For more than two decades, the Honda Accord, if you’ll excuse the pun, has struck a chord with family buyers.
And why wouldn’t it? The Accord, which made its market debut in 1976, has long been a very pleasing four-door sedan, coupe and station wagon. This model has a deserved reputation for quality and refinement, fuel economy has always been above average and owners have found its ride and handling to fall on the sporty side compared to rival models. Moreover, the instrument panel long has been a triumph in terms of sensible controls and instruments. And the airy, low-cowl design has become a Honda trademark.
I’d argue the Accord took its most important step forward with the 1990 model year. That year marked the fourth time Honda had done a major makeover of its flagship front-wheel drive sedan. The car grew considerably that year (127 mm or five inches), moving it squarely into the mid-size class.
Thus, the fourth-generation Accord (1990-93) seats four comfortably, five in a pinch. That model also had a larger and more powerful engine than the previous car, one that sported twin balance shafts to smooth out the rpms. The exterior styling was also tweaked to reflect what Honda calls an “international look” (translation: a European look, preferably German). Finally, the body of the car was made stronger and more rigid in an effort to improve ride and handling.
For this generation of Accord, all models shared the same then-brand-new 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine. Honda’s engineers made this engine smoother and more quiet than the one it replaced, but be aware that at 125 horsepower it lags behind the V6 engines offered by rivals of the day. Honda offered a more powerful EX-R model (130 hp) early in the life of the fourth generation, and by 1992 a 140-hp version had arrived. Fuel economy in all instances has proved to be very good.
On the other hand, the automatic transmission has had jerky and sometimes harsh shift quality. That’s an important point to remember when road testing a used Accord from this time period. Shifts won’t be silky, folks. That said, they shouldn’t “hammer” into gear, either. I will say that the automatic transmission, while not the smoothest in the world, has proven strong and durable.
An added feature on the automatic that arrived in 1990 was the computer-controlled “economy” or “sport” mode option. Activated by a switch in the centre console, this option gives drivers a choice: sport changes the shift points to higher speeds, enhancing performance; economy keeps everything a bit more subdued and saves gas.
Also note that the fourth-generation Accord, despite its added length, width and height, has only modest rear-seat room for a mid-size car. Headroom can also be tight for taller folks. The Accord wagon, which arrived in 1991, has more cargo room than the sedan, but less cargo room than rival wagons of the day — such as the Ford Taurus and Toyota Camry.
When the new model was launched in 1990, anti-lock braking (ABS) was not available; it arrived as an option in 1991. By 1992, driver’s side airbags became standard, with a standard passenger-side airbag arriving in 1993.
Honda has sold plenty of Accords over the years, with this model winning the title of best-selling car in North America several times. That means there is a good selection of older Accords in the used car marketplace. Interestingly, used car prices, despite the reasonable supply of cars, have remained strong. So real bargains are tough to find.
But if you’re looking for an older second car, or an affordable first one, few cars match the Accord as a good value.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.