2002 Honda Accord Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Still the best overall mid-size sedan.
You'd think by now this car would be an also-ran.
The Honda Accord is entering the fifth year of its current model cycle. An all-new one is just over the horizon. Meanwhile, Toyota has just launched an all-new Camry for 2002, while Nissan has introduced an all-new and much larger Altima. And there's no shortage of competition from other automakers that compete fiercely for buyers of mid-size sedans. The volumes are high so a lot is at stake here.
In spite of all this, we feel the 2002 Honda Accord is the best mid-size sedan available today. Simply put, it does everything well.
The interior is roomy and comfortable, the chassis is responsive and well damped, the brakes are excellent, and both of its VTEC engines (a 3.0-liter V6 and a 2.3-liter four-cylinder) are incredibly smooth. It is remarkably easy to drive and every aspect of it is user friendly.
Honda sold 414,718 Accords during calendar year 2001, making it number one in passenger-car sales, and it has been one of America's best-selling cars for the past 10 years.
Not much has changed with the Accord since last year. For 2002, Honda has added a new SE trim level that adds popular features to the value-oriented LX.
Another thing that hasn't changed is its quality, durability, and reliability. J.D. Power and Associates ranks the Accord's mechanical quality and body and interior quality as 'better than most.' An entire generation has grown up with Hondas, and 26 years of Accords have proven it to be a safe choice, a car that a family can buy and more or less forget, turning their attention to the other concerns of a daily life. We feel the Accord offers a bit more driving excitement than the Camry or the Taurus and a higher quality interior than the Altima.
Accord buyers choose among four trim levels, sedan and coupe body styles, and V6 and four-cylinder engines. Accords retail from $15,500 for a bare bones DX to $25,300 for an EX V6 with a handsome leather interior and many of the features associated with luxury cars.
The four-door sedan and the sporty coupe are nearly identical from an engineering standpoint, though the Accord Coupe features some performance tweaks designed to make it more fun to drive. Trim levels and pricing for Sedan and Coupe are nearly identical.
Only the sedan is available as a DX base model ($15,350), and it comes with a non-VTEC 135-horsepower four-cylinder engine, wind-up windows, and not much else. Air conditioning is optional. This model is best left to rental-car agencies and those who value a low price above everything else.
Most people opt for the LX and EX trim levels plus a new SE trim level that fits between the two.
LX ($18,890) and EX come with Honda's 2.3-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine rated at 150 horsepower and a five-speed manual gearbox; an automatic transmission adds another $800.
SE ($20,850) is essentially an LX with an automatic transmission plus a long list of popular features at a $1000 discount that includes special 15-inch alloy wheels, moonroof, keyless entry, security system, AM/FM/CD, wood trim, power height adjustment for driver's seat, floor mats.
EX ($21,500) models come standard with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes; leather seating surfaces are available on the EX for about $1250 and that comes with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
There's also a 200-horsepower V6 engine available for the LX and EX trim levels. LX V-6 ($22,600) and EX V-6 come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission and ABS.
EX V-6 ($25,300) comes loaded with leather seating surfaces, woodgrain trim, automatic climate control, and a programmable HomeLink universal remote control. It comes with an 8-way power driver's seat and a 4-way power passenger seat.
All Accords are equipped with dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags that detect seatbelt use and crash severity and regulate bag deployment force accordingly. Side-impact airbags are optional, however. LX and EX come standard with anti-lock brakes. V6 Accords come with Honda's TCS traction control.
Honda freshened the Accord last year with a new engine hood and fascia up front and a new deck lid and tail lights in the rear. The overall effect is even more sharply chiseled than before. Even so, the Accord is beginning to look dated. It was last completely redesigned for 1998. It retains an understated, refined appearance. The nose is short, and the hood and cowl are low, which complement the glassy cabin to provide excellent visibility from inside.
Honda designed the Accord Coupe to have its own identity as distinct from the Accord Sedan. Only the coupe's headlights and door handles are shared with the sedan. It was enhanced last year by a more aggressive look to the bumpers, a body-colored front grille, and new alloy wheel designs. The Coupe is a handsome car, and a good choice for busy executives who want a car that is both sporty and practical.
