2006 Honda Accord
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Honda is getting tired of playing second fiddle with its Accord to Toyota's Camry when it comes to capturing the No. 1 car sales spot in America. The Accord held that position not all that long ago, and Honda is shooting for the top again with a revamped Accord for 2006.
Helping distinguish the latest midsize Accord are revised front/rear fascias, with a new front bumper and grille design, restyled wheels and a new rear bumper and trunk lid design. Sedan versions have restyled rear fenders to accommodate the newly styled LED taillights. And there's a tastefully revised interior.
Power also has been increased, although seemingly just enough for the casual car shopper to notice. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine now produces 166 horsepower, up from 160, and horsepower of the 3.0-liter V6 is up to 244 from 240.
The Accord Hybrid has been criticized for looking too much like the standard Accord, and doesn't sell nearly as well as Toyota's Prius gas-electric hybrid, which has a very distinctive body.
The Accord mainly is bought as a family car, so an extra-cost 5-speed automatic is the most popular transmission. However, Honda prides itself as being more sporty than Toyota, so the new Accord also is offered with either 5- or 6-speed manual transmissions, Honda says a new Accord V6 sedan with a 6-speed manual gearbox is "designed to appeal to driving enthusiasts."
Honda traditionally—and stubbornly—has said that a 4-cylinder engine is ideal for most family driving in America, where six- and eight-cylinder engines traditionally have been considered more appropriate.
Estimated fuel economy with the Accord 4-cylinder is 26 in the city and 34 on highways with the manual and 24 and 34 with the automatic. Figures for the V6 are 21 and 30 with the manual and 20 and 29 with the automatic. The hybrid, which comes only with an automatic transmission, is the fuel champ: 29 city, 37 highway.
List prices for regular Accords range from $18,225 to $29,300, which are up from the 2005 range of $16,295-$28,850. No prices had been released at this writing for the Accord Hybrid, but the 2005 version cost $30,140 to $32,140.
Costly V6 Versions
The V6 is the best engine, but the sophisticated 4-cylinder provides lively acceleration and the automatic transmission upshifts smoothly and downshifts quickly.
Fun to Drive
The new entry level $18,225-$19,025 Accord VP (Value Package) replaces the 2005 entry Accord DX. The VP is offered with a manual or automatic transmission and is fairly well equipped. Standard are air conditioning, a tilt/telescopic wheel, cruise control, a folding rear seat, power windows and mirrors, an AM/FM/CD player and door locks with remote keyless entry.
Many Safety Features
The LX versions add dual power mirrors and the LX SE automatic transmission sedan adds an AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-disc CD changer, steering wheel audio controls, rear disc brakes and larger 16-inch (vs. 15-inch) tires and alloy wheels.
Move to the LX V6 and you get a power sunroof, power driver's seat, heated power mirrors and wider tires on 17-inch wheels for sharper handling.
Want more? The EX-L 4-cylinder and EX V6 sedans add leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio.
Behind the new steering wheel is a restyled gauge cluster that can be quickly read in the revised instrument panel. Controls are easily worked, although those for the audio system aren't as simple to use as they could be. Cupholders are conveniently placed to avoid spills, and storage areas for small items include pockets in all doors.
Other gripes: The roomy trunk has a flat floor, but a rather high opening. And the shape of the opening might make it difficult for some to easily slip awkward objects such as golf clubs through it. The inside of the lid looks unfinished because all you see is uncovered bare metal. And there's no pull-down grip or indented inner lid area to prevent getting hands dirty on the outside metal when closing the lid.
Rear seatbacks flip forward to open up the cargo area, but they must be unlocked by inserting the ignition key in a hard-to-reach lock on the parcel shelf under the rear window. Moreover, rear seatbacks don't sit entirely flat when folded forward.
An old-fashioned strut holds the hood open, but the engine compartment has easily reached fluid-filler areas.
Honda seems to have suddenly realized that it's become too bland and is getting more aggressive, as shown by the racier design of its new Civic. The 2006 Accord, though, is the car to watch in the race to become the top-selling auto in America.