VMR Canada

1994-1997

Honda Accord   More fun than it looks

1997 Honda Accord1996 Honda Accord Wagon

Note: This article first appeared in the Spring 99 issue of Used Cars.

Honda is the car company that wasn't supposed to be. Riding the wave of a successful motorcycle manufacturing business, so the legend goes, Honda thought that it should build cars, too. The powers-that-be in Japan at the time, which included powerful government ministries and the other car companies, thought that Honda was doing just fine as a motorcycle manufacturer. Both groups actively discouraged Honda and withheld assistance and cooperation from the fledgling upstart. Honda soldiered on, initially producing some funky and tiny chain driven automobiles. In the late sixties Honda started building real (but still tiny) cars, and fixed their sights on the holy grail of automobile markets -- America.

Honda's first breakthrough car, the Civic, came to these shores at a most opportune time. 1973 saw gas lines, escalating gas prices and a sudden demand for small, cheap and fuel efficient cars. The Civic was an inspired piece of work, arguably the best mini of the time and even more remarkable in that it was produced by such a young company. Honda had struck paydirt.

In 1976 the Accord debuted and Honda had another hit on their hands. The first Accords were not without problems, including frequent blown head gaskets, unit bodies that rusted out from under you and suspect brakes. But Honda took care of their customers and fixed many of them multiple times for free. Detroit had never seen such a thing! And Honda had won a lot of converts.

Since then each redesign has seen it grow (mostly) both in sophistication and size. But it remained a pleasant, responsive, and satisfying car to drive -- even in base form.

In 1979, Honda built a motorcycle plant in Ohio and in late 1982 became the first Japanese manufacturer to produce automobiles on American soil. About three quarters of the Accords sold in the U.S. were (are) built in Ohio, with the balance imported from Japan.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Responsive
  • First-class cabin
  • Very good build quality
  • Best in class 4-cylinder engine
  • Reliable
  • Not as roomy as competitors
  • Spotty dealer body
  • Somewhat loud at highway speeds
  • Small trunk

 

What's Available
Which brings us to the focus of this profile - the 1994 through 1997 version. A sedan, coupe and wagon were produced and were available in DX, LX, and EX trim. The bottom model, the DX, was not available with any power accessories. The most popular version was the LX, and the top of the line EX sported a more powerful VTEC engine, 15" alloys and a firmer suspension. All hold a 2.2 liter single overhead cam powerplant in the engine bay, rated 145 hp in the EX and 130 elsewhere.

What The Experts Said…

"Every detail seems to have been massaged."Car & Driver

"The new Accord is impressively quiet. At idle the engine is so well isolated that it's barely recordable on our sound meter."   Road & Track

"The Accord is the most fun to drive of this threesome (Taurus, Camry) thanks to its nimble, agile feel, stable at-the-limit handling, confident steering, and well-controlled ride."  Motor Trend

"One of our top-rated sedans for years."  Consumer Reports

"The Accord V6 is a pleasure to drive--smooth, quiet, quick, and responsive."    Automobile

 A 5-speed manual transmission was standard fare, with a 4-speed automatic optional across the board. For 1995 things stayed pretty much the same except for the availability of an updated version of the old Acura 2.7 liter V6 making 170hp. Unfortunately, this was mated only to an automatic transmission. 1996 brought slightly redesigned bumpers, parking lights, and a chrome grille for all models. Previously, the chrome accent on the grille appeared only on the V6 equipped cars. The '97 model brought no changes except for the addition of the customary last year Accord "Special Edition" (SE) model that touted such standard equipment as power moonroof, alloys, remote entry, and CD player.

Exterior Design
Mainstream Japanese design elements dominate the overall look of the Accord. A slightly muscular and hunkered down look is softened whenever the sheetmetal looks like it might be getting a little too bold. From certain angles the Accord looks like its tires are undersized, especially on the DX and LX models. But it is clean and contemporary looking and should stay fresh for quite a while longer.

In typical Honda fashion, fit and finish are excellent. All body gaps are straight and true and the paint quality is among the best in the business.

Interior Design
Honda has consistently designed first class cabins that rival much more expensive vehicles. Nothing is overdone, materials are rich looking and the execution of everything is simply marvelous.
1997 Honda Accord dashboard

Sit in an Accord and all buttons, switches, levers and pedals are right where you'd expect them to be. They all feel just right, too. After the ridicule Honda endured with the funky dash on the last Prelude, it's doubtful you'll see a daring dash design in a Honda for a while. But at least the mold they've settled on is awfully good.

And of course that low cowl, a Honda trademark, gives great visibility and adds an airy feeling to the cabin.

