2004 Honda Accord

Dazzling performance meets everyday economy.

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author photo by Sam Moses February 2004
Base Price (MSRP) - $15,900
As Tested (MSRP) - $28,960

The 2004 Honda Accord is arguably the best midsize car sold in America today. It's certainly one of the best-selling cars and has been for the past decade. Honda redesigned and re-engineered the Accord last year, and the results are dazzling.

The Accord sedans combine high technology and high quality with everyday economy of operation and keen attention to detail. The popular LX and EX models are terrific cars with comfort and convenience features that make for great daily drivers. Order the leather interior, and the EX becomes an affordable luxury sedan. The four-cylinder VTEC engine is powerful and responsive, delivering strong acceleration performance for passing. The Accord is also available with a powerful V6 engine, which adds another level of sports appeal.

A gorgeous coupe is available, featuring sporty styling that's unique from the sedan. The LX Coupe starts below $20,000 and makes for a quick, no-hassle, high-quality, sporty, two-door coupe that's great for commuting. Add the V6 and leather and it's an executive expressmobile for fast trackers, an affordable alternative to a BMW 330i. For enthusiast drivers, there's the Accord Coupe EX V-6 MT, equipped with the V6 and a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox that will blow your preconceived notions about the Accord right off the road. If that isn't enough, a new Factory Performance Package has been developed for the V6 Coupe.

Model year 2004 brings a few new features to the line. XM Satellite Radio comes standard on EX-L and EX V-6 models. Side curtain airbags are available on EX models for improved head protection. A new intelligent climate-control system is available. The Accord offers high fuel economy and low emissions; 2004 brings partial-zero-emissions (PZEV) versions of the Accord to four Northeastern states as well as California.

The Accord regularly competes with the Toyota Camry for the title of best-selling car in America. Honda sold more than 414,000 Accords in 2002 and sales in 2003 were up as of the third quarter.

Model Lineup

The 2004 Honda Accord comes in nearly two dozen different combinations when all the engines, body styles, transmissions and trim levels are taken into account. Choosing one is easier than that makes it sound, however. The first choice is to decide whether you want a two-door coupe or four-door sedan. The second choice is whether you want a V6 or four-cylinder engine and whether you want a manual or automatic transmission. The third choice is whether you want cloth or leather upholstery.

Sedans are available in DX, LX, and EX trim. The DX ($15,900) comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that was introduced last year. Buyers can choose a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission ($800). The LX ($19,300) and EX ($21,700) sedans add a higher level of standard equipment. The EX offers leather upholstery and a DVD navigation system as options. The LX V-6 ($23,300) and EX V-6 ($26,400) sedans come standard with the V6, automatic and more luxury equipment. Leather is standard on the EX V6.

Coupes are available in LX ($19,400) and EX ($21,800) trim and come standard with the four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The automatic transmission ($800) is optional. The LX V6 coupe ($23,400) comes with the V6 and automatic. The EX V6 coupe ($26,500) is a performance-oriented model, and comes with either the five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission as a no-cost option. Six-speed coupes also come with a cross-brace between the front shock towers. The new Factory Performance Package for the EX Coupe V6 combines a lowered suspension with an aero body kit and a chrome exhaust extension, all dealer-installed. For automatic models, the package includes the same 17-inch wheels and tires that are standard with the six-speed manual.

Safety: Anti-lock brakes are standard on all Accord models. EX V6 models come with traction control. Side-impact airbags ($250) are optional on the four-cylinder LX, and standard on the LX V6 and EX. Side-curtain airbags ($300) are optional on the four-cylinder EX, standard on the EX-L, LX V-6, and EX V-6.

For 2004, Accord models with leather also have XM Satellite Radio. Dealers can add an MP3/Windows Media Player, a DVD rear-seat entertainment system, and a hands-free cell phone.


