IÂ have long been a family sedan buyer and was looking at replacing my aging ride. I have enjoyed rowing my own gears for more than two decades now, withÂ the occasionalÂ automatic transmission thrown in the mix.
This time was a little different, in that there are so many extracurricularÂ activities with three kids. My wife and I frequently find ourselves having to divide and conquer to get it all done. MakingÂ the challenge more difficult has always been the fact that I prefer a manual transmission, while she avoids driving a stick-shift like the plague, despite being fairly well versed in the three-pedal dance.Â I guess, like the market in general, she just doesnât find joy in that level of engagement.
So, the writing was on the wall: An automaticÂ transmission was in my future when I began hunting for a new whip.
To be in the running, any car I considered had to be more than just basic transportation.Â Thankfully, the family-sedan segment is filled with entrants that masterfully mix function with a dose of sport, speed, and handling. I considered a few crossovers, including the Mazda CX-9 grand touring. I considered the nicely revised Mazda 6 turbo and drove the V6 Toyota Camry, Genesis G70, new Outback turbo, and Volvo V60 T6.Â I will admit that the one I wanted most was the V60 T6, but it was pretty new to the US market at the time and the deals I wanted just werenât materializing.
(Get Honda Accord pricing here!)
Having had a poor experience in the past with a Honda Odyssey, the brandâs Accord was really an afterthought.Â I had test-driven the last-gen Accord V6 and was really not all that impressed. The interior was so-so, the ride was nice but didnât blow me away, and the styling was pretty generic. That last bit has been the case for as long as I can remember.Â And the price offered for all that âmehâ was not really all that competitive.
But I just so happened to be near a Honda dealership when I was out test-driving another car.Â I had seen pictures of the new Accord and thought they did a pretty nice job on the styling.
I ended up leasing the very Accord model I test drove thatÂ day. A pearl white, Sport 2.0T with a 10-speed automatic. I was instantly impressed with the roominess, the amenities, the punch of the engine, the swift responses of the 10-speed, and the tight handling.
The Sport trim comes well equipped, checking the box for all the things I consider essential and a few extras.Â In a very un-Honda-like twist of fate, they were willing to deal, at least a little.Â I ended up getting the vehicle for startups, $350 per month plus tax for 15K miles/year. Not the deal of the century; I would have felt better at $320, but a few other dealerships I contacted wouldnât even come close to that price.Â So ultimately a car I wasnât really even considering found a home in my driveway.
For $32,315, including destination, other features included 19-inch ninja throwing-star rims, blacked-out chrome fascia (which is a must on the current Accord, in my opinion), power sunroof, power driver seat, dual front-seat warmers, 8-inch infotainment screen, LED headlights/fog lights, keyless entry, push-button start, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, Honda Sensing (more on that later), and cloth interior. Itâs possible that a bit of legwork could drop that price to under $30K.
The cloth seats are fairly unique in that they have leatherette bolsters with a sort of shiny, synthetic fabric insert.Â They are not cloth. Itâs a pretty comfortable surface. I suspect the synthetic fabric is highly stain resistant, which is nice. However, itâs a slippery surface, so donât set loose items on the seat next to you.Â I typically leave wallet, sunglasses, phone, etc. on the passenger seat while I am driving alone, and it all finds its way to the floor in short order.Â The seats have adequate bolstering and good thigh support.
The steering wheel telescopes and tilts, making finding a comfortable position fairly easy.Â I typically put the driverâs seat as close to the floor as possible for max headroom. Despite the shame of having to use my own muscles to get in and out of the car, like an animal or something, I manage to go on living and perform the ritual several times a day, just like our ancestors did.Â Proof that it is possible.
The instruments are very well laid out and there are, thankfully, physical knobs and buttons for all the basic daily functions. This is in contrast to Hondas of the recent past.Â The instrument cluster is half digital and half analog.Â The analog speedometer sitsÂ on the right side with a multi-function display to its left â a display that can show you range, fuel economy, and a digital tach, among other things.
The 8-inch infotainment screen is simplicity at its best, with both physical buttons and dials flanking the touchscreen. It is perhaps the most well-thought-out setup I have experienced on any vehicle within the last several years. The standard stereo sounds pretty good, and it stays clear well beyond comfortable volume levels.Â The climate controls have a premium feel with clicky dials that illuminate red and blue as you go hot or cold.Â Fire up the engine and the analog speedo and digital tach spin in unison to their maximum before settling.Â Those are nice touches.