Room/Comfort
Although usually considered a mid-size car comparable to the Taurus and Camry, the Accord was actually classified as a compact by government standard measurements. All Accords carry front buckets with a floor mounted shifter and are rated as five-passenger automobiles. But rear seat accommodations can get tight, even for two if the front seats are pushed back. Three adults simply don't fit comfortably. Shoulders scrunch, heads brush the headliner and the middle person sits on a hard hump.

Front seat occupants are cradled in supportive and firm - but not overly so - seats that are extremely comfortable. You'll sit a little low unless you have an EX or V6 LX with its power seat with up and down adjustment. Even with the low seating position headroom is at a premium for anyone over 5' 11".

The trunk is small, rated at only 13 cubic feet and really more in line with cars a step down in size. It is all usable, however, with a flat floor and gas struts to control the deck lid so there are no conventional hinges to restrict the placement of your stuff. And a fold down rear seat back (not split) increases the versatility of the space available.

The noise level is low at idle and around town. Two examples we looked at had rather rough and clattery idles. As these were the exceptions to the rule, we have to assume that they may have needed some kind of attention. At highway speeds there is noticeable road noise filtering into the cabin. And like most 4-cylinder mills, hard acceleration raises the decibel level noticeably, although at elevated levels Honda's fours sound better than most everyone else's!

Ride/Handling/Performance
For a family sedan, the Accord is wonderfully direct and responsive to driver inputs. Of all the sedans in the midsize segment, this is the one that pays most attention to the driver. Employing a rather unique double wishbone suspension (inspired by its all-conquering Formula 1 racing effort in the late eighties and early nineties), the Accord, whether the base model or the EX, responds quickly and confidently to any change in direction. And the ride does not suffer at all -- always firm and controlled but never harsh. As noted previously, Honda manages to make the best sounding four cylinder engines that we know of. The DX and LX only make 130hp, yet they hardly ever seem strained. Even when pushed hard, the noise level rises but doesn't offend. The EX offers an extra 15hp, but it's mostly noticeable in the upper rpm ranges. A V6-equipped Accord we drove was very smooth and noticeably quicker off the mark, but didn't pull as strongly as we expected.

The automatic transmission employs "fuzzy logic" to make the right shift at the right time with the proper amount of smoothness. It was mostly successful, but at low speed the gear change between 1st and 2nd was sometimes abrupt. Honda's manual transmission is always at the top of the class. Light to the touch with just the right amount of mechanical feedback.

Safety
Dual front airbags and three point belts for all passengers greet the Accord's occupants. Child safety locks for the rear seat are also standard. The braking chores are handled by a front disc/rear drum setup on the DX and LX and four wheel disc brakes on the EX. ABS is standard on the EX model, optional on the LX (includes disc brakes front and rear) and not available on the DX.

In government crash tests, Accord received a 4 star rating (very good) for the driver and a 3 star rating (good) for the front passenger. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 40 mph offset barrier crash test, the Accord received an Acceptable rating.

Reliability
Few cars share Honda's perceived reputation for bullet-proof reliability and cutting edge engineering. It's a belief that is largely true, although we can't help but wonder if the general enthusiasm for the marque sometimes clouds owner's perceptions of how reliable their car really is.

Through our consumer help-line and conversations with mechanics and owners, we've found that while Honda's are very reliable, their reputation for repair-free, low-cost ownership may be slightly exaggerated. Honda possesses a solid track- record of taking care of owners whose car may be out of warranty. This behavior no doubt overcomes many complaints car buyers have with the "Honda Attitude" at its retailers, and pays off in owner loyalty.

That said, we can report that in talking to owners of '94-'97 models we have seen or heard of nothing but unfailing reliability. All Accords were covered by a 3yr/36 months bumper-to-bumper warranty, so many are still covered.

Service/Maintenance
Calling area dealers about service, we were reminded of that "Honda Attitude". We were given incorrect information on maintenance schedules (to the dealer's advantage of course), hurried off the phone, and generally treated like they were doing us a favor by talking to us. This wasn't true for all of them, but enough to make you wonder how a car company can produce such good cars on one hand and tolerate poor customer service on the other.

Parts costs are high, as the accompanying table illustrates. Quotes from Honda dealers were generally much higher than mail-order and parts store chains such as Chief Auto Parts, Pep Boys and NAPA. The premium for going factory was among the highest we've seen.

With a full double-wishbone suspension, the Accord does away with the McPherson struts most other cars have these days, so you'll only be in for shocks at replacement time. The recommended timing belt service is 90,000 miles.

Unfortunately, Honda decided to save a few bucks by not installing a stainless steel exhaust system. Service techs we spoke with say the A-pipe at the front generally lasts a while, but the rest of the system is not particularly robust. You'll notice many Hondas with a new muffler peeking out the back.

