Honda builds the best-selling cars in America…when it comes to sales tallied to folks like you and me. Strip what are called “fleet sales” out of Toyota Camry and Corolla volumes, and that leaves the Honda Civic and Accord sitting pretty at the top of the chart, because Honda doesn’t dump its vehicles into rental, livery, or government fleets.
No doubt, in 2018, the gulf shall widen between Honda and Toyota, even as midsize car sales shrink like George Costanza’s scrotum. That’s because the 2018 Honda Accord is completely redesigned, and if this stylishly designed, expertly trimmed, and thoughtfully configured family sedan doesn’t turn the tide for Honda’s family sedan, the segment might as well be declared dead.
To put the new 2018 Accord to the family-hauling test, I spent a week driving a Platinum White Touring model equipped with the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. No factory options are available, and the test car didn’t have any of the dealer-installed accessories, which held the price to $36,690 including the $890 destination charge.
When Honda drew back the cover on the redesigned 2018 Accord at its North American headquarters, I was there. And I thought the car looked sensational, especially in comparison to what will be its primary competitor, the new 2018 Toyota Camry.
Long, lean, and low, the new Accord’s styling gets better with time, especially when equipped with the terrific looking 19-inch wheels that are exclusive to the Touring trim level, and particularly with the Platinum White paint that shimmers in sunlight, displaying a blue undertone that makes the car sparkle.
Designers got everything on this car exactly right, with perhaps the exception of the black grille. In Touring trim, it needs something to dress it up a bit.
Inside, dashboard acreage is modest, windshield pillars are thin, and occupants are positioned forward in the cabin to maximize rear seat space. Upscale surfacing and polished metallic accents are complemented in Touring models by simulated matte-finish, open-pore wood. The overall effect is Germanic, except that the controls are easy to find and use.
This is, however, a Honda, priced from an affordable $24,460 in LX trim. That explains why, from the mid-point of the cabin down, hard plastic rules, and though it’s not glossy, it certainly doesn’t do a very good job of resisting scratches.
Every 2018 Accord except for LX trim has a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat. It is easy to get comfortable behind the steering wheel, and to stay comfortable thanks to softly padded door panel and armrest surfaces. Touring trim includes both heating and ventilation for the front seats. A heated steering wheel is available from the dealer.
Rear seat passengers will be delighted with the new Accord. Despite its rakish fastback roofline, this sedan provides cavernous quarters for your kids, your parents, or whomever you might invite along for the ride. Legroom is ridiculously good, allowing adults to cross their legs and making it much harder for little kids to kick the front seats. Touring models include heated rear outboard seating positions, too.
Not all is perfect in Comfortland. The rear seat’s outer bolsters cause awkwardness during entry and exit, passengers tumbling in and hoisting themselves out. They also wreaked havoc with my first-grader’s booster seat, forcing the base of her seat too close to the seatbelt anchor which, in turn, made every trip a waiting game while she struggled to get latched.
Equally troubling, the new Accord doesn’t offer a front passenger’s seat height adjuster. My 80-year-old father got in, and he could barely see over the door panels. My wife is almost half that age, but she hates to feel like she’s sitting on the floor. One evening during which I’d left my distance driving glasses on my desk, my wife drove the 45 minutes home and I sat in the right front seat, legs splayed to the sides and my body slouched due to the lack of thigh support.
Plus, just in case these comments aren’t making the case for front passenger’s seat height adjusters, a taller seat provides a higher hip point, and a higher hip point makes it easier to enter and exit a vehicle. If you’re older with bad knees, or you’re overweight, you’re not going to be very happy about riding shotgun in the new Accord.
Moving on, the new Accord’s dashboard and control layout represents a return to the days when Hondas were models of ergonomic clarity. Things are placed where you expect to find them. They work the way you expect them to. And the new touchscreen infotainment system is fantastic, combining smartphone-style operation with large graphics and knobs for adjusting volume and changing radio stations.
Beneath the infotainment screen sits the new Accord’s standard dual-zone automatic climate control system. A simple row of buttons is punctuated by handy knobs for adjusting temperature and fan speed, and at night, when you twist them to increase or decrease the heat and air conditioning, the knobs briefly glow red or blue to confirm your input. That’s one of many surprise-and-delight details that Honda has baked into its new Accord.
Another is that you can decide what is shown on the left gauge, which operates like a more sophisticated version of the driver information display located in the center of the instrumentation. No matter what you elect to show here, the data is conveyed in simple, high-contrast fashion, making it easy to reference with no more than a glance.
