Review: 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring

Could an enthusiast enjoy a Honda Accord? After all, it is the antithesis of everything that most enthusiasts want – a front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan. And now, the all-new 2018 model is further neutered because the V6 engine was dropped, leaving it with a choice of two four-cylinder engines. Yawn, snore, wake me up when the Accord Type R wagon with all-wheel-drive and seven-speed manual comes out.
Except that Honda did something different with this new Accord. It’s as if they found that magic potion they used on their cars in the 1990s and sprinkled it on the Accord.
This new Accord is a really good car but to understand what makes it a really good car, we must look at Honda’s recent history.

Some refer to the 1990s as the Golden Age of Honda. Pretty much every vehicle that Honda made in the ’90s was great, from the CR-X to the CR-V. Those cars were typically lighter than their direct competitors. Double wishbone suspension made them fun to drive. Simple, but logical, high quality interiors made them easy to live with. Great gas mileage and excellent reliability made them affordable.
And then the 1990s were over. With the new millennium came new thinking and new designs at Honda. Each new model gained weight and size. McPherson struts became the new standard. Honda made some questionable choices in interior design. The reliability was there but due to the reputation of the vehicles from the previous decade, prices have increased. It seemed that Honda focused more on profits than just making really great cars.
With the exception of the fabulous S2000, itself a 90’s design, it was all over for Honda enthusiasts. The brand’s sporty cars stubbornly stuck to front-wheel-drive and naturally-aspired engines. The 2001 EP3 Civic Si was a design disaster. On the Acura side, the RSX didn’t get fraction of the love its predecessor, the Integra, got. And by that time, the competition has seriously stepped up – Evo, WRX, even the new Mini Cooper quickly became a favorite.

Honda was also no longer the go-to brand even for casual buyers. After years of getting their butts kicked by Honda, the competitors stepped up their game in terms of design, quality, economy, features, and reliability. And because Honda’s prices have lost their edge, people started exploring new options, even giving Hyundai and Kia a chance.
I grew up on 1990s Hondas. I owned about seven of them and still own one today. And for me, that post Y2K period has been very difficult in terms of being a Honda fan. I wanted to like them but I just couldn’t. Each one has something that would totally turn me off from it. I switched to BMWs and drove a variety of those for most of first decade in the new millennium.
Over the years Honda has been taking some chances, some good and some bad. Everyone is trying to forget the Crosstour and the CR-Z. Other vehicles, such as the Ridgeline pickup never got the credit they deserve. The Pilot pioneered the large, three-row, cross-over segment. The company has also made significant progress in alternative fuel vehicles.

But to me, in that post Y2K time frame, Honda never got one single car that I could just love. One that represented what Honda was in the 1990s – innovation, simplicity, efficiency, value, in both engineering and design.
Until now. And it, shockingly, it came in an unexpected form; that of a Honda Accord.

The exterior is handsome with side profile of resembling a hatchback, perhaps inspired by Audi. In the front, the grill has a slightly negative slope but in and of itself is rather subtle. Typical narrow and long headlights make the car seem wider. The C-pillar windows, taillights, and exhaust ports is where the designers took some risk. Some people I spoke with found that objectionable. The same people would call the design boring if those details were not there.
I’ve touched upon the dash design before – it’s great. Honda’s push button shifter is surprisingly intuitive and your muscle memory will master it before you get a chance to complain about it. There are a ton of cubbies, storage pockets, and a huge center compartment.
The seats are comfortable while being supportive. All passengers have plenty of head and legroom. The rear bench is split 60:40 to allow transport of longer items, and there is a center armrest. The dome light is cleverly placed further back, almost by the rear window, as opposed to the middle of the roof, which results in better illumination for the rear seat and less distraction for the driver. Front seat occupants have their own lights over their heads. And most importantly, all windows are big and roof pillars are thin, yielding great visibility. 

The most impressive thing about this Accord is how it drives, however. That 2.0-liter 252-horsepower turbo engine is just a gem. The power delivery is very linear free of lag or other delays, with plenty of low-end torque, 273 torques to be exact. It just pulls hard to the redline. And there is no engine start/stop to annoy you at traffic lights. This engine is simply fantastic. It sure as heck does not feel like a turbo four and it is the first downsized engine that doesn’t make me cry for its V-shaped predecessor.
The test vehicle was equipped with the 10-speed automatic transmission. It shifted quickly and it was always in the right gear. There were paddle-shifters but I never felt inclined to use them – it just did its own thing and it did it well. And here Honda shows that it cares about its enthusiast customers – both Accord engines are available with a six-speed manual transmission! Pow! Mind blown!

There are two disclaimers I have to make. The first is that the 2.0 engine is at its best when the sport driving mode is selected. In normal it feels heavier and less responsive. The second is that I have not driven an Accord with the 1.5-liter engine. I drove a Civic and a CR-V with that engine and I really was not that impressed with it. And there are two things I didn’t like about the Accord – the front radar that looks like an add-on in the middle of the front lower grill, and the fact that the trunk lid does not have an inside handle to pull it down with. 
To go along with that two-liter engine, Honda chassis engineers must have put in some serious overtime. The steering is quick and direct, and even though it is electric it almost feel hydraulic. The chassis responds very well to all steering inputs and remains natural. The feel of the car trying to understeer is not there until the very limits, which should not be explored on public roads. Along with this great handling is the suspension that prohibits any unwanted rolls or yaws but at the same time keeps the ride over pothole-ridden roads comfortable.