Lying below the splendid instruments, dials, and infotainment is perhaps one of the Accord’s most polarizing features: The controls for the push-button 10-speed auto.Â It takes some getting used to and even nine months into ownership I still catch myself looking down to verify that I am selecting the proper gear.Â With âDâ being the largest button and âRâ having an inverted trigger-like operation, itâs fairly idiot-proof, but it still strikes me as a solution to a problem nobody had.Â I just donât see the benefit of it unless maybe you needed a flat surface to set a laptop down or something.Â There is a lot to be said for consistency when it comes to vehicle controls, and I just donât see how this is a better set up than a traditional shift lever.
As you might imagine, the car comes standard with a host of safety features, including blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
Part of the Accordâs standard equipment list is âHonda Sensingâ which is a suite of electronic nannies and safety features.Â Collision-avoidance brakes for you, while smart cruise control follows traffic in front of you at any speed, even down to a stop. Lane-keep assist will keep the inattentive from wandering over lane markers.Â Auto high beams turn on and off depending on the presence of oncoming traffic.Â It even reads and displays speed limit signs in the instrument cluster.
It all works pretty well, with some caveats (see next paragraph) and itâs all controlled by a smartphone-sized rectangular sensor embedded in the lower part of the grill, in addition to some sensors placed in front of the rear-view mirror at the top of the windshield.
As noted above, the nannies arenât perfect. Smart cruise control keeps the space between you and the car in front of you to unreasonably long distances, making it useless in any sort of traffic as cars continually cut in from of you.Â Letting smart cruise control bring you to a complete stop is an uncomfortable exercise of faith in technology as the deceleration is far more abrupt than my nerves are comfortable with.Â Auto on/off high beams are great until they donât turn off when that oncoming car crests the hill and you blind the driver.Â Lane-keep assist does not center the car, so it has obvious limitations.Â Collision-avoidance is probably the most useful feature, until it inexplicably activates when it shouldnât or prevents you from performing some type of maneuver in traffic.Â Thankfully, all of these features are driver-defeatable.Â Maybe I will appreciate them when they save me from a collision, but for now, theyâre no substitute for being an attentive driver.
Front seat passengers have decent shoulder and hip room, and there is ample headroom. Overall, the Accord has a fairly spacious feel but like most sedans, it appears to give up some room to crossovers and trucks.Â Except in the rear: The rear seat has limo-like amounts of legroom, far better than many crossovers and even crew-cab trucks.Â I am 6 feet tall and sitting behind my own driving position, there are 4 inches of room between my knees and the front seat.
The sloping rear roofline doesnât really hamper ingress/egress, but my son, who is 6â2â, is pushing the boundaries of rear-seat headroom, with his hair brushing the headliner. The cargo area is surprisingly large and the rear seats fold to allow pass-through.
I would prefer the functionality of a hatchback, Honda, if youâre listening. Still, I managed to fit 18 cases of water and two dozen 12-packs of soda spread between the trunk and back seat (pictured), hydrating an entire swim meet for a whole weekend in one trip.Â As far as interiors go, I hope you like black because that is the only choice.
The top-trim Touring model has a few additional features, including leather seating, more sedate 19-inch rims, and a greyish interior color pallet, in addition to black and some faux wood grain trim.Â The Sport trim has a pretty standard mix of soft and hard touch plastics in addition to faux aluminum and faux carbon fiber accents.Â The Touring, with its faux woodgrain, leather seating, and a splash of something brighter than black is more to my taste, but nothing on offer really justified the extra cash, since the Sport gave me the primary features I wanted.
The exterior of the Accord in general â and the Sport trim in particular â is what I believe to be a great compromise between tasteful style and sporting intentions with just a touch of purposeful aggression thrown in for good measure.Â The blacked-out grille is reminiscent of the stormtrooper Dodge Charger.Â The side profile has upper and lower creases along with doors that are very similar to the side profile of the current Mercedes-Benz E-Class.Â The sloping rear roofline gives it a coupe-like Audi A7 fastback appearance.
All good things so far, until we get to the rear.Â There is really not much good to say about the rear.Â I wouldnât call it ugly per se, but itâs not on par with the rest of the car. This despite taillights reminiscent of the Buick LaCrosse but given the Honda âlobster clawâ treatment.Â The rearâs lack of beauty is offset by the overall shape and appearance of the car, which is on balance fairly nice to look at with enough sleek and athletic elements that I overlook the crustacean influence of the taillights. Despite my complaints, I admit the taillights do look cooler at night.Â The 19-inch ninja throwing star rims with black-painted inserts on the Sport trim are probably the most objectionable aspect of the design. I have mixed feelings about them as they are somewhat interesting to look at but detract from the vehicleâs otherwise âadultâ demeanor.
