Honda’s venerable Accord coupe and sedan move into 2005 with a few changes: all models now come with side-impact and curtain airbags, even the base DX; there are new wheel covers and alloy wheel designs; and all models now have a solid red taillight design.

But the big story is the new-for-2005 Accord sedan Hybrid, a gasoline-electric which uses the same Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) as in the Civic and Insight hybrid models on its 3.0-litre V6 engine. Not only does this give the Accord 15 per cent more horsepower than Accords with gasoline V6 engines, but the Hybrid also uses Variable Cylinder Management, which seamlessly deactivates three of the cylinders under low-load conditions (such as highway cruising) for increased fuel economy. It’s the largest and most powerful hybrid passenger car currently on the market, but unlike the Toyota Prius, it cannot run solely on its battery.

Conventional Accords come in two-door coupe or four-door sedan styling, both in four- or six-cylinder configurations.

The coupe comes in four trim lines; the base four-cylinder LX-G includes a five-speed manual that can be optioned up to a five-speed automatic, air conditioning, power heated mirrors, CD player, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, tilt and telescoping wheel, and 15-inch steel wheels.

The four-cylinder EX-L adds four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, six-CD changer, eight-way power driver’s seat, illuminated lock and mirror switches, leather seats, power sunroof and leather-wrapped wheel.

The EX-V6 adds the larger engine, plus the five-speed automatic, dual exhaust, Homelink garage door opener, and traction control. There’s also a sporty EX-V6 MT, which comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Accord sedan comes in five lines, starting with the four-cylinder DX, which includes a five-speed manual, 15-inch steel wheels, manual-adjust mirrors, speed-synchronized wipers, air conditioning, CD player, cruise control, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, and tilt and telescopic wheel.

The LX-G and EX-L four-cylinder models offer the same trim features as on the coupe. There are two V6 lines on the sedan, both with automatic transmissions. The lower-line LX-V6 has 16-inch steel wheels, power mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, 6-disc CD, eight-way power driver’s seat, and power locks and windows; the upper-line EX-V6 adds 16-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, power passenger seat, leather interior with heated seats, leather-wrapped wheel and garage door opener.

Very well built and with a choice of superb powertrains, the Honda Accord is locked into battle with the Toyota Camry and with no clear-cut winner. The Accord has a lower base price, but for all its good looks and interior features, its ride is overly firm; a car this nice shouldn’t ride like a buckboard. The Hybrid should do all right for itself in these times of rampant gasoline prices, although like all hybrids, it’ll take a long time before the fuel savings catch up to its higher price tag.

The Accord is built in Marysville, Ohio; the Accord Hybrid is built in Sayama, Japan.

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