In case it wasn’t clear, I think this is a really great car. It’s very quick and it handles great. It looks good on the outside and functions well on the inside. It is both powerful and efficient. It is downright sporty, which is the most surprising thing about it. It took Honda a long time but this new Accord is firmly taking the brand back to its new glory days. Great job!

Disclaimer: Honda provided the vehicle  for the purpose of this review. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2018.

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13 responses to “Review: 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring”

  1. tonyola Avatar

    The radar thing on the front seems to pose a problem for quite a few manufacturers. The Mercedes S-Class uses an obviously flush panel at the center of the grille – is that the best they could do for the asking price?

  2. neight428 Avatar

    I kind of liked the Crosstour.

    1. Smaglik Avatar

      I hated it at first, but then grew to like it. I actually considered buying one until I realized my needs were more truck based SUV.

  3. JayP Avatar

    This rings a few bells with me and I’ve gone as far as to spec one out online.
    But I’d want a manual. Instantly the car goes to 2.0 spec and adds $4500.

    1. Smaglik Avatar

      We’re of similar minds on this. I’ve got some nostalgia issues on it too, as my first long term reliable car was a 94 accord, 5sp that I put 230k miles on, but I struggle to do so for that much money for an accord.

  4. Zentropy Avatar

    While the profile is nice, I don’t care for the front and rear styling of the new Accord, but the 2.0T with a manual makes a compelling case for a fun and practical commuter. Maybe if the grille and lower arms of the taillights were painted body color, it would look better.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      Both looks like pretty much any generic modern car interior from VW to Kia

  5. salguod Avatar

    I think peak anti Honda Accord was the huge models 2 generations back. The generation in between lost some bulk and regained some driver involvement. I’m really impressed with the blend of comfort and engaging handling in our 2015 Accord Hybrid. Ours is a a base model so it avoids the terrible two screen audio system, but the interior is still a bit ungainly and awkward The 2018 takes the work done on the prior generation and brings it to completion with a cleanly designed interior. I think it was Car and Driver that said “Honda wants to be Honda again” and it is very good.
    Oh, and the RSX may not have gotten the respect the Integra got and is probably not as good of a car, but my Type S is still a heck of a lot of fun.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      I’d rather have the interior and 2.0T/manual drivetrain of the 2018 Accord inside the body of the 2017. The front of the new one is unattractive, and from behind it looks like a Camry. In fact, I’m at best unenthused (and at worst, appalled) by the exterior styling of Honda’s entire current lineup. In all models, I think the prior generation looks better. Mazda remains the only attractive Japanese brand out there, and their cars look fantastic. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan could benefit from some intense recruitment of KIA and Mazda stylists.

      1. salguod Avatar

        I agree that Honda’s styling on their most recent models is, uh, polarizing to say the least. I like most of them and the Accord is perhaps the least polarizing of the bunch.
        I also agree that Mazdas are some of the most attractive cars out there, at any price. However, as I mentioned here before, my wife and I cross shopped a 2015 Mazda6 Touring and a 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid. The Mazda was prettier, inside and out, but the high cowl and belt line and the low roof gave it a bit of a claustrophobic feel. My vertically challenged wife found it very difficult to find a good driving position. The Honda was comfortable and airy. It just fit us both well. The suspension was firm and controlled without being harsh and the hybrid starts in electric only every time so it’s quite snappy off the line. The Mazda was certainly more athletic, but not enough to overcome the claustrophobia. If it was just for me, I’d have the Mazda. But for a car an enthusiast needs to share with a non-enthusiast, the Accord is hard to beat
        Honda sweats those details and now that they’re bringing that old Honda driving joy back it’s a really compelling package If Mazda wants to expand their market share, they need to do the same without sacrificing the styling and athleticism that makes them stand out.

  6. Rudy™ Avatar

    I don’t know–I liked the Civic EX-T I rented for a day last summer. 1.5L turbo. It certainly had quite a kick while traveling around the Salt Lake City area (don’t ask how fast I got it on I-25 ;o) ). The only real complaint I had was that it’s like every other new car being made today–I had to sit in the dealer lot for five minutes figuring out exactly how to drive the damn thing (and turn off whatever gawdawful radio station was playing). Way too many electronics, settings, etc., and I’m even the “geeky” type. Whatever happened to a car you could get in and just, you know, start up and drive? The Civic is too small and low ultimately (my arthritic hips need CR-V-style height), but for its brief journey with me, I had no complaints.
    I just wonder how the Accord will sell long term. People are moving to SUVs, and based on what I read yesterday, Honda dealers have a 100+ day supply of these latest Accords.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      Sedans are definitely on the decline, but won’t die out completely. Most cars are evolving towards a jacked-up, legume-shaped, AWD pod. People will eventually associate the crossover with “boring” and “typical” (many, including me, already do), and will seek out something different. The sedan may end up being more of a refreshing choice than its current rental lot status suggests.