Surprisingly, I think I have gotten more compliments on this carâs general appearance than any other new car I have ever owned.Â OK, thatâs probably less than a dozen compliments overall in the last nine months, and yeah, they are a little backhanded sometimes, like âthat is pretty cool looking for an Accordâ, but Iâll take it.
So howâs it drive?Â Shockingly well for a family sedan.Â Mind you, this Accord is a huge car.Â The long hood and short rear decklid hide its 192-inch-long proportions pretty well from most angles, save for direct side view.Â For perspective, itâs only a foot shorter than a Chevy Traverse.
Despite its size, the Accord has planted and confidence-inspiring handling.Â At speeds âtheoreticallyâ above legal highway limits, the Accord is hunkered down and gives you the feeling that it can handle more and wants more.Â Body roll is well controlled in corners.
Weight distribution, as you might expect, is skewed to the front wheels, but you have to push it pretty hard before you worry about the front tires giving up.Â Steering is direct but a little on the light and boosted side.Â The Accord strikes a better balance between firm and supple ride than most any other car I can think of.Â You immediately feel that the ride is firm, but it never crashes over road imperfections and always manages to soak up bumps very well.Â The suspension really has a great balance that just works in the real world.
The 2.0T paired to the 10-speed auto is really a fantastic team and sold me with just a few minutes behind the wheel.Â The 10-speed has been a joy so far, rapid-firing seamless shifts as you pile on the revs.Â Two-hundred seventy-three lb-ft of torque is available as soon as your right foot desires.
The power on tap feels like it pulls a lot harder from a stop than it does at 50-70 mph.Â While down on horsepower compared to its V6 Camry nemesis (252 vs 301), the Accord 2.0T just inches past the Camry in 0-60 and quarter-mile times in comparisons Iâve seen.Â Any way you slice it, very respectable for mainstream family sedans.
The Accord has a âsportâ drive setting that hangs the revs and tightens the steering and throttle response in addition to piping in artificial engine note over the speakers.Â That last bit sounds lame, but the fake exhaust note sounds pretty nice from where I sit and I donât really mind it.Â As anti-enthusiast as the piped-in noise is, I think I prefer it to driving a snarling, belching, and rumbling vehicle as my daily driver.
In my experience, the Accord pretty consistently hits 30 mpg at 79 mph on the highway.Â Around town, it averages 25 mpg.
Not everything is great. For one thing, the brakes. They bite hard and very early in the pedal travel.Â It can be an unnatural feeling at times and can make the Accord difficult to drive smoothly, especially for those not accustomed to their operation.Â The largest fault I can find with the Accord, though, is something I walked into with my eyes wide open.Â That would be the carâs front-drive layout.
The Accord cannot effectively put down 273 torques to pavement from a stop or in any adverse road conditions without torque steer and/or wheelspin. If you gun it from a stoplight, your dreams of rapid acceleration will likely go up in smoke.Â The 2.0T requires a careful right foot to get rolling before putting the accelerator to the floor.Â It will chirp the front tires in gears one thru three if you go full throttle.
Should there be any moisture on the road, donât even bother flooring it, you will be going nowhere.Â Same if the front wheels are turned at pretty much any angle.Â All-wheel drive would be a much-welcomed addition to harness all of the performance you paid for.Â Even a limited-slip differential would do wonders to cure the traction issue.Â Allegedly, the LSD from the Civic Type R can be transplanted into the Accord 2.0T, but I leased and enjoy having a warranty, so thatâs not an option.
Not to mention that Honda is possibly intentionally kneecapping the Accord 2.0T so as not to infringe on the Civic Type Râs performance. Perhaps the brand is also trying to avoid losing profitable crossover sales by giving the Accord AWD.Â That said, as long as you have a careful rollout from a stop, the 2.0T is entertaining to drive fast, offering respectable performance for the price.
These are great times we live in when $30K buys you an enormously functional sedan weighing 3,300 lbs. but with full-sized car proportions, nimble handling, the ability to hit 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, and up to 30 mpg.
When I think of the wide appeal, equipment levels, performance, exterior styling, and exceedingly reasonable prices that the most recent crop of family sedans (Accord, Camry, Sonata, Altima, etc.) have collectively, I feel that the manufacturers have thrown everything they could at the wall to see what sticks, in hope of keeping the sedan relevant in an era of ever-encroaching crossover sales.
At the moment, Iâm thankful to be the recipient of one of the products of such a competitive segment.Â As the sedan continues to stumble at the hands of crossovers, I also believe that development dollars will find their way to more-profitable market segments as time marches on.Â This, my friends, could very well be peak family sedan.Â Get one while you can.
[Images: TheGamper, Honda. Honda images may be of the 2018 Accord, which is virtually identical to the 2019 model.]