Honda used airline business-class seating as a model for the Accord interior, which is a marvel of space efficiency. The front seats are wide and comfortable and there's a surprising amount of room for rear seat passengers. It is a true midsize sedan. Generous front and rear door openings make it easy to get in and out. It's easy to load cargo because the trunk opening is large and offers real luggage capacity.
Leather interiors are available in light tones that are warm and inviting, really nice. The instrument panel features a two-tone finish with big gauges that are highly legible. Features associated with luxury cars abound, particularly on the high-level models. Sun visors offer sliding extensions. A HomeLink remote control system can be programmed to open garage doors, turn on house lights and turn off security systems. The air conditioning system, designed to quickly cool the car down after getting in on a hot day, uses an air filtration system to keep pollen out and reduce diesel fumes from buses and trucks.
Our EX-V6 came with a superb 6-disc in-dash AM/FM/CD stereo. It sounded great. And the controls are a paragon of excellent design with big buttons that are easy to identify and use. This one does not require any reading of the owner's manual nor does it require taking your eyes off the road for long periods of time. Switching among six CDs, changing songs, scanning stations is all easy to do.
The Honda Accord remains a great sedan. The ride quality is as smooth as some cars that cost a lot more, and better than some of them. This is an easy car to drive. It corners well, with steering that's light and precise.
Handling on bumpy roads is incredibly good. A series of big bumps in the middle of a corner taken at speed hardly affects the Accord's direction at all. The suspension damps out the bumps and keeps the tires planted on the road. This handling balance is a benefit of the Accord's strong chassis and double-wishbone front and rear suspensions. At the handling limit, it tends toward understeer like all front-drive cars; the front tires lose grip before the rear tires. The Michelin tires on our test car were quiet, and their ride quality flawless. The Accord EX V-6 feels light on its feet. It offers sharp transient response (quickly turning left, then right, then left again).
The Accord has excellent brakes.
In cruise mode, the 3.0-liter V6 engine just purrs along, barely audible. It's so smooth and so quiet that sometimes a glance at the tachometer is required to confirm that it's running. Stomp on the throttle and it growls with the authority of a free-breathing cylinder head. This engine delivers lots of power for merging into traffic or entertaining its driver. Its single-overhead-cam V6 is equipped with Honda's VTEC (Variable valve Timing and valve lift Electronic Control) system and tuned to deliver optimum torque over a broad rev range.
While the V6 provides lots of gusto, most people order the 2.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine. It's smooth, powerful and efficient, generating 150 horsepower at 5700 rpm. An Accord equipped with this engine is a great package that deserves consideration by anyone shopping for a roomy mid-size car that excels in quality, durability, reliability, smoothness, ride quality, practicality and fuel efficiency.
All Accords sold nationwide meet or exceed California's Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standard, regardless of engine. One model, sold exclusively in California, meets the demanding Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standard, the most stringent in the world. SULEV represents an 86 percent reduction in hydrocarbons over LEV; the California Air Resources Board says a SULEV engine emits only 2.3 pounds of ozone-forming hydrocarbons during 100,000 miles of driving, about the same as spilling a quart of gasoline.
Honda's Accord continues to be the benchmark for mid-size sedans. Sure, the all-new Toyota Camry is a newer design. And, granted, the all-new Nissan Altima V6 is sportier and more fun to drive. But you can't beat the Honda Accord for all-around greatness, measured by a combination quality, durability, reliability, comfort, practicality, ride quality, handling, and a choice of two terrific engines. The Accord remains at or near the top of its class in every measure.
DX ($15,500) (CJ8542PW); LX ($18,890) (CG5542PW); SE ($20,850) (CG5672PR); EX ($21,500) (CG5562JW); EX w leather ($22,650) (CG5562JN); LX V-6 ($22,600) (CG1642PB); EX V-6 ($25,300) (CG1652JN).
Marysville, Ohio; Japan.
Options As Tested
EX V-6 ($25,300) (CG1652JN).
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