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2016 Honda Accord Test Drive Review
Honda bestows a number of improvements upon the 2016 Accord, making the popular family sedan better in several ways. Unfortunately, numerous flaws remain, small oversights that, collectively, produce a steady, underlying thrum of aggravation with the car. In most respects, however, the Accord is a terrific automobile.
Look and Feel8/ 10
Through last year, more Americans parked a Honda Accord in their driveway than they did any other car. With sales off 13 percent in 2015 (through September 2015), the automaker is no longer making such claims, which means the updates that Honda is giving to the 2016 Accord are even more critical to the car’s continued success.
Accord sales are faltering not because of inherent flaws in the product. Rather, people are flocking to crossover SUVs. For example, Honda’s CR-V is the most popular SUV in the country, and by a substantial margin when counting only those sales to everyday car buyers like you and me. In fact, in 2015, Honda has sold nearly as many CR-Vs as it has Accords (through September 2015).
Nothing about the 2016 Accord is likely to change a CR-V buyer’s mind, because it remains a sedan, and it still doesn’t have all-wheel drive (AWD). If, however, you are shopping for a new midsize family car and you like the new Accord’s Acura-esque styling, you’re probably going to like most other aspects of this vehicle.
Honda builds the Accord to suit a range of equipment and budget requirements. You can get an Accord LX for as little as $23,000, but you’ll need to spend $800 more for a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which replaces the standard 6-speed manual gearbox. Or, for $35,400, you can buy the Accord Touring, a new trim level with all the bells and whistles. In between these versions, Honda offers the Sport, EX, and EX-L, as well as navigation and safety technology upgrades.
My test car is the Accord Touring, dipped in new Kona Coffee paint. For several years now, brown has been trying to make a comeback as a paint color, and based on my observations where I live in Southern California, consumers are successfully resisting what little temptation may exist. Something tells me that trying to sell a brown used car a decade from now will be as difficult as trying to sell a forest green used car today.
Aside from the paint, my test car looked terrific, upscale and sporty, like an Acura. The new grille, the LED headlights, and the big 19-inch, machined-finish wheels certainly won’t help anyone make the case for spending thousands more on an Acura TLX.
Grab the robust door handle, open the driver’s door, note the heft, refinement, and quality associated with this action, and check out the Accord’s interior. From seat height up, the quality of the materials is plainly evident. From seat height down, evidence demonstrating why a Honda is cheaper than an Acura is immediately obvious.
Most Accords have a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 185 hp, except in the Sport model, where it makes 189 hp. The only way to get a V6 engine is to buy the EX-L model and spend $2,075 for the option, or to buy the Touring model.
Although refined and efficient, the 4-cylinder engine can’t match the V6 when it comes to satisfying a driver’s every whim. Thanks to its 278 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, the 3.5-liter V6 supplies ample and effortless power for merging onto fast-flowing freeways, for passing slower vehicles, and for roaring up mountain grades.
Of course, there is a cost associated with taking advantage of this responsive engine. On my test loop, the Accord averaged 24.6 mpg, falling a bit short of the EPA’s official rating of 25 mpg in combined driving. Had I engaged the car’s Eco driving mode, perhaps I would have matched or exceeded official ratings. With that said, and though the engine is undeniably thirsty in city, suburban, and traffic-rich scenarios, out on the open road while cruising at speeds above 70 mph, the Accord Touring easily returned better than 34 mpg.
Dynamically, the Accord is terrific to drive. This year, Honda has stiffened the car’s structure, re-tuned the steering and suspension, and installed larger front brakes for the Sport and Touring models. The Sport and Touring also receive the new 19-inch aluminum wheels shown on my test car. Collectively, these adjustments are almost certain to ensure that the Accord remains on Car and Driver’s annual “10 Best” list.
That a traditional enthusiast publication thinks so highly of the Accord’s driving dynamics is telling. Honda doesn’t really market this car as fun to drive, and having a good time while behind the steering wheel likely doesn’t rank as a primary purchase driver among consumers who are considering an Accord. Yet this is quite an enjoyable family sedan: nimble, athletic, and ready to slice through traffic or sluice down a favorite back road.
