Here they are, the two most popular cars in the United States of America: the 2014 Honda Accord and the 2014.5 Toyota Camry. The Toyota outsells the Honda, and the Camry is also more likely to be found in an airport rental car lot than the Accord, but you just want to know which one of these 4-door midsize family sedans is better. We're going to help you decide, but first let's take a look at what's changed for these cars in 2014.
2014 Honda Accord
Honda added an Accord Hybrid and an Accord Plug-In Hybrid to the lineup for 2014, the former rated to get 50 miles per gallon and the latter returning 115 mpge. Otherwise, aside from new seat fabric in the base LX model, the Accord Sedan is unchanged following a complete redesign in 2013.
2014.5 Toyota Camry
Notice the half-year designation for the Camry? That's because Toyota made changes designed to improve the car's crash-test performance, effective with models built after December 2013. Toyota also expanded the popular SE trim level to include new SE Sport and SE Hybrid variants.
Based primarily on owner complaints about the Accord's new touchscreen audio system, Consumer Reports says that the Honda is expected to provide average reliability at best. Comparatively, a new Camry is expected to provide average reliability at worst, with the Camry Hybrid model receiving the highest possible reliability prediction.
J.D. Power data reflects a downgrade to the Accord's quality rating with the 2013 redesign but predicts, based on the strength of the car's historical dependability, that the Honda will return better than average reliability over time. The Camry matches the Accord's predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power but receives a significantly higher award for quality.
Based on the available data from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power, the reliability victory goes to the 2014.5 Toyota Camry.
The story changes when it comes to fuel economy. Most versions of the 2014 Honda Accord are sold with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with an available continuously variable transmission (CVT) that replaces the standard 6-speed manual gearbox in the LX, Sport and EX models. The CVT comes standard in the Accord EX-L model. In combined driving, the 4-cylinder engine returns between 28 mpg and 30 mpg, with the CVT proving to be the most fuel-efficient transmission.
Additionally, the Accord's 3.5-liter V6 engine, optional for the EX-L model and standard for the Touring model, features Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology. The VCM system shuts down engine cylinders to conserve fuel when the car is cruising on the highway. The result is 26 mpg in combined driving.
Honda also offers the 2014 Accord Hybrid, equipped with a sophisticated gas-electric hybrid powertrain with electric-only, hybrid and gas-only driving modes. The fuel economy rating is 47 mpg in combined driving, nearly matching the Toyota Prius, which is currently the most fuel-efficient hybrid model on the market, and handily eclipsing the 2014.5 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which gets between 40 mpg and 41 mpg depending on the selected trim levels.
If that's not good enough, the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid version is designed to travel 10 miles on electricity before switching over to traditional hybrid operation. It takes three hours to recharge the car using a standard household outlet.
Toyota's powertrain offerings are not as sophisticated as those installed in the Honda. The standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is less powerful and less fuel efficient, returning 28 mpg in combined driving with its standard 6-speed automatic transmission. Similarly, the Camry's optional 3.5-liter V6 is rated to make less power and to get lower fuel economy than the Accord, with the Environmental Protection Agency estimating 25 mpg in combined driving.
The biggest difference, however, is the disparity between the two gas-electric hybrid models. Not only is the Camry Hybrid's powertrain less sophisticated and just barely more powerful, but it returns no more than 41 mpg in combined driving, well short of the Accord's rating.
With this data as evidence, we give the nod for superior fuel efficiency to the 2014 Honda Accord.
When it comes to crashworthiness, the 2014 Accord and 2014.5 version of the Camry are well matched, with the Toyota performing slightly better in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing and the Accord proving slightly safer in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing. The main difference is that the Accord EX-L and Touring models qualify for a Top Safety Pick+ designation this year, thanks to their standard forward collision warning system, whereas the Camry does not because it offers no crash-avoidance systems.
It is important to note that only the 2014.5 Camry models, built after December of 2013, qualify for a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS. Prior to January of 2014, the Camry's small overlap frontal-impact crash-test result is Poor.
Another difference between the two models is that the Accord LX includes an expanded-view driver's side mirror that helps the driver to see vehicles in the left blind spot, a single-angle reversing camera and hands-free text messaging capability. The Accord and Camry take different approaches with their available blind spot monitoring systems. The Camry is available with Safety Connect services including Automatic Collision Notification, whereas the Accord's available HondaLink services don't offer this feature just yet. Accords can, however, be fitted with a lane departure warning system, a forward collision warning system and a multi-angle panoramic view reversing camera -- all items that are unavailable for the Camry.
Toyota certainly deserves recognition for making mid-year upgrades designed to improve crash protection, but the Accord remains the safer choice when considering crash-test performance and available safety technologies.
The Honda's continuously variable transmission and Variable Cylinder Management systems, its sophisticated gas-electric and plug-in hybrid powertrains, and its standard and available safety features tip the scales in the Accord's favor when it comes to technology.
The only advantages in the Toyota Camry's column are a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen audio system (which, depending on how you feel about such things, could actually represent a demerit), more comprehensive smartphone pairing and applications technology, and its Safety Connect services program.
According to ALG, both the Accord and the Camry receive a 5-star rating for their ability to hold their value over time, and both get the highest possible rating from Consumer Reports for total cost of ownership. Sticker pricing is about the same, though the Camry Hybrid is less expensive -- rightly so given its less sophisticated technology and lower fuel economy ratings. Lease rates for the Accord are slightly more favorable but not enough to make a big difference, and the Camry's free scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 25,000 miles of ownership helps to offset marginally higher payments.
At this point, you might conclude that the Accord and Camry are evenly matched in terms of value. They aren't. Toyota is more aggressive with rebates and other incentives, effectively pushing prices down by hundreds or thousands of dollars. Plus, it is offered in a discounted Camry L trim level, while the least expensive Accord is a more richly configured LX model. Therefore, the Camry represents a better value than the Accord -- but by the slightest of margins, because the Accord's superior fuel economy does erode the value of the Toyota's extra discounts.
The two best-selling cars in America are, generally speaking, well matched in terms of pros and cons. Choosing one over the other is, quite literally, a matter of preference and priorities. For the purposes of this contest, however, we name the 2014 Accord the better vehicle when it comes to the things that most consumers claim are most important when choosing a new car.