Sedans have taken a hit lately. One by one, each has surrendered its pedestal to the continual popularity that is the compact crossover. Ford’s only car is the Mustang now that the Fusion and Taurus are gone. Volkswagen has kept the Passat overseas. Buick’s entire lineup comprises SUVs in all shapes these days. A lot of brands are shrinking portfolios to make room for what sells. One carmaker holding out is Honda. The Civic saw 200,000 units sold in 2023 and is due for a refresh. Another staple of the company stable? The Accord has been on sale for nearly as long as the Civic, with both debuting in the 1970s as America recovered from a harrowing oil crisis, and becoming rock stars ever since. Together, the two models have forged through an industry that is evolving now more than ever.
With the Honda CR-V reigning sales supremacy and the second iteration of the Civic Type R in the US, is there a modern Accord worth remembering? The answer is: yes! And it’s more recent than you think – much newer than the Holy Grail Accord Mercedes talked about not too long ago. And Honda has just released an update to keep it relevant. The twist is it’s not the Accord that’s rolling off the factory floor in Marysville, OH. Instead, it’s the last one that phased out production just over a year ago. Let’s dive into what made the tenth-generation Accord so great.
Let me take you back to July of 2017, when Honda revealed the modern Accord in a modern way via a YouTube livestream. Not one, but three models roll up to the stage in various guises: Sport, Touring, and the mid-range EX. Gone was the traditional three-box shape and trusty K24-series four-cylinder that decorated the engine bay for over a decade; replacing them was a svelte fastback shape that apologized to coupe purists for dropping the two-door variant, and under the hood was a pair of turbo engine options.
It was exciting and fresh, a far cry from your dad’s (and my own) Accord. At the time, it was completing a lineup that had just seen a slew of new faces on the Civic, CR-V, and the Pilot. Honda was going funky and dropping new styles with love-it or hate-it looks. The Accord looked to split the difference and show that form can have substance.
So yes, the Accord debuted with the 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four that had problems in the CR-V (problems concerning oil dilution). This engine would spread to see mass use in various Honda models including those built today. The good news is that the Accord doesn’t seem be affected the same as CR-Vs or Civics equipped with the 1.5T. Even better news: There were two more engines to choose from.
The Accord Hybrid was released about a year after tenth-gen models hit dealerships. It utilized a setup of a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four and a motor-generator to propel the wheels, abandoning the need for the CVT transmission (some sources call it an eCVT, but it’s a direct-drive link relying on an electric motor to move the car). This allowed it to achieve fuel mileage in the 40 MPG range, even if you were driving on bigger wheels, standard on Sport and Touring variants.
Like the 1.5T, this electrified setup had its issues when it comes to ownership. That left one more engine to be the Accord’s saving grace, and by golly it was.
The Accord To Get: The Civic Type R Engine And Manual Transmission
The upmarket engine for a fast Accord points to a 2.0-liter turbocharged K20C inline-four. If N20C sounds familiar in your enthusiast brain, that’s because it’s the engine designation for one of the greatest hot hatchbacks of all time, the Honda Civic Type R.
Even better: for a time, you could get the Accord with a six-speed manual, also derived from the Type R. We’re not referring to the brilliant FL5 Civic. No, this concerns the FK8, with looks only mothers could love. So you had a sleek sedan with visual pop, especially in Sport trim, and the potential access to Type R performance without the wings-out wild style, while being less expensive.
But this is still an Accord. Accords are sensible passenger cars. So the disclaimer needs to be made here that this is not actually a Type R underneath. Honda made key refinements to ensure the Accord 2.0T was livable to use daily.
To start, the engine received the designation K20C4, meaning the turbo runs less boost, saw different pistons, received new fuel mapping, and other tweaks to the internals were made just so the Accord could be run on regular unleaded instead of premium. Civic Type Rs that have made it to North America since 2017 are designated K20C1, which unlocks its full potential — hence why Accord 2.0Ts were rated at 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque versus 306 and 295 in the hot hatch sibling.
Honda prudes will note that the stats are essentially swapped compared to the 3.5-liter J35Y V6 that powered the previous-gen Accord, while turbo stans will clap back that peak torque comes at just 1,500 RPM and holds until 4,000. Peak horsepower, by the way, arrives at 6,500 RPM just before hitting the 6,800-RPM redline.
Although the six-speed transmission was lifted out of the Type R, the manual action certainly wasn’t. This generation of Accord is known for a longer clutch travel and less precise feeling of the shifter, both I can attest to. It didn’t matter which engine you chose, neither the 1.5T or 2.0T (the two engines available with a stick) can produce the same row-your-own satisfaction you get in a Mazda or BMW.
A Hit From The Start
V6 or not, it didn’t matter. Critics raved about the tenth-gen Accord when it came out for the 2018 model year. Car And Driver said this when it came out:
(But) a manual Accord—a really fun and powerful Accord at that—serves as a reminder of the joy and freedom we used to have as drivers back in the 20th century. Call it an anachronism or an anomaly, but the stick shift belongs to us, those who love driving.