Honda has taken every opportunity to carve out nooks and crannies in which you can stash your things, and most of these spots are lined with rubber or felt in order to reduce unwanted noise and vibration. It would be nice, though, if the door panel bins were a bit larger.
Pop the trunk and you’ll find 16.7 cubic-feet of cargo space, more than in any other midsize sedan. At first, the uneven trunk floor might dismay you, but it allows owners to stow full-sized suitcases on their sides, lining three of them up between the wheel wells and a fourth between the loaded luggage and the bumper. Even with four large suitcases aboard, space remains on both sides for duffel bags or backpacks.
Great job, Honda. Right up until its time to close the trunk lid. There is no handle or slot, so to slam it shut you’ll need to put your fingers on the outside of the lid. Yuck.
Unlike with the previous Accord, I have difficulty criticizing the new Accord’s infotainment system. It is exceptionally well done, and not just because it has knobs.
For starters, if you’ve ever owned a smartphone, you can figure out how to use it without cracking open an owner’s manual. Just swipe, scroll, pinch, spread, and tap. All versions of the Accord except for the LX trim include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, as well as expanded HondaLink subscription services. And a Wi-Fi hotspot is available, though only with Touring trim.
Automatic collision notification and SOS emergency calling are free for the first year of ownership, along with the ability to remotely “wipe” stored addresses from the navigation system in the event the car is stolen. Other HondaLink features are free only for the first three months: concierge services, a stolen vehicle locator, a Find My Car function, and safe teen driving settings related to speed, curfew, and geographic boundaries.
Pairing to the infotainment system’s Bluetooth connection is simple, fast, and easy, and the voice recognition system works well. It had no trouble placing a call home, recognizing my Spanish-language street name, or helping me to find the nearest Starbucks.
If I have anything to complain about, it’s related to the real-time traffic display. With the map set to the default theme, it’s hard to see where the traffic tie-ups are. Switching to the Honda theme solves this to some degree. Also, while driving to dinner one night, the traffic data took a long time to update and load, and we wound up sitting in a freeway traffic jam rather than taking a back road from where we live to the restaurant.
Road sign recognition is standard for all Accords, along with LED headlights with automatic high-beam operation. Since the road sign recognition technology is not tied in to a navigation system’s GPS and database, it sometimes tells the driver the wrong speed for a given portion of a trip.
Honda also offers a head-up display for the new 2018 Accord. Easily visible even when wearing polarized sunglasses, it can be programmed to display specific data and it shows driving instructions when you’ve got a destination set in the navigation system. However, it also sometimes shows erroneous speed limit information, once telling me the speed limit was 40 mph and not 65 mph on a local freeway, and insisting that it was OK for me to drive 45 mph after turning in to my residential neighborhood.
Touring trim includes wireless device charging, the pad contained in the covered storage bin forward of the transmission controls, where the USB port is contained. You can opt for accessory USB charging ports for the back seat; they’re installed beneath the rear air conditioning vents on the back of the center console.
Another thoughtful feature is the Walk Away Auto Lock function that is included with the Accord’s keyless entry system. Exit the car, walk away, and you’ll never worry about whether it’s locked or not. And just in case you are, with the right HondaLink subscription you can check a smartphone app to double check.
For 2018, HondaSensing is standard for every Accord. This collection of driver assistance and collision avoidance systems includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation.
Unfortunately, my test vehicle was an early-build, pre-production vehicle that Honda was sending to the crusher after its tour of duty in the press fleet. The HondaSensing system in my particular vehicle was behaving in an unbecoming manner. Therefore, I cannot share an evaluation of its effectiveness.
Upgrade to EX, EX-L, or Touring trim, and your new Accord includes a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. This replaces the old LaneWatch setup, which used a right-mirror-mounted camera to show the driver a video feed on the infotainment system display of what was along the right side of the car.
If you’re familiar with my work, you know I hated LaneWatch. First, it worked only for the right side of the car. Second, it forced three different reference points while driving. Third, the camera was susceptible to damage if another vehicle hit the right mirror, such as when the car was parked on the left curb of a one-way street.
So yeah, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is huge improvement. It needs to be available on the Sport trim level, though.
Check the crash-test ratings for the new Accord, and you’ll discover that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the car top marks across the board, with the exception of an “Acceptable” rather than “Good” rating for headlight performance.
As this review was written, the federal government had not yet performance testing on the new Accord.
Most new Accords will have a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making a respectable 192 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 192 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,600 rpm to 5,000 rpm. That kind of power from such small displacement is impressive. Too bad it’s paired with a continuously variable transmission (a 6-speed manual gearbox is offered for Sport trim).
