The reliability of sunrise - and more.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price (MSRP) $15,350
As Tested (MSRP) $24,990
Even though it was already arguably the best mid-size sedan you could buy, the Honda Accord enters 2001 with a longer list of standard equipment, plus improvements in safety and appearance.
What hasn't changed is Accord's fundamental character: It is still one car that does everything well. The interior is roomy and comfortable, the chassis is responsive and well damped, the brakes are excellent, and both of its VTEC engines-a 3.0-liter V6 and a 2.3-liter four-cylinder-are incredibly smooth. It is a remarkably easy car to drive and every aspect of it is user friendly. Not surprisingly, Accord has been one of America's best-selling cars for the past 10 years.
But we suspect that most people buy Accords for their legendary reliability. An entire generation has grown up with Hondas, and 26 years of Accords have proven the model to be a safe choice, a car that a family can buy and more or less forget, turning their attention back to the other concerns of a daily life.
For 2001, all Accords feature Honda's patented dual-stage inflator airbag technology, which automatically adjusts the deployment of the front passenger airbag based on the severity of the crash and whether seatbelts are being worn. A side airbag system is standard on EX models or with the V6, and optional on four-cylinder DX and LX models. The system is capable of deactivating the passenger's side-airbag if a matrix of seven sensors determines the passenger is too small or out of position.
Two body styles are available, a four-door sedan and a sporty coupe. They are nearly identical from an engineering standpoint, though the Coupe features some performance tweaks designed to make it more fun to drive
Trim levels and pricing for Sedan and Coupe are nearly identical. Each comes in LX ($18,540) and EX ($21,050) trim levels. Only the sedan is available as a DX base model ($15,350). Last year's Special Edition seems to have vanished from Honda's 2001 literature, but its key features-anti-lock brakes (ABS) and alloy wheels-remain available as an option package for the four-cylinder LX. ABS is standard on EX and the LX V6.
Accord LX, SE and EX come with Honda's 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 150 horsepower. DX comes with a 135-horsepower version (lower compression ratio and sans-VTEC) of the same engine. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard on all four-cylinder models; an automatic transmission adds $800. EX models come standard with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and offer leather seating surfaces for $1250. For 2001, the leather package also includes steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
LX V-6 ($21,950) and EX V-6 ($24,550) are powered by a 200-horsepower V6; both come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission and ABS. EX V-6 comes loaded with leather seating surfaces, woodgrain trim, automatic climate control and a programmable HomeLink universal remote control. For 2001, a 4-way power passenger seat joins the 8-way power driver's seat.
Accord was completely redesigned for 1998, and the 2001 sedan is significantly freshened, with a new engine hood and fascia up front and a new deck lid and tail lights in the rear. The overall effect is even more sharply chiseled than before. Accord still features an understated, refined appearance, but with an aggressive stance that gives it the air of a European sedan. The nose is short, and the hood and cowl are low, which complement the glassy cabin to provide excellent visibility from inside.
Honda designed the Coupe to have its own identity, enhanced for 2001 by a more aggressive look to the bumpers, a body-colored front grille, and new alloy wheel designs. As before, only its headlights and door handles are shared with the sedan. The Coupe is a handsome car, and a good choice for busy executives who want a car that is both sporty and practical.
Honda used airline business-class seating as a model for the Accord interior, which is a marvel of space efficiency. The front seats are wide and comfortable and there's a surprising amount of room for rear seat passengers. While pre-1998 Accords were considered big compacts, the current-generation Accord is a true midsize sedan. Generous front and rear door openings make it easy to get in and out of the car. It's also easy to load cargo because the trunk opening is large and offers real luggage capacity.
The instrument panel features a two-tone finish with big gauges that are highly legible. Features associated with luxury cars abound, particularly on the high-level models. Leather interiors are available in light tones that are warm and inviting. 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, designed to quickly cool the car down after getting in on a hot day, uses an air filtration system to keep pollen out and reduce diesel fumes from buses and trucks.
Accord is an easy car to drive. It corners well, with steering that's light and precise. Handling on bumpy roads is incredibly good; a series of big bumps in the middle of a turn hardly affects the Accord's direction at all. The suspension damps out the bumps and keeps the tires planted on the road. This handling balance is a benefit of the Accord's strong chassis and double-wishbone front and rear suspensions. At the handling limit, it tends toward understeer - the front tires lose grip before the rear tires. The Michelin tires on our test car were quiet, and their ride quality flawless.
Accord EX V-6 feels lighter on its feet than the Toyota Camry or Chevrolet Malibu. Blasting up and down a rough, twisting back road, we explored the limits of handling, power and braking. The Camry offered superb damping over the rippled pavement and the Malibu surprised us with its handling prowess. The Accord provided the sharpest transient response - turning left, then right, then left again. The Accord also had the best brakes.
In cruise mode, the 3.0-liter V6 engine just purrs along, barely audible. It's so smooth and so quiet that sometimes a glance at the tachometer is required to confirm that it's running. Stomp on the throttle and it growls with the authority of a free-breathing cylinder head. This engine delivers lots of power for merging into traffic or entertaining its driver. A single-overhead-cam V6 , it is equipped with Honda's VTEC (Variable valve Timing and valve lift Electronic Control) system, and tuned to deliver optimum torque over a broad rev range. For 2001, all V6 Accords come with Honda's TCS traction control.
While the V6 provides lots of gusto, most people order the 2.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine. It's smooth, powerful and efficient, generating 150 horsepower 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.
All 2001 Accords sold nationwide meet or exceed California's Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standard, regardless of engine. Honda also sells an Accord EX ($23,100) that meets California's demanding Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standard, the most stringent in the world. SULEV represents an 86 percent reduction in hydrocarbons over LEV; the California Air Resources Board says a SULEV engine emits only 2.3 pounds of ozone-forming hydrocarbons during 100,000 miles of driving - about the same as spilling a quart of gasoline.
Honda's Accord sets the standard for mid-size sedans. It is a great family car, at or near the top of its class in every measure. Accord offers a smooth, quiet ride, and an attractive interior with front and rear seats that are roomy and comfortable. Its handling inspires confidence and its VTEC engines are smooth, powerful and efficient. To those ingredients are added Honda's reputation for quality, durability and reliability.
For these reasons, the Accord is extremely popular. Don't expect to own the only one in your neighborhood: Honda sold more than 400,000 of them in 1999. And don't expect bargain prices, because this vote of confidence puts dealers in the driver's seat. Even so, those who buy a Honda Accord should enjoy many years of pleasant, trouble-free motoring - an important quality for a great family sedan.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.