Our pal Patrick George couldn’t stop raving about it on the old site:
What I appreciated most were all the little thoughtful touches. The climate control knobs briefly light up blue when you turn them to a cooler temperature, or red for hotter. When you change the song streaming over Bluetooth, the new song’s title briefly flashes across the digital tachometer. The way you can search for addresses or points of interest like you would on Google, without having to enter the city and ZIP and house number one item at a time. Nothing about the Accord’s user interface ever feels half-assed.
The praise kept coming. It was a finalist in MotorTrend’s Car Of The Year competition, and made the cut as an Automobile All Star along with the Civic Type R. Proving that as great as it is, Honda never forgot its mission.
This was an Accord through and through. Every detail was taken into account, with the goal of being an excellent conventional car. Perfection didn’t stop at the engine. Every tenth-gen model enjoyed MacPherson struts at the front axle and a multi-link suspension at the rear, and was set up to almost-guarantee a good time on the road.
A Nice Cabin
I saved the interior for last because it was consistent throughout its production run from 2017 all the way to the end of 2022. Pleasing to look at, solid fit-and-finish, comfortable seats, great ergonomics, and enough physical hardware to stop yourself from going crazy operating the tech interfaces of the center console display and gauge cluster. In the Touring trim, enough kit and richer materials were introduced to make it feel like a proper luxury car.
Drawbacks? Well, they were far and few. Honda threw in an imperfect engine in the 1.5 that is still ironing out the wrinkles through recalls. In a lot of ways still, the design, while more enticing, still wooed you with function more than form. This not being a sports car first, the stick-shift setup is knowingly not the greatest. Perhaps it’s why the manual Accord ended production in Dec. 2019, and we didn’t find out about it until July 2020, when Car And Driver was informed by Honda during typical product updates.
On the other hand, Honda was the last midsize sedan to offer a 6-speed manual when the Mazda6 dropped it after 2018 (and eventually bowing out of the US entirely). And that’s really the moral of the tenth-gen Accord: We don’t really know what we missed until it’s gone.
Every Accord had something to offer. The base LX model skipped hubcaps for alloy wheels, had LED lighting elements as standard, and offered you a roomy cabin filled with features that didn’t feel like you were cheapened out. The Sport bumped the visual appeal with 19-inch blade-style wheels, unique colors, upgraded cabin materials, and a touch display with Apple CarPlay. The 2.0T could be chosen with the Sport and add a sunroof and seat warmers, so you weren’t paying a premium merely for an engine upgrade. Until it was dropped (almost certainly due to a low take-rate), the manual could only be had in the Sport trim.
The EX trim will start to pack in the value with seat warmers and the sunroof, but also unlock leather seating surfaces, blindspot monitoring, and remote engine start. The most desired options reserved for the Accord Touring include ventilated seats, heated rear seats, a head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, Honda navigation, and adaptive dampers to go with that epic suspension.
Just because the manual went away doesn’t mean the 2.0T did. A 2021 update means the more potent engine was now exclusively available with the 10-speed auto, still optional on the Sport, standard on the Touring. The hybrid powertrain was refined to run smoother. Wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity became available on higher trims for the first time. The visual changes focused on new wheel designs and a revised front bumper with a more pronounced grille and new fog lights.
On Top Of That, You Can Have Your Stickshift Accord Retroft To Have Wireless Apple CarPlay
And now, Honda has confirmed to The Drive that wireless CarPlay will become available retrofit to all Accords built within the 2018 and 2022 period, furthering the case of buying the tenth-gen car over a new one.
It’s not that the current sedan is necessarily a bad car, but the Honda Accord built before it just set such a high bar during its five-year run, that the successor just comes off rather dull.
The 1.5T stays, with the hybrid making up the rest of the range, but no more 2.oT to bring a greater thrill to the mundane ways of life. The interior is still the star of the show but with an Accord, that should not be the only praise worth throwing. With the tenth-generation, Honda decided the unsung hero should sing.
My first car was a 2007 Accord painted in silver with gray leather. It had 180,000 miles when I was on the market for the next car. I was so close to trading my Accord with another Accord. The one that got away came up for sale at an Audi dealership. A 2019 Accord Sport 2.0T equipped with the manual transmission, one owner, low miles, no accidents, in the correct Still Night Pearl metallic blue. Before I had a chance to go see it, the car was sold. It broke my heart. That was the moment I decided to become a Miata stan, because I was buying with the inclination of keeping it forever, not to trade it in tomorrow for something else. So the MX-5 RF stays. The Buick will stay as it’s got plenty of life left in old age.
The best Accords don’t deserve to stay Holy Grails. Generation Ten served the best variety platter with something for everyone. So keep driving your Accords; your 6-speeds, your near-Type Rs, your hybrids, your normies.
All Images: Honda