Mid-size sedans sure aren’t just holding ground; they’ve been changing posthaste for the past several years, adopting racier designs, new fuel-efficient powertrains, and all sorts of technological innovations, some of which were reserved for luxury cars very recently. And if we could narrow our choices down to s single model that finds the heart of the current market, the 2014 Honda Accord is it. As it’s always done, the Accord straddles the typically wide range of needs of those who buy mid-sizers.
With the all-new ninth-generation model that was introduced this past year, Honda added some of the design flair and sophistication that’s been sweeping the likes of the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, and Mazda 6. Yet it’s also rekindled some of the elegant, upright look of Accords past, nodding to comfort and practicality in the way of the Volkswagen Passat.
From the outside, the 2014 Accord has a design that follows the nameplate’s tradition yet finds its place among modern sedans when shaping the current Accord. We wouldn’t call this model stunning or head-turning, but the look, which maximizes the greenhouse (window space) and isn’t at all slab-sided altogether looks fresh. The rather low instrument panel, and an interior design that really pushes out the corners, altogether enforces that airiness inside. Meanwhile, important controls are placed quite high within it. With Coupes, you give up some practicality for a performance look; they’re mostly the same as sedans from the front seats forward, but their completely different, wedgier tail and side sheetmetal adds up to a more dynamic stance.
Honda dropped its worshipped double-wishbone setup in the Accord last year, instead opting for more tunable (and cheaper) MacPherson struts that it claims improve ride and handling while cutting cabin noise and harshness. So far, we can’t say that’s off the mark; the Accord drives with much of the verve of previous editions, and the new electric power steering is particularly good.
Powertrain offerings for the 2014 Accord are, across the board, more modern and fuel-efficient than they were just a couple of years ago. With the base four-cylinder engine, you get direct injection technology, and you can choose from a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). This CVT gives a much more linear feel than earlier CVTs on the market, so it might even fool some drivers into thinking it’s a regular automatic transmission. Most four-cylinder Accords make 185 horsepower, while an Accord Sport model makes 189 hp. A V-6 engine is still offered across the Accord model line; it makes 278 hp and is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission or (in Coupes only) a six-speed manual gearbox. Regular unleaded gasoline is just fine no matter which engine, and fuel economy ratings range up to 27 mpg city, 36 highway with the four-cylinder engine and CVT, and up to 21/34 with the V-6.
With last year’s redesign, Honda managed to pack in a little more comfort and passenger space in about every way possible. While actually shorter than the previous generation of the Accord, this one is roomier inside. Rear legroom increases about an inch, while shoulder room in front and in back is improved, and trunk space is not only larger but the cargo floor is now flat. Additionally, the driving position is nice and upright, and for those in front or in back, the plentiful window space allows a good view all around. The only functionality letdown is that the rear seat folds forward in one clunky piece, and the dual-screen infotainment system you get in some trims comes with a confusing control set.
Safety is an Accord strength; in addition to acing some of the toughest crash tests, it offers some breakthrough safety items that you might not expect to see in an affordable model. The Accord has been one of the few new ‘IIHS Top Safety Pick+’ vehicles; and it achieves a top five-star overall score from the federal government (albeit with four stars for frontal impact). Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Adaptive Cruise Control systems are all available on the Accord, and a cool new LaneWatch Blind Spot Display provides a wide view of the passenger side of the vehicle on the Multi-Information Display (i-MID) screen the moment you flick the turn signal.
Honda had long been criticized for being skimpy on features, but this is definitely no longer the case with the Accord. As part of a turnaround from the brand’s features philosophy, connectivity and safety-tech features are offered in the volume models, not just the top-of-the-line trims. Dual-zone automatic climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, and an eight-inch i-MID display plus Pandora audio streaming and SMS text-messaging capability are all included in the base LX model.
With the Honda Accord Sedan offered in LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, V6, and Touring trims, and the Coupe available in LX-S, EX, EX-L, and EX-L V6 models, there’s still a wide range of equipment. All V6 models include daytime LED running lamps, and interior appointments are a bit warmer and richer in upper trims. Adaptive Cruise Control is exclusive to the Touring Sedan, which also includes Honda’s first LED projector headlamps, while LED brake lights are included in EX-L and Touring models. Also included in top EX-L models is an upgraded 360-watt audio system with Aha internet radio streaming capability (with your smartphone’s data connection).