Interest in mid-size sedans is waning, sales are dropping and drivers are heading to crossovers in droves. But in the past few months, we're starting to see something happen — automakers are responding not by killing their mid-size sedans, but by injecting them with some energy and style to try to boost interest.
First, we saw the new Toyota Camry at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit early this year and were impressed by its looks and style. Then we drove it and were doubly impressed by just how good it is. Just a few months later, we now have an all-new Honda Accord, and just like with the Camry, the initial reaction is strong.
When Honda says it's the biggest styling departure it's ever made for the Accord, they're not joking — it looks completely different, not just from the previous Accord, but from any Honda before it with the possible exception of the latest Civic.
The proportions immediately bring to mind the Dodge Charger: muscular, long hood and short deck, greenhouse moved rearward to make it look like it's a rear-wheel drive car (it's not, that part hasn't changed). But the crisp lines, low front end and sweeping roofline make it seem like Honda's taken a page from the Audi A7 stylebook.
It's a strikingly different look for the Accord, and it's damned attractive — it no longer looks like any number of anonymous mid-size sedans on the road. If this remains the best-selling car in the segment, I'll be thrilled, as it means the streets of America are about to get better-looking.
Inside, the changes are less dramatic. Interior quality is very good, with soft-touch materials and most controls within easy, viewable reach. The gauges are comprised of an electronic display screen, but they're very clear and look classy.
The new 8-inch Display Audio screen looks tacked onto the dash just like any other BMW, Audi, Chevrolet or half a dozen other automakers these days, but I don't mind that look at all. The big news here is that Display Audio now has not one but two actual knobs (one for volume, one for tuning), addressing the biggest complaint everyone had about Honda's new multimedia system — a lack of a quick, simple way to adjust both of those things.
The transmission selector has changed from a standard lever to Honda's increasingly ubiquitous push-button console style, which is something we're less happy about. But given the increase in space in the Accord's new interior, we might be willing to let it slide. This is a really big car now, with width and length that make it comparable to the Chevrolet Impala. The Accord's wheelbase is only a third of an inch shorter, it's wider than the Impala and they both feature 105 cubic feet of passenger room — 5 cubic feet more than the Camry. That means massive backseat legroom, more than the Impala or Camry.
Overall, the new Accord appears to be a dynamite effort at rekindling some interest in the mid-size segment. Features and fuel economy haven't done it, as buyers have left for small SUVs — maybe some knockout styling and sportier dynamics will stem the tide.