“You inject new style and new levels of performance, and I think a lot of people don’t necessarily want to switch to an SUV or CUV.”
Jeff Conrad, right, senior vice president, American Honda, introducing the new Accord.
Can the 10th-generation Honda Accord save the family car from a slow death?
Even Honda isn’t sure. But it’s trying valiantly.
Acknowledging that an ambitious effort is needed to keep customers from defecting to crossovers en masse, Honda has joined competitors such as Toyota in giving its midsize sedan a bold and thorough makeover.
The 2018 Accord promises crisp styling, a trio of modern powertrains and a variety of surprise-and-delight features aimed at keeping shoppers interested in a car that has long been the cornerstone of Honda’s presence in the U.S.
Even so, the Accord, like its contemporaries, will have an uphill battle in persuading buyers to choose sedans over utility vehicles, which have virtually eliminated the gap in fuel efficiency, cost and ride quality in recent years. Sales of midsize sedans dropped 12 percent in 2016, and they’re down another 18 percent in the first half of 2017.
“Can we stop the shrinking of the segment? We might be able to slow it down a little bit,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of the automotive division for American Honda Motor Co. “You inject new style and new levels of performance, and I think a lot of people don’t necessarily want to switch to an SUV or CUV.”
The 2018 Accord, Conrad said, “would make people rethink the sedan when they’re ready for a new vehicle.”
Despite its sagging fortunes, the midsize segment remains fiercely competitive. A redesigned Toyota Camry and a freshened Hyundai Sonata recently hit the market, while a redesigned Nissan Altima is expected next year. Each is crucial to its automaker’s identity and fortunes in the U.S., and each will be tasked with stemming defections to crossovers and rivals.
The Accord, introduced in 1976, became Honda’s best-seller in 1979 and stayed there until it was eclipsed by the CR-V crossover and Civic compact car in 2016, when sales dipped 2.9 percent to 345,225 units. Through the first half of this year, the Accord is down 5.5 percent, while many of its chief competitors are down much more.
The steady consumer migration to crossovers — including Honda’s own recently redesigned Pilot and CR-V — could prevent the 2018 Accord from recapturing its sales crown within the Honda family. But it won’t be for a lack of effort.
Will consumers go for the crisp styling of the 2018 Accord’s Touring edition over sport utilities and crossovers? Honda is betting on it.
Like the current-generation Civic, the Accord is new from the ground up. It rides on a modular chassis that it shares with the CR-V and the Civic that promises increased rigidity while also cutting weight.
For the first time, the Accord will be available with a turbocharged engine. The base model will have the 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder used throughout Honda’s lineup. It will make 192 hp and 192 pounds-feet of torque and will be matched with a continuously variable transmission.
Honda dropped the long-standing V-6 as the Accord’s optional engine and instead offer a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. Based on the engine in the Civic Type R, this unit makes 252 hp and 273 pounds-feet of torque. It will come with a new 10-speed automatic gearbox.
A short-throw six-speed manual transmission will be available on Sport trims.
A revised two-motor hybrid model — now built in Honda’s Marysville, Ohio, plant — will use a 2.0-liter gasoline engine. Additional details on the hybrid and fuel economy for all new models will be released closer to the 2018 Accord’s on-sale date this fall. The car was introduced Friday, July 14, in Detroit and Los Angeles.
Honda was keen to wrap these new powertrains in a body that had more style than earlier Accords. Despite being a true sedan, the 2018 Accord has a sloping, fastback profile that echoes the silhouette of the current Civic while also bearing a family resemblance to Honda’s Clarity lineup. (Honda dropped the coupe model for 2018.)
The redesigned model is bigger than its predecessors in nearly every dimension, offering more passenger and cargo space.
Other features are aimed at bringing a level of refinement and charm to what is often thought of as a staid segment. On models with automatic climate control, the temperature knob glows red or blue depending on which direction it’s turned. A 7-inch configurable screen in the instrument panel is standard on all models while a 6-inch color head-up display will be an option.
“Though midsize sedans have been struggling due to the SUV boom, the Accord has the power to stabilize the drop for the near future,” said Akshay Anand, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “If Honda can do with the Accord what they did with the newest Civic, it would be a huge win for Honda and the industry.”
Michael Wayland contributed to this report.
Weathering the storm
|The Honda Accord is one of the few midsize sedans not enduring double-digit sales declines this year. The segment is down about 18%.|
|Model||2017 Sales Jan.-June||% change|
|Source: Automotive News Data Center|