2018 Honda Accord: 10th generation sedan wins some, loses some [First Look]

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2018 Honda Accord (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

In a world clamoring to buy trucks and SUVs, it’s interesting that three top automakers have launched new sedans in the last couple months. All of them have stated unequivocally the sedan isn’t dead.

“To paraphrase Mark Twain: News concerning the death of midsize cars -- or our midsize car -- is greatly exaggerated,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of the automobile division of American Honda Motor Co, during a press briefing for the 2018 Accord.

He next pulled up a series of slides with stats showing the midsize car segment being ranked No. 3 out of 33 segments and Accord itself outselling all but two SUVs currently on the market – the Toyota RAV-4 and Honda CR-V.

Conrad also noted that according to Urban Science Retail Sales, Accord alone outsells all vehicles from brands such as Dodge, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz as well as 27 other auto brands.

So, the midsize sedan is alive and kicking and the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata have already offered up their 2018 models. The question now is: How does the all-new Honda Accord stack up?

Pretty well. Does it win in every category? Not in my book. Is it better than the previous generation Accord? Yes, absolutely.

Where does it win?

It definitely bests both Camry and Sonata in the engine/transmission combo area. There are two new engine options, a 1.5-liter and a 2.0-liter – both 4-cylinder and both turbocharged. Plus, there are three transmission options: a 6-speed manual, a continuously variable transmission (with the 1.5L), and a 10-speed automatic (with the 2.0L).

Neither Camry nor Sonata offer a manual transmission.

The 1.5-liter engine delivers 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, which makes it the most-powerful base engine ever offered in the Accord. This is more power than the base engine the Sonata offers, but a tad less than the Camry.

The 2.0-liter engine delivers 252-horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Again, this is the clear winner over the Sonata with more power, but the Camry’s up-level engine is actually a V-6 that delivers 301 horsepower.

Accord will no longer offer a V-6 engine.

But that 2.0-liter engine is pretty great. It has more torque than the V-6 Camry and offers excellent off-the-line acceleration. The 10-speed automatic, which is paired with this engine, is also really nice with quick shifts. I liked but didn’t love the 6-speed manual paired with this engine because of its high clutch point.

The 1.5-liter engine with the 6-speed manual transmission, though, hits a sweet spot for those who want to shift their own gears. This is actually a different transmission than the one paired with the up-level 2.0-liter engine. The clutch point is more natural – and acceleration is still plenty fun.

I did not like the CVT with the 1.5-liter engine. At all. In addition to sluggish acceleration, it forced a droning whir sound that buzzed every time you had to speed up.

Accord also wins in the area of fuel economy with the 1.5-liter engine getting 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway (with the CVT), and 23 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway (with the 10-speed automatic, estimated) with the 2.0-liter engine.

Another huge win for Accord is in the safety arena. Taking a page out of Toyota’s book, Honda has made Honda Sensing standard across all trims – including those with a manual transmission. This system includes features such as collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and lane keep assist. Available features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and parking sensors.

The Sonata has standard blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, but all other safety tech is optional.

Where does it lose?

One big area where Accord misses the mark is in ride and handling. Both Camry and Sonata had a sportier feel – if you’re looking for that kind of thing. I find that ironic since Accord is the only one with a manual.

I also think Honda is in danger of losing some buyers to Camry over the V-6 engine – but they’ll keep some because of the manual transmission offering.

The other area Accord is in danger of losing is in the design arena. Not that I think there’s anything egregious here. It just doesn’t quite have the eye-catching – and perhaps polarizing -- exterior lines of the Camry.

Similar to Sonata, Accord’s lines are more traditional and handsome, which will likely appeal to a lot of people. But if you’re looking for something different with a little flash, Accord isn’t it.

The interior gets a serious upgrade over the previous generation in terms of up-level touch points and overall looks. However, that pop-out infotainment display screen is a bit jarring and the push-button gearing on the automatics will take some getting used to. I think the overall interior design of the Accord is better than the Sonata, but the Camry interior is generally more intuitive and attractive.

Pricing and timing

Accord pretty evenly matches Sonata and Camry in terms of pricing, though the top-tier trim of Accord does out-price both the other sedans. Model and pricing breakdown for Accord is as follows:

  • LX 1.5T: $23,570
  • Sport 1.5T: $25,780
  • EX 1.5T: $27,470
  • EX-L 1.5T: $29,970
  • Touring 1.5T: $33,800
  • Sport 2.0T: $30,310
  • EX-L 2.0T: $31,970
  • Touring 2.0T: $35,800

The manual transmission is only available on Sport trims, and the price is the same regardless of transmission choice. Another thing to note: If you want a manual transmission and navigation, you’re out of luck. The Sport trim doesn’t have navi as an option, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – and their accompanying map apps -- are standard.

The bottom line

The 2018 Honda Accord is a great car. It’s eons better than the previous-generation Accord in terms of seating position, ride and handling and overall design.

But the sedan market is shrinking and both Hyundai and Toyota are putting up some fierce competition. Accord is the only one of the trio to offer a manual transmission, which gives it major points in my book.

However, if I were going to pick my overall favorite of the three, it has to be Camry. From the design to the vroomy V-6, Toyota knocked it out the park.