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2016 Honda Accord Sedan EX-L Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2016 Honda Accord

Roominess, comfort, excellent fuel efficiency and responsive handling make the newest Honda Accord is the best ever.

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

         • SEE ALSO: Honda Research and Buyers Guide


After the debut of the ninth generation back in 2013, Honda's ever-popular Accord gets its first mid-product cycle freshening for 2016. It's still offered in sedan and coupe body styles, and both get a facelift. Nothing major there, but just different enough, and some noticeable improvements in the driving experience. New color choices and interior trim changes are typical in the industry, but there is more -- structural rigidity has been improved, and shock dampers upgraded in all models for improved ride quality and better handling. Sedans get an aluminum hood, for a slight decrease in weight and improvement in mileage. Seems silly? Not really, every tenth or even hundredth of mile per gallon counts when corporate average fuel economy is calculated. The lighter hood, reduced friction from new wheel bearings, and lower aerodynamic drag mean a one-mpg improvement in highway mileage rating to 37. Which I did actually see at one point.

Reflecting what actually sells, and an emphasis on fuel economy, most of the Accord range is powered by Honda's latest 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, its first North American-market powerplant to use direct fuel injection for both increased power and efficiency. The 3.5-liter V6 continues at the top of the lineup for EX-L V6 and Touring models for those looking for a luxury Accord. Since the current generation's debut, both a plug-in and regular hybrid have been introduced, both in premium trim.

The four-cylinder version is the Accord for the masses. As has been the case since model year 2013, choices are LX, sporty Sport (between LX and EX in spec and with a bit more power courtesy a less-restrictive exhaust), value-spec EX, and leather and semi-luxury EX-L. A six-speed manual transmission is standard in all except the EX-L, with the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) standard in the EX-L and available as the automatic offering in the others. V6 Accords get a six-speed torque-converter automatic.

My test car for the past week was an EX-L. No options, none required, although there are plenty of dealer-installed cosmetic and convenience items available including different wheels, spoilers and other aero kit bits, heavy-duty floor mats and cargo nets, a backup sensor and even Qi wireless mobile device charging. If you need navigation, use your phone or get the EX-L With Navigation -- a separate model as added electronics mean major rewiring. As-is, box-stock, the Accord EX-L is a comfortable, quiet, and well-mannered car that is incrementally better than last year's example thanks to the chassis upgrades. The four-cylinder engine / CVT combination works commendably well, and returned 32 mpg for the week. With no deficiency in the power department. I didn't even use Eco mode for that. The Accord has been a class benchmark and that's not about to change.

APPEARANCE: You can be excused for not immediately noticing the difference between this year's Accord and last year's equivalent. Front and rear fascias are different, but not massively so. In front, grille shape and trim have changed, and "intake-like" areas around the LED foglamps show a family resemblance to similar styling cues over on the Acura side. (Someone at Honda likes early-60s "sharknose" Ferraris…) The result is sportier looking, but not overly so. Changes at the rear are more subtle, with LED taillights across the lineup and minor changes to chrome trim. The hood is ever so slightly restyled, and now made of aluminum.




COMFORT: Visible changes to the Accord's interior are minimal. Trim panel materials have been changed, with woodgrain for EX and above, faux carbon fiber for the Sport, and gloss black for the LX. More importantly and usefully, a new seven-inch Display Audio touchscreen is used in the EX and above. The small virtual controls can be tricky to use, especially for volume. Fortunately the volume control on the steering wheel is a better alternative. Compared to the EX, the EX-L adds heatable front seats, leather seating surfaces and steering wheel rim, power adjustment for the front passenger seat in addition to the driver's, and an automatically-dimming inside rear-view mirror. The audio system is upgraded from 160 watts with six speakers to 360 watts with an added subwoofer. Build quality and fit and finish are as expected from Honda, top notch. The interior design is conservative, with no attempts to emulate anything other than a functional automobile.

