More upscale and premium than expected
Honda has just given us the tenth iteration of their ubiquitous Accord sedan, and it’s a game changer.
I recently drove the new Accord and a series of its competitors, notable among them were Hyundai’s Sonata and Toyota’s Camry, back-to-back at the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), Canadian Car of the Year testing in Ontario.
I mention this event for one reason: The Accord was a standout among its peers. I don’t make a bold statement of this calibre freely; it must be earned, and the Accord Touring edition earned it with every turn of its 19-inch wheels.
Before going further, let’s be clear: The Accord I drove during AJAC testing and the Accord that is the subject of this week’s review were both top-trim Touring models propelled by the less powerful of two new turbocharged engines.
Depending on trim level, the new Accord is either powered by a 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder power plant producing 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, as our tester was, or, by a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder mill capable of 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.
Eliminated from the Accord lineup is the availability of a V6 engine. The 2.0L turbo-four replaces it while delivering similar performance accompanied by better fuel-economy.
Just as significant as the pair of new turbo power plants is the 10-speed automatic transmission solely partnered with the 2.0L engine.
This is apparently the first use of a 10-speed autobox in a front-wheel-drive application. Again, superior performance and greater fuel-efficiency are the by-products.
As eager as I may be to drive the Touring edition with the beefier engine, my experience with the smaller mill was not overshadowed by its big brother.
In fact, the 1.5L engine is notably gutsy, and likely punchy enough for most right feet. While there’s not much I like more than a solid dose of heat under the hood, I was quite content with the bravado of the smaller power plant.
And with fuel this week at $1.43 per litre, a little extra distance between fill-ups is highly appreciated. Cited fuel-economy ratings for the 1.5L engine are pegged at 7.9L/100km in the city and 6.3L/100km on the highway.
My around town experience saw usage more in the 9L/100km range, though some of the excess is rightly attributable to the level of throttle abuse my driving incorporated.
So, what is it about the new Accord that fuels my fondness for this latest weapon in the Japanese automobile armament?
In my view, its sleek, modern styling gives the 2018 Accord a leg-up on the competition, and that advantage holds true in the cabin as well, but only if you take the Toyota Camry out of the running.
Both the Camry and the Accord have impressive cabins for 2018, neither of which would be out of place in a premium marque such as BMW or Audi, that’s how far they’ve come of late.
Focusing back on the Accord, I’m pleased to announce that Honda has reinstated a volume knob and a scroll knob into the infotainment system.
Why these key pieces of switchgear were jettisoned the last couple of years baffles me. Nonetheless, the new interface screen is now one of the best I’ve ever used. Easy and intuitive compared to its former self.
Also impressive is the ability of the voice-command system to cut through the clutter and properly interpret my needs. I haven’t previously found this level of accuracy in a voice-recognition setup.
As solid as the tech is, driving the Accord is where the real pleasure is found. Though the adaptive suspension is only available with the Touring 2.0L package, the regular underpinnings work marvellously.
Ride comfort is well balanced with spry driving dynamics, all of which is founded on an exceptionally rigid body structure. The setup deals remarkably well with damaged pavement and rough sections of road without generating unpleasant noises or body harmonics.
It’s this unified sense of structural rigidity that jumped out at me during my first drive of the Accord while conducting testing for the Canadian Car of the Year Award.
Operational refinement is also worthy of note. The Accord is quiet, and what engine noise does seep in is not the objectionable type so typical of 4-bangers. And one further drivetrain point to mention.
I am not a proponent of continuously-variable transmissions (CVTs), but in this case, Honda has delivered a CVT that I can live with. It functions more like a conventional autobox, and includes shift paddles with the Touring trim level.
Perhaps more to the liking of gear-change purists is the availability of a six-speed manual gearbox; now we’re talking. Pretty rare these days to have the choice to row one’s own, though the option exists only in LX and Sport trim levels.
Whichever way one equips their 2018 Accord, I doubt they’ll be disappointed. This 10th generation of the roomy sedan is nipping at the heels – actually it’s taking a huge bite out of the ass – of premium brands that once considered themselves untouchable.
2018 Honda Accord Touring
Price as tested (before taxes): $35,790
Configuration: front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.5L turbocharged I-4 / Continuously-variable automatic
Power/torque: 192 hp / 192 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 7.9, highway 6.3
Observed fuel-economy (L/100km): 9.2L
Warranty (basic): 3 years / 60,000 km
Competitors: Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen Passat