My test car had the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual is also available with this engine, but only in Sport trim). It generates 252 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 273 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,500 rpm to 4,000 rpm. And it is begging to be hooked up to an all-wheel-drive system.
Why’s that? The Accord Touring’s 19-inch front wheels can’t cope with that much thrust.
Floor the car away from an intersection, and the rubber can’t maintain traction, the front end skittering a bit to the right as the drivetrain struggles to get the power to the pavement. Unquestionably, this is riotous, adolescent fun. But with all-wheel drive, the Accord would be an absolute rocket.
Careful modulation of the accelerator pedal controls this to a large degree, the car effortlessly zooming about. The 10-speed automatic is nothing short of terrific, and when you choose Sport mode, subtle downshift rev matching accompanies braking.
Transmission controls are yanked right out of the Acura parts bin, a collection of buttons and a reverse switch located to the left of the cup holders on the center console. Don’t spill your double-shot caramel macchiato whip: you’ll make them all sticky and hard to use. Paddle shifters are also present, and they’re actually useful, though sometimes hard to find if you shuffle steer like I do.
On my standard testing loop, the Accord Touring 2.0T returned 24.5 mpg. The EPA rating is 26 mpg in combined driving.
Historically, handling has been an Accord hallmark, though Honda’s sophisticated suspensions have also delivered a rather taut ride quality. The company attempts to address this for high-end Accord buyers with a new adaptive damping suspension, which is standard with and exclusive to Touring trim.
In Normal and Econ modes, the adaptive damping suspension does a great job of smoothing out the ride quality. However, in my opinion, it allows way too much front-end float – we’re talking Buick levels here, except for that modern Buicks with Hi-Per Strut suspensions don’t do this anymore.
Sport mode stiffens things up a bit, but even then there is still too much bobbing happening up front, and more body roll in corners than is expected from an adaptive setup. Though the Accord is athletic and enjoyable to drive, you are constantly wondering why engineers tuned the suspension so that the car’s front end mimics a bobblehead toy. I’d really like to try an Accord Sport, without adaptive damping, to see how it rides and handles.
Grip from the Touring’s P235/40R19 Michelin Primacy MXM4 tires is excellent, coping with hard acceleration notwithstanding. Road noise is an issue on anything but perfect pavement, though, long an Accord characteristic that evidently continues in the new model.
Steering is a delight. Responsive, accurate, and featuring smooth effort levels throughout the range of motion, the wheel feels solid and secure on center without any dead spots in terms of feel or assist. Very little correction is necessary on the highway, either. Sport mode adjusts the effort levels, and while it feels just a little unnatural at first, you quickly acclimate.
Braking is outstanding. On the most brutal portion of my test loop, a mountainous descent on a writhing ribbon of road from near 2,000 feet of elevation to sea level, they suffered just a hint of fade. And while the panic stop was lengthier than anticipated, the antilock braking system engaged and the car stopped without a problem. Generally, Acura and Honda products do not perform well when it comes to brake fade resistance, so this represents an improvement.
Perfectly timed to shore up Honda’s fortunes in the family sedan segment, the redesigned Accord delivers style, space, safety, and sophistication in a dynamically enjoyable package. This is nothing short of an excellent car, desirably designed, engineered, and packaged, and Honda can easily resolve the handful of things that I think require improvement here.
But, is this a new standard bearer, the bar that must be vaulted by the competition?
In some ways, yes. In other ways, no.
Ford is rumored to be pondering the cancellation of the Fusion, which I happen to think is one of the best midsize cars you can buy. It offers something for everyone, yet the company struggles to sell it.
Mazda is adding a turbocharged engine option to the Mazda6, which is an entry-luxury sport sedan masquerading as a mainstream mid-sizer.
Hyundai and Kia are both competitive in this space with the Sonata and Optima, and offer a compelling value equation. Subaru’s Legacy has standard all-wheel drive. The Volkswagen Passat feels just as roomy as the Honda does.
Finally, Buick is fielding 5-door hatch and all-wheel-drive wagon versions of the redesigned Regal this year.
Certainly, the new Accord will outsell them all, but what about the redesigned 2018 Camry, the Accord’s chief competitor? Personally, I like the Honda all kinds of better. And if enough people share that opinion, Honda will no longer need to qualify its claim as America’s favorite family car.
2018 Honda Accord Photos
2018 Honda Accord List
2018 Honda Accord First Drive
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