The quickest way to tell that this is not a "real" luxury car is that interior trim materials are unapologetically plastic (but high-quality plastic), not aluminum and wood. Big deal… Seat comfort and support are very good, instruments are easily visible with no glare difficulties, and the controls are easy to use. The standard "Intelligent Multi-Information Display" (i-MID) screen at the top of the center stack shows audio and economy information plus views from the backup and LaneWatch cameras. Audio choices here are AM, FM, and SiriusXM radio, CD, remote player via a USB port, or various streaming audio apps now including Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto (with a compatible phone and service). There are useful storage spaces around the cabin, including pockets with bottle holders in all four doors. The glovebox locks. Rear passengers get a contoured bench seat with plenty of elbow room and both floor heat and end-of-console HVAC vents. The central tunnel is low enough that the center position is useful, at least for a short time. There is plenty of trunk capacity, and a space-saver spare under its flat floor.

SAFETY: The Honda Accord has received high ratings in both government and private testing. Passive safety is addressed by the "Advanced Compatibility Engineering™" unibody structure designed and constructed to control crash energy and protect passengers. The usual front, front-seat side, and full-length side-curtain airbags and side-impact door beams offer further protection. Vehicle Stability Assist™ and traction control enhance driver control, as do antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, and Adaptive Cruise Control systems are available in all Accords as the Honda Sensing™ package. The LaneWatch™ passenger-side blind-spot system is one of the most useful new safety features around and a Honda exclusive.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The ninth-generation Accord is lighter than the eighth, and uses more high-strength steel and other light-weight materials. Extra bracing in strategic spots this year adds rigidity, with no weight penalty. Less weight improves efficiency, and greater rigidity reduces squeaks and rattles. It also means that the suspension does exactly it was designed to do. That suspension is by MacPherson struts in front, not double wishbones as previously. Struts are lighter and simpler, and can do the job just as well. The rear is a multilink system. Upgraded shock dampers and a re-tuned electrically-assisted power steering system are highlights for 2016, and do improve the driving experience and passenger comfort. Ride quality is very good, with a moderately firm tuning for supple comfort and good control. There is no pretense to being a sports sedan, but the Accord is an enjoyable drive and a bit sportier than before.

PERFORMANCE: Honda's latest 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is a perfect fit in the Accord. It's a dual overhead cam design with aluminum alloy block and heads and four valves per cylinder, with i-VTEC valve lift and timing and cam phasing system. With maximum 185 horsepower (at 6400 rpm) and 181 lb-ft of torque (at 3900 rpm), I never longed for the V6. The CVT makes good use of the engine's torque, usually responding quickly to driver demands. There were times when it was a bit sluggish to "downshift", but the same can be said of most torque-converter automatics in D. When quicker acceleration is desired, simply mover the shift lever to "S" and lower virtual ratios will be used. "D" is programmed to optimize fuel efficiency, and does very well at that with a 32 mpg for the week. City driving was usually in the 25-30 mpg range, with mid-30s on the highway. I saw 37 during one 100-mile highway trip -- and that was through mountains with steep grades, and then flatter freeway travel at real highway speeds, not the relatively low simulation speed of an EPA dyno test. For drivers looking for more direct involvement, LX, Sport, and EX trim levels can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox.

CONCLUSIONS: With space and comfort plus excellent fuel efficiency and responsive handling, the newest Honda Accord is the best yet.

SPECIFICATIONS

2016 Honda Accord Sedan EX-L

Base Price $ 28,570

Price As Tested $ 29,390

Engine Type DOHC 16 valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with i-VTEC valve lift and duration control

Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.

Horsepower 185 @ 6400 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 181 @ 3900 rpm

Transmission CVT

Wheelbase / Length 109.3 in. / 192.5 in.

Curb Weight 3360 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 18.2

Fuel Capacity 17.2 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P215/55R17 94V Michelin Primacy MXV4 m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent mulltilink

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 27 / 37 / 32

0 to 60 mph 8.3 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Destination Charge $ 820