starts at $23,570 for the 1.5-liter Accord LX with the CVT. That's just $315 more than the base 2017 Accord despite having about $1,000 worth in former options as standard equipment. If you want the 2.0-liter, the base Sport will set you back $30,310 with either the automatic or manual transmission, while a top-shelf 2.0 Touring model starts at $35,800. Very fair pricing for what's shaping up to be an exceptional car.