San Francisco Chronicle: With Honda, we're in Accord

Discussion in 'Honda' started by tigerhonaker, Sep 30, 2006.

  1. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor


    With Honda,

    we're in Accord

    Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Friday, September 29, 2006


    There's a reason Honda sells so many Accords. Well, there are several reasons, but one of them may well be that America has gotten into the Accord habit, much as it's gotten into the Camry habit.

    (Never mind that in the scant blink of a historical eye that is the 30 years Honda has been selling Accords here, Accord has become a household name. And yet even the word itself means nothing. Accord? A car named for an agreement? If you sell these cars in Finland, are they Helsinki Accords?)

    The Accord and Camry are two medium-priced family sedans -- the bread-and-butter cars of, respectively, Honda and Toyota. In 2005, Toyota sold some 433,000 Camrys and Honda sold more than 369,000 Accords. It's a fierce market with plenty of other competitors in the price range.

    The newest Accord is essentially a cheap luxury car, if you want to stretch a bit and think of it that way. Honda says it competes with the 3-series BMW (they're more in the $30,000 to $40,000 range). About now all those BMW owners are guffawing (sorry, BMW owners don't guffaw; they titter and then roll their eyes) and saying won't those people ever learn? There is only one driving machine.

    Well, as one who has driven a few BMWs (and Benzes and other iron from the high-falutin' side of the tracks), I can tell you this under-$30,000 Accord was just fine, thank you.

    It doesn't have the same, say, tautness or sense of aggression as a BMW. It doesn't have the same luxo feel of a Mercedes, and it doesn't have the same heaviness as its upscale brother, the Acura RL.

    Instead, the Accord is one of those cars in which the sum of all the parts is what makes it a success. If you parsed this car into its separate elements, it might not work. Is that grille too wide of mouth? Are those new taillights too big, out of scale with the car? Isolated to themselves, these things might be bothersome. Taken as a whole, the car as a whole, they seem natural.

    There's the inevitable comparison with the Camry and, frankly, it took me days to get comfortable in Toyota's top-selling sedan and it never really fit. With the Accord, the leather seat was fine a few minutes after I adjusted the lumbar support to zero. The car just seemed to fit better and "fit" means that everything came to hand more readily.

    This test actually deals with two 2006 Accords, both equipped with navigation. One car had the 3-liter, 244-horsepower V6 engine and 6-speed manual transmission; the other sported the combined gasoline/electric-powered hybrid drivetrain putting out 253-horsepower, with the 5-speed automatic transmission. (The 2007 Accord is "virtually identical" to the 2006 model, according to a Honda spokesman.)On the road, there's enough zip from the nonhybrid engine to get past most of the traffic slogging up the hill toward Reno on a recent trip. The six-speed stick is an absolute joy to use. Honda must have a design sub-team whose only job is to make sure that the synchronizers in the gearbox do their job flawlessly each time.

    One crunch in a fast shift and you're forever on guard for another one. In that Accord, there were no crunches. To boot, the shifter had that just-right combination of knowing exactly where it was going, but doing it easily, sliding into the next gear with no hesitation.

    There's one odd cavil I have with the transmission. The first four forward gears feel like they're part of their own set. Going to fifth requires a push rightwards through a d├ętente and then there's the final down-and-right thrust into sixth. At 70 mph in fourth, you're turning about 3800 RPM and it actually sounds pretty quiet. If you didn't know it had six speeds, you might easily shift into fourth and think, well, that's it, it's in high gear. (When it's in sixth at 70 mph, it's only turning 2400 RPM. Perhaps that is what helped it get 25 miles per gallon overall in driving that was, say, spirited.)

    The automatic Accord drives slightly differently. It seems a little bit faster (it has nine more horses, after all). But there's an annoying thump when the car goes from engine-off, electric motor-on to the opposite. The whole progression in and out of electric power is not as seamless as it is in the Toyota Prius. Essentially, though, these two Accords are nearly identical and so, from here on, we'll talk about it as if they were the same car. An Accord is an Accord is an Accord.

    Inside, the car is quiet, no matter what the speed. There's plenty of room in the back seat, although two rear-seat passengers will be a lot more comfortable than three. Honda carries over its long tradition of having a rear seat back that folds forward so the trunk can hold awkwardly long packages, but it would be nice if Honda followed the leads of many other carmakers and did 60/40 split/folding back seats. If you're going to offer a convenience, then make it wholly convenient.

    The point of the Accord is that Honda realized some time after the Accord became a success that it and the Civic were the two cars that would not only keep the company afloat but would make it thrive. They kept pretty strictly to a model, or generation, change every four years, and they made the Civic into the entry-level car that would keep buyers in the Honda family.

    As buyers aged and made more money, they would graduate to an Accord. When they made even more, then they were politely directed to an Acura showroom.

    The irony now, of course, is that the Accord is such a balanced car -- one that, without apology, appeals to a wide variety of buyers and comes in a wide variety of prices ($18,225 to $32,990) -- that it sometimes threatens the lower priced Acuras, particularly the hybrid.

    For my money, however, I would think twice about the hybrid Accord. In my experience, if not that of the Environmental Protection Agency, it actually got slightly worse overall mileage (24 mpg) than did the six-speed (25 mpg), and the hybrid costs $3,690 more. (It also weighs 218 pounds more and does not qualify, like some other hybrids, for a sticker that allows the driver to use California carpool lanes with a single occupant.) So what you have to decide is -- how much is that word "hybrid" on the trunk worth?


    2006 Honda Accord: four-door sedan; front engine; front-wheel drive

    Price: test model, $29,300. (Base price: same)

    Powertrain: 3-liter V6 244-horsepower engine. Six-speed manual transmission

    Curb weight: 3,371 pounds

    Seating capacity: five

    Fuel consumption (mpg): 21, city; 30, highway.

    Fuel tank capacity: 17.1 gallons.

    Length: 191.1 inches; width: 71.6 inches; height: 57.3 inches; wheelbase: 107.9 inches

    Warranty: bumper to bumper, three years/36,000 miles; power train, five years, 60,000 miles

    Source: American Honda Motor Co. Inc.; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency



    2006 Honda Accord: four-door sedan; front hybrid drive train; front-wheel drive

    Price: test model, $32,990. (Base price: same)

    Powertrain: 253-horsepower combined gasoline-powered engine and electric motor.

    Five-speed automatic transmission

    Curb weight: 3,589 pounds

    Seating capacity: five

    Fuel consumption (mpg): 25, city; 34, highway

    Fuel tank capacity: 17.1 gallons

    Length: 191.1 inches; width: 71.6 inches; height: 57.2 inches; wheelbase: 107.9 inches

    Warranty: bumper to bumper, three years/

    36,000 miles; power train, five years, 60,000 miles.

    Battery for the hybrid drive train: 10 years /150,000 miles

    E-mail Michael Taylor at

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