The Accord sedan and coupe share no sheet metal whatsoever, although their faces do look alike (partly because the one exterior feature they do share is their angular headlamps). Completely redesigned for 2003, the sharpened noses of the Accord sedan and coupe are reminiscent of an Acura RSX. The corners and sides of both bodies are carefully sculpted with a combination of concave and convex surfaces, in an attempt to achieve a muscular and agile look, with subtle and unique three-dimensional window glass, also intended to reduce wind noise. The aerodynamically efficient side-view mirrors are one of the results of wind tunnel testing.

The sedan's drag coefficient (a measure of how easily it moves through the air) is 0.30, significantly better than the previous model's 0.33. This latest Accord is also longer in wheelbase, and wider and taller overall than its predecessor, for more interior room. Yet it looks lower, thanks in part to its sleeker, raked-back windshield.

The coupe is a completely different beast. Its flanks and rear deck are even more shapely, flowing naturally and gracefully from the roofline. It yields a very aerodynamic 0.29 drag coefficient (compared to 0.32 for the pre-2003 coupe).

The Accord's doors are built using a new and unique method that makes them very light and strong. You can clearly hear the quality in the sound when you close them. You feel quality, also, in the extremely light touch required to open the trunk.

Honda engineers are particularly proud of the fact that all Accord models achieved five-star safety ratings for driver and front-seat passenger in the government's frontal crash test. Additionally, the coupe earned a five-star rating for front and rear-seat passengers in the side-impact test, even without the optional side-impact airbags.

All Accord coupes and the majority of sedans are assembled in Honda's Marysville, Ohio, plant, though some of the sedans come from Japan and Mexico.

2004 Honda Accord
2004 Honda Accord

Interior Features

The Honda Accord's interior is smooth, firm, and quiet. For starters, it comes with great seats.

The seats in the sedan are generously wide and tall, with springs and urethane padding designed to reduce vibration. The driver's seat provides a one-with-the-car feel with good side support. It features a manual height adjustment or power adjustments on premium models. It jacks up plenty high for even the shortest drivers and offers good headroom for taller drivers. Front legroom is generous, also. A tilt-and-telescope steering wheel is standard even on the base DX.

The seats in the coupe seem a bit different and feel even better than those in the sedan. You sit lower in the coupe. The side bolsters are more aggressive providing a more secure fit at the torso. The cloth looked classier in black. The light-colored cloth looked like it would show dirt over time. The leather is nicer than the cloth.

The sedan's bench seat is roomy and comfortable, especially for two people with the center armrest flipped out. The back seat offers decent support, though it's fairly flat. Rear-seat legroom is slightly better than in the Nissan Altima, but the Toyota Camry offers an inch more.

The Accord's trunk is smaller than that of other mid-size sedans, but the flat trunk floor makes loading easy. The Accord's trunk measures 14 cubic feet, compared with the Camry's nearly 17 cubic feet and the Altima's 15.6. The coupe's trunk is slightly smaller, holding less than 13 cubic feet.

The excellent, clear analog instrumentation comprises large faces and LED illumination, another feature previously found only in higher-priced cars. A big speedometer in the center dominates the instrument panel. Automatic dual-zone climate control is avaiable on EX models. The switchgear, primarily three big dials located in the center of the dash, is simple, if not particularly attractive. Honda's interior fit and finish is good. The available bird's-eye wood grain plastic trim looked interesting, the faux carbon fiber trim looked nice, and the brushed aluminum trim wasn't bad either.

Interior space is used efficiently, with the audio, climate and optional navigation system controls integrated into a single unit. This frees up space for exceptional cabin storage, including a good-sized glovebox, a big center console, a bin under the audio system that will hold 12 CDs, and door pockets deep and wide enough for a purse.

Attention to detail shows in every corner: coinholders, cellphone cord hooks, grab handles over every door, console lights, power outlets, sunglasses holders, sliding armrests for different-sized arms, convenient and versatile access to the trunk from the rear seat, a remote entry that opens or closes all four windows (LX and up). Up to eight cupholders are provided; a couple of them are big enough to hold a liter-sized water bottle yet feature spring-loaded prongs that can grip a paper coffee cup. But if you could distill this attention down to one example, it would be the solid, pleasurable and unique sound of the turn-signal click.

