Honda's new Accord is an excellent transportation appliance
No automaker in history has made better cars than Honda. The Japanese company deserves its reputation for delivering decent, dependable cars at fair prices.
The 2018 Accord is another feather in its cap, a well-engineered transportation appliance that is almost post-automotive in design and execution.
Honda reworked its best-selling sedan for the 2018 model year, giving the car an improved chassis and a new engine. The Touring model I drove was equipped with the 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged option. Hooked to Honda's continuously variable transmission—with paddle shifters and a Sport mode that make it a little more interesting—the Touring's engine makes 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque.
The turbocharging is excellent, delivering power and boost smoothly with no sensation of turbo lag or turbo dump.
Around town the Accord zips from corner to corner. Using the Eco setting reduces that feeling, while increasing fuel economy. But the Sport setting adds zest to the zip, maximizing the available horsepower and torque and making the car feel racier than it actually is. (For those who need a car that's faster, there's the Accord Sport 2.0.T, whose two-liter engine makes 252 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. The Accord Touring can also be had with this engine, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.)
On the open road, thanks to a firmer chassis and the generous use of sound-deadening interior materials, it feels almost stately, humming quietly even at higher highway speeds. The engine is quiet, and there's relatively little tire noise or wind noise.
And while I don't generally like the continuously variable transmissions that Honda uses for its small-motor cars, because of their tendency to whine when working hard, on this Accord I seldom thought about sewing machines or Habitrails.
Inside, the Accord is roomy and comfortable, even in the back seat. Even when a tall person with long legs was occupying the front passenger seat, the rear passenger side area had plenty of legroom and headroom.
One passenger was particularly impressed that the rear door handles were illuminated at night. I guess this will be helpful to someone in some circumstance, though I'm not sure who or what.
I'm also not sure what other drivers will make of the infotainment touch screen, which is only halfway a touch screen. To access certain functions, you need to push a button that looks like a touch screen button, but isn't. It may take a while to remember which buttons are buttons and which are not.
But I found that the telephone booted up quickly and the onboard navigation system was easy to see, easy to read and easy to follow.
On the other hand, this Accord takes the prize for having the most ergonomically impractical location for an iPhone port, which is almost impossible to reach even when the car is stationary and the driver has both hands free.
That was a surprise that added a flash of unwelcome drama, in a vehicle that otherwise offers no surprises and no drama.
The absence of theatrics may bore some people. Those seeking a sedan with sex appeal should probably look elsewhere. Those seeking a sensible solution to their transportation needs can stop looking.
2018 Honda Accord Touring
Highs: Smartly styled, brilliantly engineered
Lows: Not likely to steal any hearts
Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger sedan
Base price: $34,690
Price as tested: $34,690
Powertrain: 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, gasoline engine
Transmission: Multi-speed CVT automatic
Torque: 192 pound-feet
EPA fuel economy rating: 29 mpg city / 35 highway / 31 combined