2000 Honda Accord Review


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SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide

by Ted Laturnus

Sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. For four golden years, from 1988 to 1992, Honda's flagship Accord model ruled the car market - it was the best-selling car in the United States, one of the top sellers in Canada, and was purchased by almost 500,000 buyers a year in North America alone. But in 1993, because of economic conditions in Japan and here, the bubble burst, and Accord sales plunged in the U.S. and Canada.

Perhaps most worrisome for Honda is the fact that the competition is breathing down its neck. Honda's ace in the hole used to be that their cars were better engineered than many of their rivals', especially the domestics. That's not true anymore, and models like the Toyota Camry, Chrysler Intrepid, Nissan Altima, and Mazda 626 have narrowed the engineering gap...and, in the case of the Intrepid (and its twin, the Eagle Vision), overtaken Honda completely. "This is still the largest segment of the market," explains, Jeremy Anwyl, a researcher for California-based Marketec Systems, who consults for the automotive industry, "the marketing cycle is extremely short. Where it used to be that a model would change every three or four years, it seems now that they change almost yearly. Cars like the Altima, Taurus and Camry have simply caught up to the Accord." With these sobering facts uppermost in their minds, Honda's designers have attempted to overhaul the fifth generation Accord, while retaining the kinds of features that put it at the top of the heap in the first place. The new Accord is built in Marysville, Ohio, and has 82% North American content. Right from the beginning, it has been conceived with the U.S./Canadian market in mind.

It's not surprising that the new Accord turns out to be very much like its predecessors, and takes few risks. Offered as a four-door sedan, two-door coupe, and four-door station wagon, the Accord comes in three trim levels: LX, EX, and EX-R. It has been totally restyled with high rear deck, steeply-raked windshield, and state-of-the-art aerodynamics. The result is that it looks like virtually every other contemporary sedan on the market, and won't win any awards for breaking new grounds in the styling department.

But that's OK; in its 25 years in Canada, Honda has achieved its success by satisfying the needs of the marketplace. Accord owners have traditionally looked for a conservatively styled, comfortable, four-door sedan that holds its value and treats its occupants well. This Accord may look a little different, but it's still delivering exactly that.

A little more snap in the performance department would be welcome, though. While the rest of the industry embraces V6 technology, Honda is utilizing a 130 horsepower, 2.2 litre four cylinder that's been standard issue in the Accord since 1989. This engine is, as they say, proven. Quiet, easy on gas - about 10 litres per 100 kilometres in the city (28 miles per gallon), and between five and six on the highway (48 mpg) - and just enough for the 1270 kilogram Accord to keep up with traffic. Loaded up with kids, dogs, and sports equipment, the Accord runs out of power pretty quickly.

The automatic transmission has what Honda calls "fuzzy logic" built in, which means it's continually hunting for optimum performance and gear ratios. A bigger, more torquey, engine would help enormously, in my opinion, and Honda does have a V6 waiting in the wings.

In the meantime, however, you can get a little more oomph by ordering a V-Tec engine with the upscale EX-R model. This unit has variable valve timing, which adds another 15 horsepower...and another $4000 to the bill. The new Accord is also the first model since 1982 that is not larger than its predecessor. Interior and exterior dimensions are about the same, which is to say, smaller than the Chrysler Intrepid, for example (a direct competitor), and about on a par with the Camry. With the back seat folded down, the four-door has an adequate 2682 litres of cargo space.

Despite the fact that Honda has overhauled the interior layout, it retains the Accord feeling. Once again, a good thing, as one of the Accord's strongest points has always been its ergonomics. There are few cars out there that can top the Accord when it comes to peripheral visibility, location of controls, and interior amenities. Although a mid-priced car, the Accord has always managed to impart a feeling of luxury, with amenities like full instrumentation, cup-holders, door map pockets and a fold-down rear seat coming as standard. Honda has also relocated the radio, heating/ventilation and power mirror and window controls.

Unsurprisingly, safety has entered into the equation big time. Driver and passenger side airbags are standard equipment, and ABS is optional on the EX sedan and station wagon. New for this generation Accord are energy-absorbing pads placed in the doors at shoulder and hip height. The Accord also meets U.S. side impact standards through to 1997.

It's unlikely it'll ever achieve the remarkable sales performances of the late 1980s - early 1990s, but the Accord is still exactly what traditional owners want: slightly upscale, driver-friendly transportation.

AT A GLANCE

Type: Compact four-door sedan/two-door coupe/four-door station wagon. Drivetrain: 2.2 litre four cylinder engine; five-speed manual/four-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption: 9.5 L/100 km (30 mpg) city; 6.9 L/100 km (41 mpg) hwy. Safety Features: Dual airbags, optional anti-locking brakes, childproof rear door locks, three-point rear seat belts, side impact protection. Price: $19,195 base

THE COMPETITION

Toyota Camry Price range: $19,240 to $29,600 Comments: Slightly larger than Accord, available as station wagon, excellent reliability and resale, pricey when ordered with options such as V6 engine, automatic transmission or air conditioning. Mazda Cronos Price range: $19,195 to $28,350 Comments: V6 availability, exceptional styling, slightly smaller than Accord, no station wagon available, a little on the thirsty side with V6 engine. Ford Taurus Price range: $18,795 to $32,000 Comments: Current model getting near end of its cycle, excellent dealer network, slightly larger than Accord, extensive list of options, available as station wagon. Chrysler Intrepid/Eagle Vision Price range: $19,270 to $25,680 Comments: Largest model in this market, state-of-the-art engineering, no station wagon availability, some supply/availability problems. Nissan Altima Price range: $17,700 to $26,000 Comments: Competitively priced, slightly smaller than Accord, high level of standard equipment, no station wagon availability, no V6 offered.

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