Another Well-Rounded Honda, But Can it Hold Off the Competition?
Unless you’re terrified by the thought of a car without a volume knob or are set on a $25,000-$35,000 USD crossover, add the 2016 Honda Accord to your shopping list. The refreshed 2016 Accord is another well-rounded car from the automaker that brought us the CR-V, the 2015 Motor Trend SUV of the Year. Before the 2016 Honda Accord competes at the 2016 Car of the Year competition, however, it’s going to face off against a segment bursting with new and recently revised cars.
As the Accord progresses through its ninth generation, it’s clear there’s a reason the nameplate—offered today as a sedan and coupe—has made it this far. The 2016 model makes a good case for itself on many levels. For 2016, the Accord arrives with a revised chrome front grille (we’re getting used to the new look), restyled taillights, the widespread availability of Honda Sensing active safety tech, a new infotainment system, 60/40 split-folding rear seats on many trims, and available 19-inch wheels. But it’s what the Accord has always offered, including high resale value and superb all-around visibility, that may continue to attract buyers.
The 2016 Accord feels quick, and I’m not talking about the 278-hp, 3.5-liter six-cylinder models. The 2.4-liter inline-four produces 185 hp (or 189 hp in Sport sedan trim) and is lively at full throttle for a standard engine in a midsize sedan. Slam down the accelerator pedal, and once it hits 2,500-3,000 rpm, the car responds well for a $24,000-$32,000 USD four-cylinder midsizer. On a pre-refresh Accord sedan, a Sport model hit 60 mph in a Motor Trend-tested 7.5 seconds. The CVT on the four-cylinder models remains well-tuned, providing smooth acceleration in most circumstances, with an S transmission mode there for when you’re in a hurry. Paddle shifters are available with the four- and six-cylinder engines, the latter of which uses a six-speed automatic. The six-cylinder Accord is noticeably quicker, of course, but the six-speed auto doesn’t respond quick enough for our tastes.
Like the Volkswagen Passat and Mazda6, the 2016 Honda Accord continues to make a manual transmission available. Honda will let you row your own gears on the four-cylinder sedan and coupe and the six-cylinder coupe. I drive a four-cylinder Sport sedan with a six-speed (pictured in red above), and as you’d expect from Honda, the satisfying gearbox provides crisp shifts from easy-to-find gates. All Accords have hill start assist, and if driving a manual-transmission midsize sedan is important to you, consider getting one before those three automakers, years from now, decide it’s not worth their time in this particular segment.
EPA-rated fuel economy on 2016 Accord four-cylinder sedans with the manual is expected to be 23/34 mpg city/highway, with 26/35 mpg on the CVT-equipped coupe and Sport sedan. Most buyers will drive off the lot in a non-Sport four-cylinder sedan with the CVT, a combination that’s expected to hit 27/37 mpg, one mpg more on the highway than before. That’s near the top of the class in terms of base-engine automatic-transmission fuel economy, and if the Accord’s ECON button is as effective as the one in the Motor Trend long-term 2015 CR-V, it might bump up real-world fuel economy by as much as 7 percent.
Out on a winding road, whether you’re in a manual-transmission Sport sedan or a top-of-the-line Accord Touring with its standard V-6, the steering is relatively quick but doesn’t provide much feel. That might be what most Accord buyers want, but those who seek a real driver’s car in this class should consider the comparison-test-winning Mazda6. Still, the Accord handles itself well enough whether you’re hustling or taking it easy. Although the attractive 19-inch wheels on the Sport sedan, Touring sedan, and new Touring coupe add a bit more road noise, the tradeoff for extra curb appeal will definitely prove worth it for most. Even with those big wheels (16s and 17s are also available on the sedan, 17s and 18s on the coupe), in my brief time behind the wheel of multiple models, I didn’t sense any serious degradation in ride quality—Touring sedans and coupes now get amplitude reactive dampers to enhance ride quality and body control during cornering, and Honda has made the Accord quieter for 2016.
We wish the Sport trim offered hands-free keyless access and push-button start, but that helpful feature, along with remote engine start, is restricted to higher trims from the EX up. Refreshingly, the option that’s not restricted on any trim is Honda Sensing active safety tech. These technologies can help the 2016 Accord stay out of trouble when its driver isn’t being especially attentive. (It happens.) The most useful part of the system could be collision mitigation braking, which can slow down the car to reduce the force of hitting a detected obstacle. The adaptive cruise control system has a few driver-selectable following distance settings and can be helpful, but it won’t work in stop-and-go traffic. Honda Sensing also includes lane keeping assist, which can nudge the car back into its lane, and road departure warning, which vibrates the steering wheel and can use steering force to get the car back into its lane. As a last-resort option for what Honda calls “rare occasions,” automatic braking assist can step in to also aid in getting the vehicle back in its lane.
Buyers who can’t afford the Touring model’s standard Honda Sensing in addition to the improved navigation system developed with Garmin should consider paying for Honda Sensing and skipping navigation. Although the nav system is better than it once was, the EX trim and up offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that can provide smartphone-linked navigation. Go for 2016 Accords with those systems, and you’ll get a 7-inch touchscreen display below the 7.7-inch screen on all Accords. Because that lower screen is bigger than before (it’s like the screens in the 2016 Fit and 2015 Civic), the volume knob has vanished, replaced by a slider to the left of the screen. Slide your finger up or down the volume display, and it will change. It’s not the best system, but after a couple months behind the wheel of our long-term 2015 CR-V, I’ve learned to just use the more convenient buttons on the steering wheel. If your front-seat passenger is often the car DJ, they’ll have to get used to sliding their finger up and down the volume adjuster.
For those who don’t make car-buying decisions on the basis of knobs, the spacious and quieter 2016 Accord is a solid bet. We still look forward to spending a decent amount of time with the more modern infotainment system, but we can say the refreshed Accord is likely to ride out the rest of its ninth generation with the goods it needs to compete in a revived segment. The Accord isn’t the cheapest car in its segment, but the midsizer can definitely compete.