2018 Honda Accord Review: Way Better, and Honda Even Fixed Display Audio

Honda has improved the 10th-generation Accord to make it is the class of the midsize-sedan world. The sleeker, lower 2018 Honda Accord goes with four-cylinder turbocharged engines only, offers a 10-speed automatic transmission or a CVT, and is just short of being classified as a full-size car. On-board technology is outstanding, with just a few caveats (which we’ll get to below). A lot of the cool tech is on the Accord Touring, which runs $ 34,000 with the smaller engine. Overall, this new 2018 Accord and the month-older Toyota Camry will lead the midsize sedan category in the eyes of most buyers.


More Fun to Drive: All Turbo, All the Time

In a full day driving the new Accords, they were quick, comfortable and quiet. The Accord 1.5T with a 192 horsepower 1.5-liter engine and a continuously variable transmission is plenty quick, and the 252-horsepower 2.0 liter with a Honda-designed 10-speed automatic is quicker still–and with virtually no turbo lag. The 1.5T is the most powerful base engine ever in Accord’s four decades, while the 275 lb-ft of torque in the 2.0-liter four is the most torque (power) ever in an Accord, more even than all of Honda’s V6s. Honda also offers a Sport version Accord with a six-speed manual transmission. All are front-drive (only), and all engines have gasoline direct (into the cylinders) injection, or GDI, which improves performance and fuel economy. The 1.5-liter Accord is rated at 30 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, 33 mpg combined. The bigger engine is projected at 23/34/28. If you want 50 mpg, wait ’til early 2018 for the Accord Hybrid.

The four-cylinders-only format allows an automaker to downsize the engine compartment, if desired. Hyundai has been doing this with the Sonata since 2011. It’s one more way to reduce weight.

Honda’s drive mode buttons control more than just steering wheel feel.

Honda redesigned the suspension for better handling, improved passenger comfort, and more rear-seat space. The top-of-the-line Accord Touring gets an adaptive suspension that can be set for sporty or normal handling. It belongs on the Sport model, too. Sport/Normal/Econ console switches (see graphic) lets the driver adjust shock absorbers, steering, Honda’s Agile Handling Assist (a form of torque vectoring), driving force, shift points, active noise cancellation, and air conditioning.

Active noise cancellation helps mask road and engine noise by sampling sounds reaching the cockpit and playing back an inverse wave form. It now uses three microphones to better capture sounds. There’s even a sound-absorbing band of acoustic material inside the wheels to reduce noise.

Display Audio Now Is First-Rate

Honda’s infotainment system is called Display Audio. Owners of older versions dating to 2014 criticized Display Audio, and fairly, for having no physical controls, just the touch screen. What works well in the showroom is a challenge on America’s pothole-infested highways. Honda relented slightly by adding a volume knob to 2016 and 2017 models. Now, Honda has its act together: The 2018 Accord embeds an 8-inch LCD atop the dash, adds a tuning knob on the right to go along with the volume knob, and puts eight access buttons on the sides: Home, Back, Display Brightness, and Track Left/Right on the left; Map, Phone, Audio, and Source on the right.

These are physical buttons, not virtual capacitive touch buttons. Press them down, feel the button move, and Display Audio does your bidding. You’ll appreciate that display brightness is directly accessible, rather than buried in a Home > Settings > Display > Brightness on-screen menu.

Understanding most people have smartphones with excellent navigation, Honda implements Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on all trim lines except the lowest, and doesn’t force you to take Honda’s navigation except on the top-line Touring, where it’s part of the base price. It’s optional on the Accord EX-L at $ 1,000, which is twice what it’s worth, although Garmin is as good as on-board navigation can be.

