2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2008 Honda Accord

Oshawa, Ontario – Anyone can make a car bigger; the trick is in making it better when you do. For 2008, Honda has redesigned its Accord, and has managed to do both. It’s now in its eighth generation – it’s been around for 32 years believe it or not, although the first-generation model had a wheelbase shorter than the current Honda Fit.

This newest generation is available as a sedan or coupe, but the hybrid version is gone; it never really sold in huge numbers, and Honda says it’s going to concentrate its efforts on a gasoline-electric version that will be smaller and cheaper than the Civic Hybrid, and sold globally. Company representatives have also mentioned the possibility of an Accord diesel version, although oil burners have a tendency to remain in Europe and tease us from across the pond; hopefully, if they do produce one, it’ll be available here.

The newest version comes with several “firsts”, including four-wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control and steering wheel-mounted stereo controls included on all models, a 70-litre fuel tank that’s the largest ever, the most powerful engines with the best fuel economy, and the largest cabin, which the EPA in the U.S. classifies as a large sedan due to its volume.

2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan. Click image to enlarge

There are two engines, the 2.4-litre four-cylinder in my mid-range EX tester, and a 3.5-litre V6. The four-cylinder defaults with a five-speed manual transmission, but my car had the optional five-speed automatic, for an additional $1,200; order the V6 and it’s the sole choice.

Longer and wider than its predecessor, the new Accord features a six-sided grille to the previous model’s horizontal opening, with upswept headlamps that shut off automatically. The taillamps wrap around the rear fenders as well, adding to the car’s long, low look. Inside, the dash mimics the sweeping style, with handsome two-tone and metallic inserts, and an information screen that’s set deep into it, with the centre stack’s control cluster protruding below. According to Honda’s engineers, the high placement of the screen puts it in line with the instrument cluster, so you need only look sideways to see it, instead of also glancing down.

2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan. Click image to enlarge

For the most part, the controls are large and easy to use, although the whole arrangement looks like it’s more suited to a minivan than a car. I’d also swap the features on two of the buttons: the huge dial at the bottom is for adjusting the functions, including the clock and audio controls, while the smaller button above it turns on the stereo and adjusts the volume. I tend to change the level of the sound far more often than I do the treble and bass, and it would make sense for the bigger button to take care of that; if you grab for the volume knob quickly, the big function button can actually get in the way.

The quality of the interior is top-notch, with almost all plastics soft-touch or textured. The inside door handles have been moved back, so it’s easier to close the door (on the sedan, anyway; they’re still too far forward on the coupe and difficult to use). The wheel is perfectly sized and its tilt movement has a longer rake than on the previous model, so drivers of all heights should be able to find the right position.

The bigger cabin means that the front seats are further apart; it’s marginal by the numbers, but it feels roomier, with good headroom and wide footwells for stretching out. The seats get hard quickly, though, and the rear seat feels more cushioned than the front ones. Back-seat passengers also get considerable legroom and a centre armrest with two cupholders, which conceals a lockable pass-through. The rear seat folds, but only as a single unit, which isn’t nearly as useful as a split-folding seat: you can have cargo or a rear-seat passenger, but not both. It doesn’t fold quite flat, either, but it opens up the trunk, already 116 cm long, to 200 cm once it’s down.

Although only two engines are offered, there are four variations altogether: the 2.4-litre makes 177 hp in the base LX sedan, and 190 hp in my EX version, while the 268-hp V6 models come either with variable valve timing or with Variable Cylinder Management, which shuts off either two or three cylinders under light load for improved fuel economy, effectively turning it into a three-, four- or six-cylinder engine.

2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan. Click image to enlarge

(The four-cylinder models run on all cylinders, all of the time.) Some other Honda engines have similar displacements, but all of these engines are all-new and currently exclusive, although they may migrate to other vehicles in future.

While the V6 is naturally a stronger engine, the 2.4-litre is extremely well done; it’s very quiet, with no whine or rumble on acceleration, and the automatic transmission’s fifth gear keeps the revs down on highway speeds, so that it never gets buzzy. There’s also a shift-hold system built into the transmission, which reduces shifting on winding roads when you’re likely to be moving rapidly between brake and throttle. In combined driving, most of it in urban rather than highway situations, I averaged 10.1 L/100 km to the 9.9 L official rating.

Honda says the new chassis is 20 per cent more rigid, with a lower centre of gravity and with the wheels pushed further to the corner than before. It certainly feels stable and well-planted; handling is smooth and sharp, on-centre feel is good, and the overall experience is one of a cohesive unit that does exactly what you ask of it. Previous generations of the Accord had an overly firm ride that I found unpleasant; this new model has been softened enough for comfort, but not so much that it feels flabby.

2008 Honda Accord EX sedan
2008 Honda Accord EX sedan. Click image to enlarge

Safety has been emphasized, and all models come with ABS, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, active front-seat head restraints, dual-threshold front airbags, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The midsize segment is a crowded one, with many serious contenders, including the Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry and the freshly-launched Chevrolet Malibu redesign. Each driver must decide on the vehicle that best suits his or her needs, but the Accord should definitely be on the test-drive list, and don’t overlook the 2.4-litre just because you think it’ll be inferior to the V6. This is a car where there’s no compromise in being economical.

Pricing: 2008 Honda Accord EX Sedan


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