Smooth, comfortable, practical, reliable.
Base Price $15,616
As Tested $24,794
The Honda Accord is arguably the best mid-size sedan available. It does everything well. Completely redesigned last year, this sixth-generation Accord is a much better car than its predecessor - and that was a great car. The interior is roomy and comfortable, the suspension is responsive and well damped, the brakes are excellent, and both brand-new VTEC engines-a 3.0-liter V6 and a 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder-are incredibly smooth.
This is a car that a family can buy, then quickly turn their attention to other concerns. Reliability should not be an issue. It is, after all, a Honda. It is a remarkably easy car to drive and every aspect of it is user friendly. It's one of the best-selling cars in America, competing for top honors with the Ford Taurus and Toyota Camry.
The Accord was completely redesigned for 1998. Sharp edges and rounded corners lend an understated, refined look, while an aggressive stance gives it the air of a European sedan. The nose is short, the hood and cowl are low, which complement the glassy cabin to provide excellent visibility from inside.
Two body styles are available, a four-door sedan and a sporty coupe.
The Accord Coupe shares all the wonderfulness of the new sedan, but boasts unique styling and some performance tweaks designed to make it more fun to drive. While the previous Accord Coupe looked like a two-door version of the Sedan, Honda designed the 1998 model to have its own identity. Only the headlights and door handles are shared with the Sedan. Indeed, the Coupe is a handsome car, and a good choice for busy executives who want something practical and sporty. And it costs about the same as the sedan.
But we're here to talk about the Accord Sedan, which comes in five models: $15,616 DX, $18,805 LX and $21,315 EX come equipped with 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engines, while the $22,115 LX V-6 and $24,715 EX V-6 are powered by a 200-horsepower, aluminum alloy, 3.0-liter V6.
The V6 models come standard with four-speed automatic transmissions. The other models come standard with a five-speed manual gearbox; an automatic is an $800 option.
The Inside Story
Honda used airline business-class seating as a model for the Accord interior and it's a marvel of space efficiency. Amazingly, the new interior is substantially roomier than last year's edition, but the exterior is just slightly larger. The front seats are wider and more comfortable than before, but the big news is in back where there's substantially more room for rear seat passengers. This makes the new Accord a true midsize sedan, whereas before it was considered a big compact.
Bigger front and rear door openings make it easier to get in and out of the car. It's also easier to load cargo because the trunk opening is bigger. The trunk itself is four inches wider for increased cargo capacity.
Everything inside the car has been redesigned. A new instrument panel features a two-tone finish with big gauges that are easy to read. Gone finally are the little silver metal switches that have locked doors for millions of Honda products, replaced with more aesthetically appealing plastic ones that match the interior.
For 1999, Honda improved the Accord's interior with new seat fabric. The LX V-6 comes standard with a leather interior and the light tones of ours was warm and inviting.
Features associated with luxury cars abound, particularly on the high-level models. Sun visors offer sliding extensions, a HomeLink remote control system can be programmed to open garage doors, turn on house lights and turn off security systems. The air conditioning system, redesigned to reduce cool-down times by 30 percent, uses an air filtration system to keep pollen out and reduce diesel fumes from buses and trucks.
Ride & Drive
This car is incredibly easy to drive.
In an informal back-to-back test in Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley, we discovered the Accord EX V-6 feels lighter on its feet than the Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu or Ford Taurus. Blasting up and down a rough, knarly little backroad, we explored the limits of handling, power and braking. The Camry offered superb damping over the ripply pavement and the Malibu surprised us with its handling prowess. The Taurus seemed out of its element, heavy and ponderous. But the Accord provided the sharpest transient response - turning left, then right, then left again. The Accord also had the best brakes.
The Accord corners well with steering that's light and precise. At the limit, it tends toward understeer - the front tires lose grip before the rear tires. (That's the right suspension tuning for most people, though serious driving enthusiasts may find it a little limiting.) The Accord offers incredibly good handling on bumpy roads; a series of big bumps in the middle of a turn hardly affects it. The suspension damps out the bumps and keeps the tires planted on the road. The tires, by the way, (P205/65VR15 Michelin MXV4) are quiet and the ride quality is flawless.
This handling balance is a benefit of the Accord's strong chassis and double-wishbone front and rear suspensions, which were completely redesigned for 1998.
In cruise mode, the V6 engine just purrs along, barely audible. Stomp on the throttle and the VTEC cam setup growls with authority. The 3.0-liter V6 is equipped with Honda's VTEC (Variable valve Timing and valve lift Electronic Control) system is tuned to deliver optimum torque over a broad rev range. It's so smooth and so quiet that sometimes a glance at the tachometer is required to confirm that it's running. It provides lots of power for merging into traffic or entertaining its driver.
It's possible to save some coin by ordering the 2.3-liter VTEC inline 4-cylinder engine, which was completely redesigned for 1998. It produces more power, less vibration and better fuel efficiency than its predecessor. It's so clean that the Accord EX and LX with automatic transmissions meet California's demanding ultra-low emissions vehicle (ULEV) standards; an LX automatic gets 30 mpg on the highway. Generating 150 hp at 5700 rpm, an Accord equipped with this engine is a great package that deserves consideration by anyone shopping for a roomy mid-size car that excels in quality, durability, reliability, smoothness, ride quality, practicality and fuel efficiency. Did we leave anything out?
Honda's new Accord sets the standard for mid-size sedans. It is a great family sedan, at or near the top of its class in every measure. Accord offers a smooth, quiet ride quality, handling that inspires confidence, and an attractive interior with front and rear seats that are roomy and comfortable. To those ingredients are added Honda's reputation for quality, durability and reliability.
For those reasons, the Accord is extremely popular. Don't expect to own the only one in your neighborhood because Honda sells more than 375,000 Accords a year in the U.S. And don't expect bargain prices because this vote of confidence puts dealers in the driver's seat.
Even so, those who buy the 1999 Honda Accord should enjoy many years of pleasant, trouble-free motoring. And those are important qualities for great family sedans.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.