Qi Wireless Charging, NFC Pairing

Qi wireless charging is part of the Accord’s infotainment ecosystem now, and Honda looks prescient in launching the Accord within weeks of Apple’s Qi wireless-charging announcement for the glass-backed, opens-on-impact iPhone 8 and iPhone X. There’s also NFC (wireless near field communications) integrated into the dash, just above the glovebox. Tap your Android phone to automatically pair via Bluetooth and someday, possibly soon, your iPhone. For now, NFC on iPhone exists for Apple Pay.

The 2018 Accord still has only two USB jacks, one at the base of the center stock, one in the console box. There really should be two more for the back seat. That and a 120-volt outlet, at least for Accord Touring. There are even smaller vehicles, such as Chevrolet Equinox, with six USB jacks. This is such a small thing to go cheap on.

Honda Sensing for Safety: ACC, LKAS, No BSD

With this Accord, Honda now offers the Honda Sensing safety package on all trim lines, and this year even on the entry Accord LX. Honda Sensing comprises stop-and-go adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane keep assist (lane keeping assist system in Honda terminology) with road departure mitigation, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking systems, and traffic sign recognition.

Honda provides two legs of the holy trinity of safety alerts–adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning / lane keep assist–but continues to lack, as standard, blind spot detection. BSD is included on the EX and above on the 1.5-liter Accord, and on EX-L and above on the Accord 2.0 (there’s no EX trim level with the 2.0). We asked Honda senior product planner Dan Choo about the omission. He said Honda previously offered Honda Lane Watch, a complex rear-facing camera system on the passenger side that required the driver’s involvement to judge when it was safe to change lanes, whereas Honda Sensing tools were passive, and Honda for now continues to follow the path of keeping blind spot detection separate.

In the test drive, the Honda Sensing tools all worked well, as did blind spot detection. Lane keep assist pulls the car back from the lane edge, as it’s supposed to do, but doesn’t center the car (that would be lane centering assist).

The important thing about Honda Sensing is that as of 2018 you can walk into a Honda dealer, pick an Accord, and not have to research whether the trim line you can afford has it. If you’re recommending cars to friends, it’s nice when you don’t have to say, “The [X] car has the safety features you want, but it’s only on the top three, no maybe it’s top two, trim lines.” The only tricky part to remember is the safest Accord is the EX and above (EX-L, Touring), all with blind spot detection.

Honda will include a next-generation onboard telematics system, HondaLink Assist, that is apart from Honda Sensing. It will be on the high-end Touring trim only. All Accords will get a drowsy driver alert system Driver Attention Monitor.

Honda says it anticipates 5-star ratings on all NHTSA NCAP crash tasts: front driver and passenger protection, side impact, and rollover. The outgoing Accord was rated 5 stars overall, but was rated 4/4 on driver/passenger protection.

Honda Accord Trim Walk

Here are the trim lines, or model variations. This is based on the Accord 1.5T that should account for 80 percent of sales. The Accord 2.0T and Accord Hybrid have fewer trim lines but the ones in common map closely to the Accord 1.5T on features. The 2.0T models are about $ 2,000 more.

Accord LX. This is the entry level, priced at $ 23,750, $ 315 more than the outgoing LX. New to the trim line for 2018 are the turbo engine, Honda Sensing, LED low beam headlamps and LED taillamps, and keyless engine start (Smart Start). Also on the LX: Bluetooth, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED DRLs and LED turn signals, a 7-inch Display Audio LCD, 160-watt / 4 speaker AM/FM/CD (remember CDs?), USB audio interface, auto on/off headlamps, and rearview camera. But no Android Auto / Apple CarPlay. This is the lowest-selling variant.

Accord Sport. At $ 25,780, it has LX features plus: CVT with shift paddles or 6-speed manual, 8-inch Display Audio, 19-inch alloys, LED foglamps, rear decklid spoiler, Smart entry (keyless entry), leather steering wheel, aluminum pedals, 8-speaker audio, Android Auto / Apple CarPlay, 60/40 split rear seat.