All three sound systems feature stuff like two-band compression and five-point parametric equalization. LX V-6 models and above come with a six-disc in-dash CD changer, a 180-watt amplifier, and four twin-neodymium speakers with polypropylene cone woofers and soft dome tweeters. But here's the real-world test: We took the V6 coupe six-speed on a flat-out blast through the Malibu hills, engine revving to redline, windows wide open, CD celebrating Bob Marley, and even with all that exterior noise, max volume on the sound system wasn't necessary for the full effect.

The available XM Satellite Radio is a great feature to have when traveling, because the stations don't change as you drive across the country. You still get ads, but fewer and less obnoxious ads than what you hear on FM. XM Satellite Radio is nice to have around town, also, for listening to the 24-hour news and sports broadcasts, or for staying tuned into your favorite types of music (classical, jazz, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s).

The navigation system is programmed with some 8 million destinations. It offers a voice-activation feature. Say, "Find nearest Japanese food" to the dashboard, and it will guide you there. Even better, if you know the phone number of a business establishment you're trying to reach, it will take you there. Even better, you can press the buttons and avoid one-way conversations with your car. Packaged with the navigation system is Honda's new intelligent dual climate control, which factors date, time, latitude, longitude, and vehicle direction into its calculations, to keep both driver and passengers as cozy as possible.

2004 Honda Accord
2004 Honda Accord

Driving Impressions

Regardless of whether you choose a cloth Accord sedan four-cylinder automatic or a sporty coupe with the V6, you're getting an outstanding automobile.

We think the four-cylinder Accord sedan is the best car in its price class. It strikes a perfect balance between ride and handling. The Accord rides more smoothly and more comfortably than the Nissan Altima. Yet its handling is controlled. The Accord feels more poised and handles better than the Toyota Camry. Its suspension smooths out bumps and ripples in the road, but isn't so mushy that your back-seat passengers get motion sickness. When pushed hard, it's balanced and fun to drive. We found it inspired confidence at high speeds on winding roads. It's smooth and supremely stable.

The four-cylinder engine is smooth and powerful, with a high-quality, mature feel. It's strongest at higher rpm, but never gets buzzy. The Accord's 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine delivers 160 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 161 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. It's one of the most sophisticated four-cylinder engines in the automotive industry, equipped with Honda's new i-VTEC valvetrain, which means the valve timing is continually adjusted according to demands. It's the same system used on the racy Acura RSX and Honda Civic Si. It's responsive at all speeds, delivering strong torque over its entire rpm range. (Torque is that force that propels you away from intersections and up hills.) Bottom line: Stand on the gas and this baby goes. Yet it delivers excellent fuel mileage (24/34 with the automatic, 26/34 with the manual) with ultra-low emissions.

The five-speed automatic transmission is incredibly smooth. The drive-by-wire throttle is programmed to cut the gas during upshifts, and its timing is perfect. It's not often that the performance of an automatic transmission is so tight that it stands out.

The five-speed manual gearbox is especially wonderful. The gear ratios are perfect and the shifting is buttery smooth. It shifts beautifully, and seems to love aggressive downshifts. Acceleration with the automatic transmission was decent. With the five-speed manual, acceleration was strong, although you still need to downshift to keep the revs above 4000 if you want to accelerate quickly.

If you haven't driven a V6 Accord since 2002, you'll be surprised by the performance of the new Honda V6 that appeared with last-year's all-new car. The new V6 is substantially lighter and more powerful than the old engine. It's rated 240 horsepower and 219 pounds-feet of torque. Its torque range is broader, and begins at relatively low rpm. And it gets better EPA fuel economy numbers (21/30 mpg) with an automatic transmission.

