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A Look Back at the Honda Accord

The Honda Accord is legendary among family sedans. For decades it has been the go-to car for people who want comfort, economy and reliability at a reasonable price. In many ways, the Accord is the perfect choice for people who don’t eat, sleep and breathe all things automotive, yet still want to make the right decision when it comes time to purchase a car. Introduced in the mid 1970s, the Accord was a hit from day one, and it has never stopped being a favorite of both the public and the automotive press.

We Make It Simple

Honda may have introduced itself to the U.S. with its plucky Civic subcompact, but it was the Accord that established the Japanese manufacturer as a force to be reckoned with. The Accord debuted in 1976 as a 3-door hatchback. Powered by a 1.6-liter CVCC engine, the Accord was so efficient it didn’t require a catalytic converter to meet tough new emissions requirements of the day. The Accord’s styling was fresh and original, and the car was loaded with features unheard of for a car in its price range. The first car I ever paid for myself was a used 1976 Honda Accord. I remember my father musing at having to teach me how to use the car’s manual choke, but also amazed at the Accord’s side window defrosters, stalk mounted headlight and wiper controls, and cool pictographic display that indicated when a door was open or tail lamp burned out. Even Cadillacs of the day didn’t have these features. In 1979, the Accord sedan was introduced and by the end of the 1981 model run, a limited Special Edition offered power windows and leather seats. Unfortunately, the first Accords were also prone to rusting, an issue Honda would quickly address in the next generation.

1982 saw the introduction of the second-generation Accord. A larger hatchback and sedan returned with noticeably square edged styling, more trims and a more powerful 1.8-liter engine. 1982 was also the first year Honda chose to build the Accord sedan domestically in its new Marysville, Ohio plant. A 4-speed automatic joined the lineup in 1984 followed by the introduction of fuel injection in 1985, the latter helping the Accord break the 100-horsepower barrier. Fuel economy remained impressive with an advertised at 40 miles per gallon on the highway rating, although by today’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards the actual mileage is closer to 30 mpg.

The third-generation Accord debuted in 1986 and is considered by many to be a milestone in the Accord’s evolution. Styling was cutting edge, as was the car’s driving characteristics, fuel-economy and feature content. A sleek wedge shape and retractable headlights highlighted the design, and the sedan’s rear seat accommodations were vastly improved. This was also the first time Honda’s famed “double wishbone” front suspension was employed, adapted from engineering used by Honda’s racing division. The Accord’s wheelbase grew by 6 inches and engine displacement sat at an even 2.0-liters. In 1988, a coupe joined the sedan and hatchback. Features such as a power moonroof, 4-wheel disc brakes and a Honda/Bose audio system further cemented the Accord’s dominance of the compact car segment.

Growing Pains

1990 saw the fourth-generation Accord’s arrival, and along with it a growth spurt that moved the Accord into the midsize sedan category. Along with the move upmarket came a more conservative styling theme, something that didn’t sit well with Accord enthusiasts but would help the car gain a wider audience. The hatchback model was dropped, replaced in 1991 by the first Accord wagon. A new 2.2-liter engine accompanied a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. Pricing for the Accord also increased, with the most affordable model starting around $12,000. 1992 saw all Accords fitted with a standard driver’s side airbag.

1994 brought the fifth-generation car, an Accord many felt had lost the styling and innovation standards of the cars before it. Regardless, the Accord went on to set sales records, and for the 1995 model year, offered Honda’s first ever V6 engine, a 2.7-liter borrowed from the company’s Acura division.

With the arrival of the sixth-generation in 1998, the Accord regained its styling edge. Among the highlights were a new 2.3-liter VTEC engine and for the first time, unique coupe and sedan body styles. Sadly, the Accord wagon was dropped from the lineup.

Setting the New Gold Standard for Sedans

The seventh-generation Accord arrived in the fall of 2002 as a 2003 model and quickly solidified itself as the new gold standard for midsize cars. A powerful and fuel-efficient set of 4- and 6-cylinder engines graced both the coupe and sedan, as did a 6-speed manual on V6 coupes. The new EX V6 sedan included such cutting-edge features as side-curtain airbags and front side-impact airbags, features that would become standard on every Accord by the 2005 model year. Other innovations included an available navigation system, 180-watt high-end audio option and, in 2005, a V6 hybrid model.

The eighth-generation Accord debuted in 2008. Compared to the first 1976 car, the newest Accord had grown in length by 31 inches and rode on a wheelbase some 16.5 inches longer. The coupe was given its own sporty look, while the sedan retained a more generic look that threatened to offend no one. Two new 4-cylinder engines and a new V6 with cylinder deactivation technology improved power and performance without affecting fuel economy. Unfortunately, the slow selling V6 hybrid did not carry over.

In 2013, Honda unveiled the ninth-generation Accord, which remains the basis for the current car. Larger and full of technology, the latest Accord continues to evolve what the original started, but with more style, power and an emphasis on safety and technology. Along with the sedan and coupe, the Accord Hybrid offers all the comforts and reliability of its gasoline-only counterpart, but with an EPA estimated 49 mpg city/47 mpg hwy.

For 2016, the Accord gets a few minor updates, mainly to keep it fresh looking. Aside from changes to the exterior styling, the biggest changes to the 2016 model relate to equipment and gadgets. For example, Accord EX models now include Apple CarPlay and Android Audio technology (a feature we really like). The Accord EX also now offers remote starting as standard equipment. And Touring models add LED headlights, heated rear seats, automatic high beams, front and rear parking sensors and automatic wipers.

The 2018 Honda Accord sedan is lower, wider and has a longer wheelbase than the outgoing model, yet its body is shorter, lighter and more rigid. Dramatic styling banishes all commentary of cautious design, with a sweeping greenhouse set further back on the body, a long hood and rather menacing front end. The design not only makes the new Accord look more like a premium sport sedan, it allows for two additional inches of rear-seat legroom. Overall passenger volume is up by 2.5 cu ft., and trunk space up by nearly 1 cu ft. Underneath the new Accord, Honda has improved the overall driving dynamics and comfort with a re-engineered suspension that includes an adaptive damper system that can adjust the car’s shock settings every 1/500 of a second.

The 2018 Accord sedan will be offered in six trims: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi and Touring. Models with the 2.0-liter engine are limited to the Sport, EX-L, EX-L Navi and Touring. The Accord Hybrid will be available in five trims: Hybrid, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi and Touring. Sport trims with either engine will offer a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission.

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Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo is a longtime contributor who started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2002 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He’s well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to translate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations. Joe has worked for a number of outlets as... Read More about Joe Tralongo

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