2006 Honda Accord

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2003 Honda Accord

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Smoother and more refined, but not as much fun to drive as its predecessor.
Pros:
  • Major revamp
  • Slicker look
  • More powerful
Cons:
  • European driving feel mostly gone
  • Slow automatic transmission downshifts
  • Sporty feel lacking

The Honda Accord has been one of precious few Japanese cars that have provided a European driving feel. No longer—the 2003 Accord has been revamped to be a smoother, more mainstream car to compete with rivals such as the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima.

Too bad for the loss of individuality, but that's apparently the path for Japanese automakers to take in the mid-size car market if high volumes are wanted.

The European-style Accord was the top-selling car in America last year and has been among the top three sales leaders for a decade. Honda has kept it high on sales charts by continually updating and changing the car, which has a shining reputation for quality, reliability and resale value—not to mention the respected Honda nameplate.

However the Camry may outdo the Accord this year. The 2002 Camry was made larger, sleeker and more powerful, as was the highly successful 2002 Nissan Altima—which was an also-run to the Accord and Camry until its redo for the current year.

Going Mainstream
Honda felt that it better go more mainstream with its 2003 front-drive Accord coupe and bread-and-butter sedan, which accounts for nearly all Accord sales.

Consequently, the new seventh-generation Accord looks slicker and is marginally longer, taller, wider and heavier, with a one-inch longer wheelbase.

The sportier coupe has a body that shares only headlights with the sedan. It's sleeker than the 4-door, but not by as much as it once was. An ultrasporty V6 version of the coupe comes with a 6-speed manual transmission and bigger tires early next year.

Rivalry in the mid-size sedan market clearly has heated up. Moreover, mid-size sedans are being challenged by sport-utility and "crossover" vehicles with the attributes of cars and trucks.

New Philosophy
The new Accord is appreciably more powerful, which goes against the Honda philosophy of providing just enough power—at least for its popular 4-cylinder models—to provide adequate performance.

Most Accord buyers get a 4-cylinder model, if only because they're less costly than the V6 models.

As of this writing, Honda hadn't announced 2003 Accord prices, but a Honda spokesman said they won't go up much—and that the new cars thus will be priced approximately $15,500 to $26,000.

The new Accord comes in base DX and higher-line LX and EX trims. Even the DX trim is pretty well equipped.

New Engines
The new Accord has a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 160-horsepower. It replaces a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder that produced either 135- or 150-horsepower.

There also is the smooth new 3-liter Accord V6, which has 240 horsepower—or fully 40 more than the previous V6. Despite the added punch, fuel economy has been improved slightly and emissions are lower. The V6 makes the Accord impressively fast and loafs at 2300 rpm at 75 mph.

Outpowers Toyotas
Not incidentally, both Accord engines outpower Camry 4- and 6-cylinder engines—especially the Camry V6. The Altima also has a 240-horsepower V6, and its 4-cylinder generates 175 ponies, making it the overall power champ. But the Accord and Camry still have a much stronger image than the Altima, which was generally lackluster for years.

Most Accord buyers are expected to once again opt for the 4-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission, which is the case with most Camry buyers.

Noteworthy Automatic Transmission
The 2003 Accord gets a slick new 5-speed manual gearbox—and, importantly—offers a 5-speed automatic transmission for the first time. However, while the new automatic upshifts smoothly and is superior to a conventional 4-speed automatic, it pauses noticeably before downshifting. There's no excuse for that with a new unit.

Also new are standard side curtain airbags for the top-line EX V6. The Accord's illustrious 4-wheel double-wishbone suspension has been revised, and there is reduced noise. While also new, the interior retains Honda's practical design. Gauges are nicely lit, as in a Lexus, and the rear door pockets have cleverly integrated cupholders. The steering wheel both tilts and telescopes.

Sporty Feel Lacking
While Honda says it has made the Accord sportier, it no longer has the general feel of sporty European sedans, which have sharp handling and let some road noise in the cockpit so a driver doesn't feel isolated from the world.

The new Accord interior no longer has road noise and definitely feels as if it should be more appealing to comfort-oriented mainstream sedan buyers. If this is a "Euro-style" car, it's like cushy European "boulevard" models, not hard-edged sports sedans.

There's even a voice-controlled system for navigation, audio and climate functions. And all Accords except the DX get a remote entry key fob that both unlocks doors and opens all side windows—although rear windows don't lower all the way.

Roomy Interior
Outside door handles are easy to grip, even when wearing heavy gloves. Front seats provide above-average support, and there is good room for four tall adults.

The nicely shaped trunk is large, with a low liftover height and wide opening. But its lid has manual hinges instead of smooth hydraulic struts, which are used to help raise the hood.

Steering is quick and precise, but the Accord dislikes quick lane changes. Moving around tight curves at fairly low speeds sometimes caused the correctly inflated tires of a test EX V6 sedan to howl. However, zipping through wider curves at fairly high speeds was no problem.

Capable Brakes
The suspension allows decent road feel, but is rather soft over road irregularities during highway or freeway cruising. The brake pedal has a nice linear action, and stopping distances are short with standard anti-lock brakes for all trims.

Miles per gallon is in the low- to mid-20s in the city and in the high 20s and low 30s on the highway.

The new Accord should remain one of the top-selling mid-size sedans. But forget the old driving kicks.

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BB02 - 4/16/2014 9:20:41 PM