The V6 delivers 80 more horsepower than the four-cylinder engine with a penalty of only 4 mpg on the highway. The Accord is a care-free car. Both engines run on regular fuel. And there's no scheduled maintenance for at least 105,000 miles, except for oil changes, and even those are required only every 10,000 miles. It's also a clean car: LX and EX four-cylinder automatic sedans are available in California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine that are rated as PZEV cars ($150), which essentially have zero evaporative emissions.

The EX V-6 MT coupe is particularly fun to drive. The smooth six-speed gearbox is especially wonderful. It shifts beautifully, and loves aggressive downshifts that would cause many other gearboxes to cry abuse. Obviously, Honda spent great attention to detail in designing the gear ratios and synchronizers. The six-speed model features a special resonator in the intake system, put there just for your listening pleasure. Get with the gas and the engine responds with an enthusiastic growl that's music to the ears. You simply don't expect a Honda Accord to give you this kind of high-performance, sport-driving pleasure, but the V6 coupe redefines the Accord.

ABS is standard on all models with four-wheel-disc brakes with EBD (electronic brake distribution) standard on all but the DX and LX. (ABS helps the driver maintain steering control under hard braking; EBD distributes braking force to the tires with the best grip, improving stopping performance.) The V6 coupe stops nicely, and the pedal feel is firm and sensitive. The brakes faded after driving it hard on a twisty uphill section, however. (Fade occurs when brakes get hot and results in diminished braking performance.)

Not surprisingly, the coupe's handling is well balanced. The Accord's double-wishbone suspension, front and rear, has been engineered to reduce fore and aft body motions under acceleration and deceleration, and to provide flat cornering. It's also been tuned to deliver a sporty, European feel.

2004 Honda Accord


The Honda Accord delivers high levels of quality and performance and ranks at the top of class among mid-size, medium-priced cars.

The four-cylinder models deliver everything that has made the Accord the best-selling car of the last decade, while raising the level of what it means to be a modern four-cylinder sedan. Accord V6 models deliver sporty performance.

Model Line Overview

Base Price (MSRP) $15,900
As Tested (MSRP) $28,960

Model lineup: Honda Accord DX Sedan ($15,900); LX Sedan ($19,300); EX Sedan ($21,700); LX Sedan V6 ($23,300); EX Sedan V6 ($26,400); LX Coupe ($19,400); EX Coupe ($21,800); LX Coupe V6 ($23,400); EX Coupe V6 ($26,500)
Engines: 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6
Transmissions: six-speed manual
Safety equipment (Standard): front airbags; anti-lock brakes
Safety equipment (Optional): side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags; electronic brake-force distribution; traction control
Basic warranty: 3 years, 36,000 miles
Assembled in: Marysville, Ohio; Sayama, Tokyo, Japan; El Salto, Mexico

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Honda Accord EX Coupe V6 ($26,500)
Standard equipment: six-speed manual transmission, traction control, power moonroof, leather interior, power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, 17-in. alloy wheels, side airbags, side curtain airbags, AM/FM/CD stereo with 6-disc changer
Options as tested: DVD Navigation system ($2000)
Destination charge: 460
Gas Guzzler Tax: N/A
Layout: front-wheel drive
Engine (Optional): 2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4; 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 240 @ 6250
Torque(lb.-ft. @ rpm): 212 @ 5000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 20/30 mpg
Transmission (Optional): five-speed manual, five-speed automatic; six-speed manual
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length/width/height: 187.6/71.3/55.7 in.
Track, f/r: 61.1/61.2 in.
Turning circle: 38.1 ft.
Seating capacity: 5
Head/hip/leg room, f: 37.5/54.2/43.1 in.
Head/hip/leg room, r: 36.1/46.1/31.9 in.
Cargo volume: 12.8 cu. ft.
Payload N/A
Suspension F: independent, upper and lower wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension R: independent, multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Ground Clearance: N/A
Curb weight: 3265 Lbs.
Towing capacity: N/A
Tires: P215/50R17
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc w ABS and EBD
Fuel capacity: 17.1 gal.

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of 22/Aug/2003.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-999-1009 - www.honda.com

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive

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