Finally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 5mph bumper bash into a flat barrier produced $303 worth of damage to the front bumper and $103 to the rear. The pole test upped the numbers to $714 and $476, respectively.

Conclusion
If you are looking for a fun-to-drive pre-owned family car, you need look no further than the Accord. In the popularly priced mid-size segment, it pays the most attention to the driver, while giving up nothing in comfort and amenities.

The value equation is a little more difficult to sort out. As with the Toyota Camry, we believe it to be somewhat pricey on the used market.  After about four years, the Accord's value begins to fall off at a roughly equivalent rate as the Camry. Since it started a little lower, the absolute dollar drop is less, but still rather high.

We have seen Accord's premium dropping recently and with a large supply of them available, you should be able to bargain hard for a good deal, despite what a dealer may tell you.

With aggressive pricing and lease deals available on the current generation Accord (1998), you might be better off taking a hard look at a new one.

 

General Specifications

 

General

Trim Levels: DX,LX, EX,SE('97 only)

Body Styles: 4-dr Sedan, 4-dr Wagon, 2-dr coupe

Dimensions & Capacities (rounded)

Weight: Sdn&Cpe: 2900 lbs;Wgn: 3100 lbs

Length: Sdn&Cpe: 184"; Wgn: 188"

Wheelbase:107"

Width: 70"

Height: Sdn&Cpe: 55"; Wgn: 56"

EPA Class: Compact

Interior Vol: 95 cu ft.

Trunk Vol : Sdn: 13 cu ft.; Wgn: 26 cu ft

Fuel: 17 gallons

Mechanical

Layout: Front-engine, Front-wheel drive

Engines: 2.2L (4cyl-130hp) 2.2L (4cyl-145hp) (EX) 2.7L(6cyl-170hp) ('95-'97)

Transmissions: 5-speed manual; 4- speed automatic w/overdrive

Brakes: Front disc, rear drum (4cyl DX & LX)

Front & rear disc (6cyl, EX)

Performance (2.2L 130hp 4cyl-AT)

0-60mph: 10.1 seconds

1/4 mile: 18.1 seconds

Top Speed: 112mph

EPA Mileage: 2.2L-23/29 (city/hwy)

Performance (2.7L 6cyl-AT)

0-60mph: 9.0 seconds

 

1/4 mile: 16.8 seconds

Top Speed: 130mph

EPA Mileage: 19/25 (city/hwy)

Safety

ABS Brakes: Std EX, all 6cyl models

Air Bags: Driver and passenger standard all years

NHTSA Safety Rating:

Driver **** Passenger ***

Key:

Best: ***** No or minor injuries probable

Worst: * Serious injury probable

IIHS 40 mph Crash Rating:

Acceptable

Original Warranty:

3yr/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper

5yr/unlimited mile corrosion

 

 

Recalls

1994 All Models - Year of Recall: 1994 - The tire valve stems were damaged during the assembly process. this can cause the tire to lose air pressure. significant air loss can result in steering pull, tire overheating, and eventual tire failure which could result in an accident. Dealer will inspect all tires to determine if the valve stems were damaged. Damaged tire stems will be replaced.

1995 All Models - Year of Recall: 1996 - The Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) Electronic Control Unit can cause the air bag to deploy unexpectedly. This type of unanticipated air bag deployment could result in abrasion to the hands, arms, or face of a properly-positioned front seat occupant, or could cause more serious injury to an out-of-position occupant. Dealer will replace SRS Electronic Control Unit in air bag system.

NOTE: Owners who take their vehicles to an authorized dealer on an agreed upon service date and do not receive the free remedy within a reasonable time should contact Honda at 1-800-999-1009 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 1-800-424-9393.

1995 - Some supplemental restraint system control units can cause unexpected airbag deployments.

 

Parts/Service Costs

                              Parts Only                   Parts & Labor

Accessory belt(s)               $16-$25                                 $40-$60

Alternator (new)                 $225-$325                             $375-$500

Brakes (pads only) F/R      $18/$12                          $120-$170/$240-$400

CV Joints (outer)                $125-$145ea                        $300-$400ea

Exhaust (muffler)                $110                                    $250-$500

(all pipes)                          $250-$350                             $300-$550

Headlamp                           $70-$85                                n/a

Struts Front/Rear                  n/a                                        n/a

Timing belt (2 pieces)           $60-$80                               $400-$600

Water pump                         $35-$50                               $275-$375

Note: Pricing comes from dealers, wholesale mail-order companies and independent parts stores. Average labor rate computed at $50/hr. Pricing can vary widely - shop around.

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