Accord EX. It’s $ 27,470 and has the Sport features (minus sporty things like aluminum pedals, rear spoiler, choice of manual transmission) plus new-for-2018 heated front seats, a 12-way power seat (driver), blind spot detection (“blind spot information system”), and noise damping road wheels. Also rear cross traffic alert (“cross traffic monitor”), power moonroof, heated side mirrors, keyless entry, remote start, rear HVAC vents, eight-speaker / 180-watt audio, Android Auto / Apple CarPlay, HD radio, satellite radio.

Accord EX-L. For $ 29,970, it has leather seats and cockpit trim, driver’s seat memory, four-way power passenger seat, 10 speakers, auto-dimming rearview mirror. Navigation is a $ 1,000 option.

Accord Touring. A new trim line for the Accord, it is $ 33,800. New features include full LED headlamps (high and low beams), head-up display, two-mode driving system, NFC auto phone pairing, Qi wireless phone charging, next-gen HondaLink Assist (integrated telematics), ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, auto-tilt side mirrors on reversing, more exterior chrome trim, front/rear parking sonar, rain sensing wipers, and paddle shifters.

The Accord 2.0T has three trims: Sport ($ 33,310), EX-L ($ 31,970), and Touring ($ 35,800). The Accord Hybrid has four trim lines: Hybrid (entry level), EX, EX-L, Touring. Pricing hasn’t been set.

2018 Accord Hybrid has an Adtkinson engine and dual electric motors.

2018 Accord Hybrid: No Compromises

The 2018 Accord Hybrid will follow in early 2018. The hybrid will use a 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle and two traction motors. It drove pretty much like the gasoline-only Accords: reasonably quick, and quiet with all the soundproofing.

Here’s the important thing: You don’t give up any cargo or passenger space. Honda says the Power Control Unit in the engine compartment is 15 percent smaller than on the current Accord Hybrid. The Intelligent Power Unit, which contains the battery, is 32 percent smaller, small enough that it fits, along with the gas tank, under the rear seat. The upshot: Not only is there no lost space, the rear seatback is the same as on the rest of the Accord line and is a 60/40 fold-down. No more tiny passthrough for, say, a pair of skis at most.

Honda is hoping to hit 50 mph overall on EPA testing. The old Accord Hybrid is currently at 49 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, 48 mpg overall. The difference between 48 and 50 mpg is only 10 gallons a year on a 12,000-miles-a-year vehicle, but it’s a lot nicer to tell neighbors you have a virtually full-size car that gets 50 mpg.

Midsize sedans is the No. 3 US market category, after compact SUVs and compact cars. Still, the segment is down 17% year-to-date. Honda’s YTD 5% dip is better than all save VW Passat. (Source: goodcarbadcar.net)

Midsize Category Fading Fast, Still Ginormous

Honda put a lot of effort into the 2018 Accord because of the stakes. It’s the third-best-selling sedan in the US, after Toyota Camry and the compact Honda Civic. Add SUVs and crossovers and it is the fifth-best-seller, behind the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. As for the direct midsize sedan competitors:

Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry is new this year as a 2018 model with more style and handling. Toyota Safety Sense-P is standard with adaptive cruise contol, lane departure warning / lane keep assist, emergency auto-braking, and auto-dimming headlamps. Like the Accord, blind spot detection is optional not standard, and the universal ACC is not stop-and-go on all trim lines. Infotainment lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It is the best high-volume competitor.

Nissan Altima dates to 2013. It sells well thanks to competitive pricing at the dealer (meaning the selling price, not the list price). It combines powerful engines with decent fuel economy. The seats are comfortable and the CVT-only transmissions get better each year, or owners get more used to them. Infotainment needs work. Altima gets a full redesign in 2018, meaning the top three sellers will all be all-new within a one-year period; some reviewers have suggested this will stop the slide in sedan sales. Not so: As the table above shows, every midsize sedan is down.

FordFusion sales are off significantly this year, perhaps because it also dates to 2013, with a full redesign possibly not before the 2020 model year. It is one of the handful of midsize sedans offering all-wheel drive.

