EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 2, 2014

New Honda Accord wins popularity contest

Motor Mouth
Jeffrey Zygmont

---- — In 2013 the Honda Accord was America’s top-selling passenger car to consumers. That’s a big achievement.

Some auto companies pump up their annual tallies by selling masses of cars to fleets, which can include everything from enormous rental car fleets to motor pools for the electric company. But often fleet sales involve special pricing and behind-the-scenes wheedling, so they don’t necessarily show the true popularity of a specific model. By outpacing all other models in consumer sales – excluding fleet deals – the Accord reigns as the one auto that sensible citizens like you and me choose more often than all the others. That’s quite a vote of confidence.

What’s more, Accord accomplished that feat last year while competing in the toughest segment of the auto market. The top-selling Honda is a mid-size passenger car, sold mostly as a four-door sedan, but with a two-door version also available. Most car buyers choose mid-size models, and the class includes a lot of hugely popular vehicles. Think Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, to name just three. Those autos offer a lot of assets and advantages. Accord has to work very hard to outdistance them.

The Honda Accord was an all-new model in 2013, re-engineered, modernized, reshaped and restyled. People noticed its bold and contemporary new body that looks sporty and trim, smoothly angular, neatly wedged and dynamic.

“Styling played a significant role in making it the top-selling model,” said Ryan Horgan, director of operations at Rockingham Toyota Scion Honda in Salem, N.H. “The number-one comment we hear from customers is that they love the look. We’re seeing more Nissan Maximas and more Toyota Camrys traded for the new Accord solely because people like the styling more.”

And the enthusiasm for the redesigned Accord appears to be holding up since the 2013 redesign carried into the current, 2014 model.

“Accord sales are making another good start for the year,” Horgan noted.

Of course, it’s not like the Accord came completely out of the blue to capture the crown as most popular car. The model has remained a contender, with high stature and wide popularity for a long time. One big advantage it holds is that so many Accord drivers keep coming back to it, because they’re learned they can trust it.

“I hear a lot of buyers say they plan to keep their Accord for the next 10 years,” Horgan said. “Many families see it as a car to pass on to their kids when they start to drive. Honda has long been viewed as a manufacturer of high-quality, reliable products that hold their value.”

Last year’s remake of the model simply gave them more to like.

For example, the same mix of contemporary style and tasteful decorum that makes Accord’s exterior so appealing appears in its cabin, too. Inviting, high-grade materials cover well sculpted shapes along the dashboard, center console and door panels. Instruments and controls are laid out for function and efficiency. The seats are comfortable and passenger space is generous. Rated for five passengers like nearly every other auto you can buy, the Accord sedan gives two adults in the back seat room enough to relax and settle. So many other back cabins seem suitable for kids alone.

The new model’s cabin space and comfort might seem surprising, because today’s updated Accord sedan is actually smaller than the preceding version. Honda shrunk the exterior dimensions slightly, and total volume of the passenger cabin decreased along with the body size (although cargo volume in the trunk increased). But total volume is only a number. More important is how the volume is distributed. With the new Accord, Honda configured the interior to increase usable space in the critical areas that you need and notice, such as rear-seat leg room.

By scaling down Accord – which included a reduction in weight from the prior generation – Honda contributed to the improved road dynamics of the new version. Accord drives with an assuring, agile and adroit attachment to the pavement. The car lets you know it is in control, without feeling aggressive or tensely ambitious. The Accord is smooth, while sturdy construction makes the cabin quite and calm.

Along with the weight reduction, engine improvements and new transmissions bring better fuel economy to today’s Accord, with gains power at the same time. Instead of the five-speed manual and automatic transmissions previously available, the mid-size Honda uses six-speed transmissions and a continuously variable automatic, depending on configuration. The changes bring the fuel economy of Accords containing a 185-horsepower four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic to 27 miles per gallon in city driving, and 36 mpg on the highway. With a 278-horsepower V6 engine, the car rates 21 mpg city, 34 mpg highway.

Ryan Horgan of Rockingham Honda noted that drivers also are drawn to new features built into the 2014 Accord. Of special note is a unique safety device called LaneWatch. When you flick on the right turn signal, a camera mounted in the right outside mirror shows you the roadway beside the car, using the dashboard display screen to give you a full, clear view of what is usually a dangerous blind spot.

“Customers have been raving about it,” Horgan said.

For 2014, Honda augmented the Accord line by adding a hybrid version. Like other duel-powered cars that use both gasoline and electric power to move the vehicle, the Accord Hybrid achieves impressive fuel economy, with ratings of 50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway. But the Accord dual-powered model maintains assuring and satisfying driving performance, with system output of 196 horsepower that enables the car to zip, zoom and hop. That’s a twist that most other hybrids neglect.

“It’s rather impressive that you can get miles-per-gallon in the 40s without sacrificing performance,” noted Horgan. “The Accord Hybrid is receiving a lot of attention.”

The new Accord is the ninth-generation version of the car Honda brought to America 38 years ago. Back then, all Hondas were imported from Japan. But today the Accord is made at manufacturing plants in Ohio. It is a truly American product, which seems fitting for the automobile that Americans favor above all the others.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2014 Honda Accord Sedan

Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan

Price range: $22,745 to $34,270 (plus options)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty

Base engine: 2.4-liter I4

Power: 185 horsepower at 6,400 rpm; 181 lb.-ft. torque at 3,900 rpm

Base transmission: 6-speed manual

Fuel economy: 24 mpg city; 34 mpg highway (with automatic transmission)

Wheelbase: 109 inches

Length: 191 inches

Width: 73 inches

Height: 57 inches

Weight: 3,192 pounds

Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons

Turning circle: 38.1 feet