Of course, the V6 engine only makes the Accord even more fun. Whether you need to get a jump on traffic away from an intersection or you want to rocket down a mountainside while exploring the remarkably high levels of grip supplied by the 19-inch tires, the Accord Touring is ready and willing to play whenever you are.
Unfortunately, the excellent 6-speed automatic transmission offers nothing more than a Sport driving mode to help enliven the experience. This car is begging for a set of paddle shifters. Also, keep in mind that the cool-looking 19-inch wheels increase the Accord’s turning circle, making it a harder to execute tight U-turns, 3-point turns, and parking maneuvers in cramped lots.
Form and Function4/ 10
Another thing the Accord is begging for is additional attention to certain details. The plastic coating the lower half of the cabin might be appropriate for a Civic, but it just looks shiny and cheap in the Accord, especially the pricey Touring model. The glove box door on my test car suffered a poor fit, and in some locations, such as the seams to the left and right of the climate-control panel, the edges of the plastic reminded me of a kindergartener’s proficiency with scissors.
Comfort is another area where the Accord disappointed in terms of the details. The seats themselves are excellent, front and rear, and there is plenty of room for legs, knees, shoulders, and elbows for everyone aboard the Accord.
However, if you lean too hard on the door-panel armrest or the center-console armrest, the hard plastic beneath the thin padding might cause someone to wince in pain. My top-of-the-line Accord Touring did not include ventilated front seats, and they simply are not available no matter how much money you have to spend. The front passenger’s seat doesn’t offer a seat-height adjuster, and while the seat isn’t sitting right on the floor, it's mounted low enough that getting into and out of the Accord is hard for certain people, and the car fails to provide thigh support for people with longer legs.
Thankfully, Honda decided not to install the touch-panel climate controls that mar the interior of the new HR-V crossover. In the Accord, the dual-zone automatic climate control panel has large, well-marked buttons and a clear display, in keeping with Honda’s historical penchant for flawless ergonomics. Big, legible instrumentation is another bonus, and a green ring glows around the speedometer whenever the car is driven in a fuel-efficient manner.
Honda has also upgraded the Accord’s available infotainment system for 2016, and while we’ll get into the details in the next section, the new setup is more intuitive to use than the previous Accord’s technology. It isn’t perfect, though, most notably lacking a power/volume knob and a tuning knob.
Granted, you can execute those functions using a 4-way rocker switch on the steering wheel, which has nearly 20 buttons on it for controlling various features and functions on three different displays, but I can’t help but think that using a simple, tried-and-true approach would simplify operation.
Another thing to consider is how the Accord’s trunk is configured. It holds 15.8 cubic feet of cargo, unless you get the EX-L or Touring, which provide 15.5 cubes due to the installation of premium sound-system components. In any case, in my Touring test vehicle, two full-size suitcases would not fit side-by-side between the wheel wells. They needed to be closer to the edge of the trunk rather than farther back in the trunk. I tried to place a suitcase on its side, but it wouldn’t clear the speaker components.
Another overlooked opportunity for improvement pertains to how the Accord’s trunk lid closes. Honda does not supply a handle or a grip inside the trunk, so you must use your fingers or hands on the outside of the trunk to slam it shut. Is this a big deal? Not when the car is clean. When it’s dirty, this is a pain in the you-know-what.
Tech Level8/ 10
Every 2016 Accord is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio capability, text-messaging support, a USB port, and access to Pandora Internet radio. If you want Honda’s latest touchscreen infotainment system, which looks and works like a tablet computer or a smartphone, you’ll need to skip the Accord LX and Sport in favor of the EX, EX-L, or Touring.
Equipped with next-generation HondaLink connected services, this system features a 7-inch touchscreen that allows information to be spread, pinched, and swiped, just like a tablet or smartphone. It is compatible with Siri Eyes Free voice-recognition technology, and also offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration platforms, which are designed to transform the display screen into a version of your connected device, with support for specific applications.
Like any new technology, the Accord’s infotainment system requires time to program, and owners will suffer through a relatively brief learning curve as they acclimate to how the system works. As far as how intuitive the programming process is, and how easy it is to reference information, I judge this effort to be a success.
For example, the top display screen is now reserved for ancillary information displayed on a choice between three different screens. My preference was the screen showing a compass, the trip computer, and the radio station and artist details. The lower screen can be used for a number of deep-dive information and system configuration operations, and once I had set the Accord up the way I wanted it, I used this screen mainly for the navigation map and traffic display.