Chevrolet Malibu.

Chevrolet Malibu sales are also down significantly, but it’s not because of vehicle quality or age. It got a full redesign in 2016 and by two years beat Accord to all-turbo (or hybrid) four-cylinder lineup. Even the lower trim lines have solid technology, and there’s even a Malibu diesel with 50 mpg economy. Onboard telematics (OnStar) is on every car. The new Accord is a better car, but you may get a fabulous deal on a Malibu that isn’t far behind.

Also: The Hyundai Sonata was ExtremeTech’s favorite sedan back as a 2015 model and it was freshened for 2017, but it, too, needs a redesign (probably 2019 model year); with sales down 30 percent YTD, dicker with the dealer. Its sibling, the Kia Optima, is an excellent car early in its lifecycle; it was new in 2016. Both represent good values. The Mazda 6 and Volkswagen Passat are the driver’s cars of the bunch; we were impressed with Mazda’s G Vectoring technology that helps the driver carve stable turns. The Subaru Legacy is the go-to midsize sedan for winter driving, with standard all-wheel-drive. Subarus are reliable and crash well (i.e. great safety ratings) but cockpit amenities / luxuries aren’t competitive; a 2019 redesign may cure that. The Buick Regal gets redesigned for 2018. The Chrysler 200 is off the market; only leftovers are being sold.

For Accord and other midsize sedans, the real competition is people moving to compact and midsize crossovers.

Currently, Honda Accord alone outsells 30 of 41 car brands (but then so does Honda Civic and CR-V). Five times Accord has sold more than 400,000 units stateside.

Should You Buy the 2018 Accord?

Honda massaged the latest-generation Accord, which appears five years after the ninth generation and 41 years after the first. Like the previous generation, it remains 192-and-a-fraction inches long, squarely in midsize territory. This time the wheelbase is 2 inches longer for more rear seat room. Back seat legroom is nearly as spacious as full-size cars of 200-plus inches, although the sloping rear roofline, which makes it look sleeker, also makes rear headroom snug for those well over six feet tall.

The 2018 model is roughly a half inch lower and a half inch wider. Front seat passengers sit a half-inch lower and a half-inch closer to each other, and in greater comfort with nicer materials and softer surfaces. At 119 cubic feet (cockpit and trunk), the Accord is one cubic foot shy of being classed as a full-size. The difference in volume is about what two six-packs of canned soda amounts to.

The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry stand out for being new, with the latest technologies. Accord is more fun to drive than Camry and Accord’s host of new features makes it a solid choice. Camry’s TSS-P safety system is more or less similar to Honda Sensing and neither integrates blind spot detection, although it’s available. Honda’s infotainment is more desirable. Toyota has shunned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for its own technology, but recent reports say Toyota is having second thoughts.

In addition to Accord, you probably should test-drive the Camry, the Chevrolet Malibu (an underappreciated sedan), and one or two others such as the Kia Optima. If you need all-wheel-drive, you’ll need to look at Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy, or start thinking about SUVs such as Honda CR-V or Honda Pilot.

When you’ve compared them all, you’ll probably find the 2018 Accord at the top of the list if you don’t need all-wheel-drive. We’d recommend the Accord 1.5T Touring. The smaller engine is quick enough. The Touring trim line is the only one with all the the tech trappings we praise in this review: full LED lighting front and back, HUD, wireless charging, NFC phone pairing, cooled and heated front seats, and front/rear parking sensors. The 1.5T Touring will cost about $ 34,000 list as mentioned above. It’s a lot for a midsize car, but not bad for the full-size it almost is. If you’re cost-conscious, look to the EX for $ 6,000 less; it has blind spot detection (important) and you’ll be fine with your smartphone navigation projected on the center stack LCD.

The Accord 1.5T is due on sale Oct. 18, the Accord 2.0T at the end of November, and the Accord Hybrid in early 2018.

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