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2016 Honda Accord EX-L review: Small changes build to big improvements for Honda's most important model

The biggest improvement to the ninth-generation Accord is the simple addition of Apple and Google's dashboard technologies.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
5 min read

On the surface, the 2016 Accord features the sort of fascia updates that we expect from a mid-cycle refresh. The headlamps have been tweaked, the grill and front bumper revised. The hood is now formed from lightweight aluminum, rather than steel and throughout, the vehicle's aerodynamic have tweaked. New wheel and rear bumper designs round out a makeover that makes the Accord sedan feel new without changing the broad strokes.


2016 Honda Accord EX-L

The Good

Honda has totally revised the 2016 Accord's dashboard tech. The new system is better organized, more responsive and now features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The standard four-cylinder engine with CVT is satisfyingly responsive and efficient.

The Bad

Though its LaneWatch camera is nice, the Accord is still lacking a proper blind-spot monitoring option.

The Bottom Line

Beneath a minor physical refresh, the 2016 Honda Accord gets a dashboard tech overhaul that is both simpler in operation and more feature rich than before.

Beneath the sheet metal, the Accord's chassis has been stiffened and its suspension revised to give refinement to the handling and ride characteristics. It's difficult to tell with a seat of the pants measurement exactly how much the sedan's handling has improved, suffice it to say that the Accord handles surprisingly well for a big, front wheel drive people mover. On my favorite mountain road testing circuit, the Accord was a pretty fun drive with planted, predictable handling that impressed me and felt like a good match with the performance of Honda's chosen powertrain and brakes.

Over nine generations, the Accord has grown into quite a big girl, but Honda has somehow managed to keep intact a glimmer of the tossable, yet stable handling that made the early generations leaders in this class. The 2016 Accord feels a comfortable winding its way through sweeping hill country backroads as it does blasting down an Interstate.

However, the biggest improvements to the 2016 model may be of the digital variety. When the ninth-generation Accord debuted in 2013, I found it's two-screened infotainment stack to be a confusing disappointment. That generation's limited level of app integration also left me wondering, "Why bother?"

For 2016, Honda has almost totally revised its dashboard tech. Yes, there are still two screens stacked atop one another -- a touchscreen below and an upper display controlled by the steering-wheel buttons -- but their roles are more clearly defined, there's less redundant information shared between them, and the entire ordeal has a smoother learning curve.

Honda hones the 2016 Accord (pictures)

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Overall system speed is greatly improved, taps are registered with smartphone quickness and capacitive sensitivity allows for pinching and zooming on maps and dragging icons around the home screen.

Speaking of smartphones, the 2016 Accord now supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. When a compatible Android 5.0 Lollipop device or iPhone running iOS 8 or better is connected to the standard USB port (which now also rapid charges connected devices with 1.5A of juice) the lower Honda infotainment display gets replaced with Google or Apple's interface, respectively.

Both dashboard replacement interfaces feature their own navigation apps -- which comes in handy if, like our example, your Accord doesn't have Honda's native navigation system spec'd -- and support in-dash control of dozens of audio streaming apps with simplified controls. Both feature solid voice command for hand-free calling and text messaging, simply hold the voice command button on the Accord's steering wheel to send voice commands to Siri or Google Voice Search.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are solid additions to the Accord's vastly improved dashboard tech suite. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Interestingly, the Accord's upper screen doesn't go neglected when using Android Auto. I noticed during my testing that the current song and even the next turn-by-turn direction are mirrored on this auxiliary display.

For as much improved as Honda's infotainment interface is, allowing users to totally replace it with Apple or Google's software is probably the biggest improvement to the Accord's tech experience.

The Accord's engine bay and front-wheel drivetrain options go untouched as part of the refresh. The Sedan is still available with either a 3.5-liter V-6 or -- like our example -- a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque.

The smaller engine is mated with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that works by, well, continuously varying the gear ratio between the engine and the drive wheels, rather than notching between 5 or 6 fixed ratios. The result is that the engine can always operate at the most efficient (or most torquey) part of its powerband. Early CVTs got a bad rap for being off-putting and a bit laggy, but I've found that the technology has improved much over the years. In the Accord's case, the engine and transmission work together so well that, for a spell, I actually forgot that I was driving a CVT. The powertrain combo tends to drone a bit under full-throttle acceleration, but when around-town driving, the whole setup is satisfyingly responsive and quiet.

CVTs get a bad rap, but the Accord's continuously variable drivetrain is fairly well sorted. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Of course, thrill seekers will probably prefer the more potent 278 horsepower V-6 (or even a proper sport sedan), but during casual backroad sessions, I found the I-4 and CVT to deliver a pretty good amount of scoot when accelerating through sweeping corners. As I stated earlier, the engine feels like a good match for the handling and braking, presenting the driver with a balanced -- if not modest -- performance envelope.

Unchanged from the previous model year, the CVT-equipped Accord gets the same EPA-estimated 31 combined mpg, but the breakout of 27 city and 37 highway mpg is improved by a single mile at the top end.

The Accord's standard and optional driver aid tech suite continue to offer a blend of a few unique Honda features and advanced technologies that we're growing to expect from this class of vehicle.

Our model is equipped with, for example, Honda's LaneWatch camera option, which hangs a wide-angle camera beneath the passenger side mirror and gives the driver a view into the sedan's blind spot when the turn signal is activated. The camera's feed is displayed on the upper dashboard display with markers overlaid that help to distinguish distance. The system can also be manually triggered with a button on the turn signal stalk.

Honda's LaneWatch camera is nice, but it's no substitute for a good blind-spot monitoring sensor. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

LaneWatch is standard at the EX and above trim level, but the rear camera is standard across the entire line.

Supplementing the cameras is Honda's optional Honda Sensing suite of active and passive driver-aid technologies. Checking this option adds a forward-collision-warning system with an auto-braking collision-mitigation system, lane- and road-departure warning with lane-keeping steering assist and adaptive cruise control in one fell swoop.

That's a lot of safety tech in one package, but the Accord is still missing a few feature that we like to see. For example, there's no option for a blind-spot monitoring system or a rear cross-traffic alert when reversing -- as useful as LaneWatch is, it can't watch your back like these always-on systems can. The Accord also lacks a semi-autonomous parking system, which are becoming more and more prevalent at this price point.

It's surprising how a bunch of seemingly small changes has improved my opinion of the Accord. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Unique to the North American market and assembled in the automaker's Marysville, Ohio, plant, the 2016 Honda Accord starts at $22,105 for the entry-point LX model, but at that level you'll be missing the touchscreen dashboard display and, thus, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. Our EX-L model represents a good middle-of-the-road option for smartphone-toting drivers, coming in nicely equipped at $28,570 or $30,570, if you want the Honda Sensing suite of driver-aid features and onboard navigation.

At the top of the line is the Honda Accord Touring sedan with its larger V-6 engine, styling and suspension upgrades, and all of the bells and whistles for $34,580.

This price range slots in nicely between the Accord's fiercest competitors, the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata. The Sonata is the closest rival where dashboard tech is concerned, also offering Android Auto and CarPlay for this generation. Chevrolet's upcoming 2016 Malibu should also make the midsized sedan melee an interesting one when it arrives later this year.


2016 Honda Accord EX-L

Score Breakdown

Performance 8Features 8Design 7Media 8.5