By Tony Whitney

The current Honda Accord is still a fairly new design and the company decided that no dramatic updates were needed for 2005 to maintain the car’s leadership role in its class.

Even so, nothing stands still in the auto business, especially in the ultra-competitive field of mid-sized sedans. On the safety front, DX and LX versions now get standard side curtain and front side air bags. Air bags in this location are a huge plus when it comes to side impacts, the ones most of us fear every time we drive through a busy city intersection. The addition of these key safety features will make the Accord one of the safest cars in its class and these days, that’s a major selling point.

Less significant are the minor cosmetic improvements added for 2005. There’s a new wheel cover design for LX and EX trim levels and inside, the coin pocket has been redesigned, a small but helpful upgrade. Rear-end styling has been changed, mostly with a new taillight design. Also, the controls on the steering wheel now have the illumination they should have had in the first place, and are thus easier to use at night.

1976 Honda Accord Hatchback
1976 Honda Accord Hatchback

1982 Honda Accord sedan
1982 Honda Accord sedan

1985 Honda Accord SEi
1985 Honda Accord SEi

1986 Honda Accord DX
1986 Honda Accord DX

1990 Honda Accord EX
1990 Honda Accord EX

1996 Honda Accord LX V6
1996 Honda Accord LX V6

2002 Honda Accord SE
2002 Honda Accord SE

2003 Honda Accord
2003 Honda Accord

2005 Honda Accord
2005 Honda Accord

The Accord has been at or near the front of the midsize sedan pack for so long it’s become an institution. The car also becomes a benchmark for any automaker planning a serious assault on this lucrative market sector.

It’s hard to believe that when the first Accord appeared as a tiny hatchback in 1976, Honda was known mainly as a motorcycle manufacturer. There were certainly “experts” around back then who believed that the company should stick to two wheels and leave automobile manufacturing to those who knew more about it. Thankfully, the folks at Honda ignored such advice and went on to produce some of the best automobiles in the world in their respective classes. The 1986 Accord proved to be Honda’s big breakthrough and after that, few questioned the company’s ability to produce world-class vehicles.

Of course, replacing the Accord was always going to be a tough assignment (the current model first appeared in 2003). After all, the superseded model won all kinds of awards and was widely praised by automotive critics right through its model run. I suppose that, basically, Honda just set out to try and make an outstanding automobile that much better.

Accord bodywork was all-new for 2003 and Honda attempted to inject a little passion into the car’s looks. Honda executives I spoke to kept referring to “muscular, organic styling” and inspiration from the sleek and agile cheetah. The Honda people told me they “wouldn’t be offended” if their new baby was referred to as a sports sedan. The car is a little bit bigger than its predecessor in just about all dimensions. It still gets described as “boring” by some automotive journalists, but it’s actually a nice looking car, if unspectacular. Cars sometimes earn that “boring” tag because they’re so common on the roads and that won’t worry Honda one bit.

Over the years, the Accord has always been an attractive car, but perhaps lacked the character of some of its European rivals. This time around, the car certainly looks a lot more interesting than before. The nose treatment, with its stylishly raked headlight units, is very successful, as is the sharply slanted windshield. At the back, the taillights are nicely blended in and the stubby trunk, which is nonetheless roomy inside, adds a nicely contemporary touch. Honda hopes to attract younger buyers with its latest Accord, which won’t be easy. Right now, the average Accord buyer is male and around 50 years of age.

This seventh-generation Accord sedan comes in a rather confusing five trim levels for 2005: DX, LX-G, EX-L, LX V-6 and EX V-6. At least there should be something in there to please just about everybody. The lower end cars – DX, LX and EX – are powered by a new 160 horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. The top end models – LX V-6 and EX V-6 – are powered by another new engine, a 240 hp, 3-litre V6 with 24 valves. The three lower trim level cars are available with five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions. The two V6 models come only with the five-speed automatic.

As before, an Accord Coupe is available and this time, Honda worked harder to differentiate it from its sedan sibling. As a result, the Coupe looks wonderful from every angle and shares very few body components with the four-door version. Coupe buyers can choose four-cylinder and V6 versions, but the big surprise was a V6 Coupe with six-speed manual transmission. This is a real blast to drive and should help the entire Accord range develop more credibility with the performance road car crowd. Newest of all Accords is the hybrid version, which comes in one trim level.

As always, Honda has done an excellent job with the 2005 Accord interior. Particular attention was paid to the seats, which are bigger than before. Honda believes that orienting the tailbone on the seat is a key factor for comfortable long-distance or day-long driving. The driver’s seat has a ratchet-type height adjuster, which is useful for attaining a safe driving position, especially with regard to short people. I’ve always found that Accords had lots of seat travel, making them good choices for folks at either end of the stature scale.

On the road, the car is surprisingly quiet and smooth, even in four-cylinder form. Honda took a lot of trouble to cut down wind noise and worked in their wind tunnel to reduce noise from the side mirrors, which usually make most of the racket at freeway speeds. Honda has worked on the suspension to make that “sports sedan” tag stick and both engines rev happily to the limit without any undue fuss. The V6 versions are very fast, as their 240 horsepower might imply. All models get anti-lock brakes, and some models feature traction control systems.

As with previous Accords, fit and finish is outstanding and the car is very hard to fault when it comes to quality. This is exactly why Accords have always been so highly regarded. Durability has always been a key buying point too, and there’s every reason to believe that the latest model is the best-built yet. Once again, rival makers battling in this market segment have to aim toward a new benchmark. Prices range from $24,300 for a DX to $33,600 for an EX V6 with navigation system, while the hybrid model stickers out at $36,990.

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