A midsize sedan able to put a smile on drivers’ faces without sacrificing practicality, comfort, or bang for the buck.
Midsize sedans with some extra zip seem to be a common theme amongst automakers lately, and it appears that they’re choosing to let some fun into the room in order to compete against the advent of the vanilla crossover sport utility vehicle. Cars like the 2019 Honda Accord Sport 2.0 sedan with a six-speed manual previously did not exist, and up until the introduction of the current generation last year, the only way to get a manual with the bigger engine was by way of the two-door coupe. The ever-dwindling group of enthusiasts who need a practical ride are certainly justified in having their ears perked up for this Honda; long story short, it delivers, and has helped the Accord solidify a finalist position in our annual Car of the Year awards for 2018.
Recently, a few members of the DoubleClutch.ca Magazine editorial team had the chance to get our hands on a manual Sport 2.0 sedan while in sunny California for the Los Angeles Auto Show. Following the one or two days of walking the show floor checking out the latest releases in the industry, the team took to the canyons in and around the LA area to stress test the Accord a little bit more. Having tested various cars in these mountain passes over the years – including other variants of manual-equipped Accords gone by – it’s a quick way to separate the decent cars from the great ones.
The MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension are a similar type of layout as the previous generation car, but the new chassis and its tuning make a huge difference in the Accord’s driving dynamics. The Honda Civic Type R (reviewed here) and Civic Si are two current pinnacles of front-drive motoring, and the Si itself feels like a toned down version of the revelation that is the Type R. The Accord Sport is one further notch down on the comfort and practicality versus performance, but this is not to say that it is a poor performer. All three cars feel like they’ve been cut from the same DNA, and atone for some of the more numb driving sins that the last few years of Honda have brought on.
Firstly, the steering is very well weighted, and within the last year or two, modern electric power assist systems are now able to hold up much better in a performance driving setting. The rack ratio is a relatively quick 2.2 turns lock to lock, which greatly helped in the narrow switchbacks of Glendora Ridge Road. The progression between grip and a soft, manageable understeer was very well defined, and the 235 width, 19-inch Goodyear all-season tires allowed plenty of margin before starting to howl.
Throughout all the hard cornering, the suspension kept its composure, with impeccably tuned shock absorber damping that made for excellent body control. There was no bouncing or “pogo” effect to be seen over mid-corner bumps, yet ride quality remained supple and smooth enough for even the worst of urban Los Angeles’ cratered roads. The brakes were happy to keep up with descents down the mountain, although some thermal management (read: taking it easy!) is required to make sure fade doesn’t become an issue.
One of Honda’s strengths over the years has been their manual transmission shifter and clutch feel. The 2019 Accord is no exception, even though it’s marginally not as good as Hondas that have come before it. The shifter goes into each gate with a satisfying snickwith only a hint of play, and while this may sound a bit like a complaint, it’s still among the best shifters in any new car sold today.
Clutch engagement is numb and the pedal is light, but response is very linear and forgiving to even the most novice of stick-shift drivers. Drive by wire throttle response is fairly good, and with a bit of practice, rev-match downshifts are more than doable. Bottom line, you’ll be able to have fun with this combination in both city and spirited driving situations.
Powering the Sport 2.0 variants of the Accord is, as the name implies, a 2.0-litre inline four, complete with a turbocharger, VTEC (Honda’s Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control camshaft phasing system), and a whole glut of torque in the low and mid-range. Built upon the K-series of engines that’s been in use for nearly the last twenty years, the iterative approach taken by Honda has resulted in an engine that doesn’t really feel turbocharged at all.
With peak output rated at 252 horsepower at 6,500RPM and 273 lb-ft of torque between 1,500 and 4,000RPM, throttle response is practically instant, and there’s just about no turbo lag to report. The engine exhaust note is similar to that of other K-series variants, but is a bit quieter in the upper end of the rev range, making it a little difficult to gauge where the revs are if going by ear only.
With the discontinuation of the old 3.5-litre V6, the up-level engine Accord maintains its performance and then some, while also doing better at fuel consumption. Nominal Canadian figures for manuals are pegged at 10.7L/100KM in the city, and 7.3L/100KM on the highway. Observed economy after a week of very mixed driving – dense city, open highway, and steep mountain passes – came in at 9.4L/100KM (25 miles per gallon). Fuel tank capacity is 56 litres, and all testing was done with regular fuel, which is perfectly acceptable despite the turbocharged engine.
Inside, the 2019 Accord sets the example for simple yet elegant design. It gets the job done really well, while giving off more premium vibes than would be expected from a car at this price point. There are plenty of buttons and knobs for infotainment and heating/cooling control, and kudos to Honda for reinstating the volume knob after taking it away on the 2016 Civic. Half of the gauge cluster is a digital screen, which can be configured to show a tachometer, fuel consumption, or smartphone connectivity information, among other things. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, which helps to reduce (but not eliminate!) driver distraction while staying connected.
Seat comfort for long trips brought nothing much to complain about, and both front and rear seat occupants enjoy ample legroom with leatherette and fabric combination seating surfaces. For the Sport 2.0 trim, only the driver’s front seat is 12-way power adjustable; passengers will have to make do with four-way manual adjustment. Heated seats are standard, but in Canada, only EX-L and Touring trims get a heated steering wheel. The Accord’s large trunk area was able to swallow up three peoples’ worth of luggage and camera for a week without incident, and for larger or longer cargo, the rear seats are foldable in a 60/40 split.
While an American example was tested, the equivalent car in Canada will set you back $33,090, which is an incredible value considering the fun and practicality factor. For your money, you get a power moonroof, the Honda Sensing safety suite (adaptive cruise, forward collision braking/warning, auto high beam, lane keep assist), LaneWatch blind spot display, aluminum-trimmed pedals, 452-watt premium audio with ten speakers (and subwoofer), LED headlights/fog lights/tail lights, and pushbutton start. As is typical with Honda, there are no major options between each trim level beyond colour choice and accessories. Generally speaking, if you want more stuff, you move to the next higher trim level.
Overall, the 2019 Honda Accord Sport 2.0 is much more than the sum of its parts, and a week of testing in LA confirmed it as a top-three finalist as the DoubleClutch.ca Magazine Car of the Year for 2018. Even though only one can win, it shares its distinction with the 2019 Mazda MX-5 and 2019 Genesis G70. While both are very different cars, being in this upper echelon speaks even more highly for the Accord. It’s a midsize sedan that is able to put a smile on drivers’ faces without sacrificing practicality, comfort, or bang for the buck. It does so with an air of confidence that’s made it a perennial best seller for Honda for many years, and for that, it deserves our salute.