The most aggravating thing about the infotainment system related to the USB port. We’d left the house for a 2-hour trek across metropolitan Los Angeles, the kids in their safety seats gazing at rare, puffy white clouds from a low-pressure system moving through the region. No sooner had I gotten on the freeway then they asked to listen to Taylor Swift.
Maybe we should have predicted this, as it is a regular request. Nevertheless, we had not, and so my wife plugged her iPhone into the proper USB port so that she could play an extensive collection of the pop star’s music during the trip. The Accord’s infotainment system politely informed us that it would be happy to accommodate this request when it was safer to do so. In other words, when the car was not moving.
I have a suggestion for Honda. Put a sensor in the front passenger’s seat. When it detects a person weighing, say, 75 pounds or more, allow for this USB connection to be made while the car is moving.
Check out the Honda Accord’s crash-test ratings, and it’s pretty clear that this is a safe car. Except for 4-star ratings for frontal-impact protection as assigned by the federal government, the Accord earns top marks in every other assessment performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
For 2016, Honda makes the Accord even safer thanks to its new Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies. Admirably, Honda makes this equipment available on every version of the Accord, the only caveat being that consumers cannot combine a manual transmission with Honda Sensing technologies.
A forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, a lane-departure warning system with lane-keeping assist, a road-departure prevention system, and an adaptive cruise control system are included in the Honda Sensing option package, which is standard for the Accord Touring. I certainly appreciated the ability to adjust sensitivity levels and to shut specific features off, and for the most part these systems worked accurately. On occasion, both the forward collision warning and lane-departure warning systems issued false alarms.
Unfortunately, two particularly useful safety features—rear cross-traffic alert and a blind-spot warning system—are not part of this package. The Accord does come with a standard reversing camera, one providing three different viewpoints including a 180-degree view of the world behind the car. Still, I’d like it if a rear cross-traffic alert system issued an aural warning when cars are approaching from either side, especially when reversing out of my driveway during commute times, when my suburban street turns into something resembling a race track.
Instead of a blind-spot warning system that works on both sides of the vehicle, Honda supplies LaneWatch technology for the EX, EX-L, and Touring models. LaneWatch is a camera-based system that shows only what is in the right-side blind spot, not the left-side blind spot. Furthermore, it displays this information on the top information screen, a location the driver does not naturally reference when changing lanes.
LaneWatch is superior to swiveling your head and looking over your shoulder in order to check your blind spot. It is not, however, superior to a traditional blind-spot warning system that works for both sides of the car, one that shows a visual warning on or near the side mirrors where the driver should already be looking when changing lanes.
Worse, Honda appears to know that LaneWatch is an inferior solution. Acura models have a traditional blind-spot warning system. So does the Honda Pilot Elite, the top-of-the-line version of the company’s family-size SUV. Replacement of LaneWatch in these models suggests that the technology is inferior.
Honda, it's time to drop LaneWatch and offer the better, more traditional system in its place.
Buying a 2016 Honda Accord is a good hedge against unanticipated expenses. While its ubiquity might be one reason it holds its value at an average rate, a combination of favorable reliability ratings, impressive fuel-economy estimates, and admirably low insurance costs help to make the Accord an affordable family car.
If you’re looking for a deal, though, the Accord is typically disappointing. Honda is disinterested in giving the impression that its merchandise is distressed, so customer rebates, dealer incentives, and low-interest financing programs are usually reserved for sales events that are designed to clear out stock of older models when newer models are arriving.
You can, however, get a great lease deal on an Accord. Though ALG says an Accord holds its value at an average rate, Honda is usually unafraid to give consumers low lease payments combined with realistic mileage limits. Off-lease vehicles are important to Honda, as they stock the automaker’s certified-used car inventory.
If Honda’s historical product cadence holds true, you might want to go ahead and consider a lease instead of a purchase, because the redesigned 2018 Accord will likely address most, if not all, of my complaints about the current model. There is plenty to love about a 2016 Accord. Unfortunately, there are lots of little flaws in this vehicle, that, collectively, could serve to aggravate an owner on a regular basis.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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