By Eric Peters
The Accord is in trouble.
So far this year — and the year is almost over — Honda has only sold about 165,000 of them. That’s down from more than 320,000 of them back in 2017, which was the year just before the Accord was completely redesigned.
This bad news can’t be laid at the feet of this year being a bad year for everyone, bad as it has been. The Accord didn’t do very well the previous year, either. In 2019, Honda only sold 267,5667 Accords — about 50,000 fewer than it sold of the old model 2017s.
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So, what’s the matter with the new Accord?
Nothing that a V-6 engine — or a manual transmission — couldn’t fix.
What It Is
The Accord was one of the bestselling midsize family sedans in America, vying for the title with the Toyota Camry, its primary rival.
Historically, the Accord offered more personality and driving fun than the Camry and others in the segment because it was available with both a V-6 and a manual transmission … and because you could put those two things together.
That made the Accord special.
But when the Accord was redesigned for the 2018 model year, the previously available 3.5-liter V-6 engine no longer was. A less-powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder replaced it as the Accord’s top-dog engine … but you could still get it with a manual transmission.
That option’s off the table now, too.
Prices begin at $24,770 for the base LX trim with a 1.5-liter and continuously variable automatic transmission. The Sport trim with the larger 2.0-liter engine and a ten-speed automatic transmission stickers for $31,910.
A top-of-the-line Touring trim with the same drivetrain lists for $36,700.
All Accords offer front-wheel drive.
In addition to slight exterior and interior styling tweaks, all 2021 Accords, including the base LX, now come standard with an 8-inch “floating” tablet-style LCD touch screen.
EX-L and Touring trims come standard with a wireless cellphone charging pad.
The standard 1.5-liter engine is capable of almost 40 mpg on the highway, exceptional for a midsize nonhybrid sedan.
It has more rear-seat legroom (40.4 inches) than rivals such as the Camry.
It has a large trunk versus other sedans in this class.
What’s Not So Good
There’s no more manual option — with either engine.
There’s not much trunk relative to crossovers.
It doesn’t have as much personality as it used to have.
Under the Hood
The Accord’s standard 1.5-liter engine makes 192 horsepower and exactly the same amount of torque (192 foot-pounds) at just 1,600 revolutions per minute. It is paired exclusively with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
A larger 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the Accord’s optional engine — paired with a ten-speed automatic.
It makes 252 horsepower — less than the 278 horsepower made by the no-longer-available 3.5-liter V-6.
Nonetheless, the ’21 Accord with the 2.0-liter engine still gets to 60 mph in about 6.3 seconds, which is just as quick as the old Accord with the V-6.
It manages that trick because the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes significantly more torque: 273 foot-pounds at just 1,500 rpm versus 252 foot-pounds at a much-higher 4,900 rpm.
The torque — which is an application of leverage — is what gets the new turbocharged four-cylinder Honda to 60 mph as quickly as the old V-6 Accord.
On the Road
The 2.0-liter Accord is just as quick as it was — but it’s not the same, in a way that’s hard to quantify.
Honda’s mistake is that this Accord is too much like the others in this class, the Camry and the Mazda6 — both of which also are automatic-only (and in the case of the Mazda, also four-cylinder only).
Many people also do not like continuously variable transmissions, even though these have improved greatly since they first came into general use about 10 years ago. When the manual six-speed transmission was still available with the base engine — as it was last year — people could avoid the continuously variable transmission.
Now they have to buy it — or buy the more expensive 2.0-liter engine (to get the 10-speed conventional automatic) — and that may account for some of the sales slippage.
At the Curb
Sedans such as the Accord — and the Camry — are having trouble competing with crossovers as family cars because they have trunks, and that limits what they can carry, which limits who wants to buy them.
The Accord does have second-row room in its favor. The 40.4 inches of legroom back there is 2 inches more than in the Camry’s backseats (38 inches) and more than in most same-footprint crossovers, too.
The Accord’s 16.7-cubic-foot trunk is also larger than the Camry’s 15.1 cubic footer and the Mazda6’s 14.7 cubic footer.
All trims come with automatic climate control air conditioning — but if you want more than just a four-speaker stereo, you’ll have to move to the Sport or higher trims; these come with a much better eight-speaker stereo system.
The Bottom Line
There are still a lot of reasons to recommend the Accord. It’s just a shame about what’s missing.
Eric’s new book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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