Who on earth (OK, in North America) buys a manual transmission equipped Honda Accord these days? Sadly, not too many of us. It’s an evolution of our driving habits that has seen us move away from rowing our own gears and trusting the automatics and CVTs of today to do the job for us. It doesn’t help that most of these modern transmissions do a pretty good job at interpreting what we want from our cars a lot of the time. Heck, some of them even let us wrest an iota of control back in the form of manual gear changes using cool flappy paddles or the gear selector. But if you’re a driving enthusiast, and you want the ultimate level of control, no automatic can offer you that. Not even the best of the automatics.
And so it was with great keenness and genuine joy that I embarked on my week-long relationship with this, the rarest of beasts. A nice sedan with a smart engine, paired with a manual transmission – the combination of which begs you to work a bit, to get involved a bit and to give a shift.
Pricing: 2014 Honda Accord
Base price (Sport trim): $23,815
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $25,736
I like the current Accord styling. The lines, taut and mildly aggressive, balance a nice sedan aesthetic with a hint of athleticism. Is it exciting or off-the-charts fresh? No, but it is a great design in my opinion.
The Sport model gets treated to a couple of unique features that it doesn’t have to share. First of all, it gets a rear deck lid spoiler. It’s difficult to overstate how much of a visual difference it makes. It looks fantastic and really finishes off the rear end, as does the dual exhaust. The Sport also gets its own special 18-inch rims that wear chunky 235/45-rubber – both normally reserved for the V6 Accords.
Overall, it’s a very nice, straight forward styling exercise and I think it suits the car’s intentions well.
Inside, the Accord’s styling is simple and clean. The materials are nice – the upper part of the dash and virtually all of the door panels are soft touch, and fit and finish is exemplary. The heated fabric seats are comfortable and provide good bolstering for this class.
Honda makes a good steering wheel – this one is grippy, nicely shaped and adds controls for the phone, media, cruise control and the driver information screen. Behind it is the typical Honda gauge cluster – tach on the left, large easy-to-read floating speedometer in the centre with a driver information screen in the middle, and temperature and fuel gauges on the right. There is a large 8-inch screen set far back into a hooded bin in the centre of the dash – it handles your media (media AM, FM, CD, USB and Bluetooth streaming), the phone, most car settings and some fuel economy-related read-outs. The whole thing is controlled by a rotary jog dial button and a series of hard buttons – it’s clean and works quite well. There’s also a dual zone automatic climate control.
The centre console houses the shifter (truly a rare sight nowadays), a traditional parking brake lever and a pair of genius square cupholders which allow me to look after my chocolate milk addiction while on the road.
Here you’ll find three seats, each with a headrest and a seatbelt. The two outboard seats are very comfortable, and I found the headroom and legroom to be very impressive (I’m 5’10”). The center position is unsurprisingly narrow, with a harder, raised seat surface and straddles a low (but still intrusive) tunnel on the floor. It’s fine to relegate your kids that don’t know any better to it, but any adult forced to sit there won’t be your friend for long. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders in it but that’s it in terms of convenience. No plugs, no air vents.
I appreciated that the doors open wide making for easy ingress for passengers as well as for parents putting kids into child seats. Speaking of kids’ seats, you get two sets of LATCH anchors for them. We had all three of our kids back there and they thought it was pretty comfortable.
The Accord offers a number of spots to put your everyday stuff, including a lidded bin in the centre stack, a rubberized open drop-in space with 12V and USB plugs at the front of the console and a small carpeted bin under armrest lid (with another 12V plug).
You’ll find a spacious 447 litre trunk that works pretty well for most cargo needs. I found it irritating that I couldn’t open from the outside, unless I was using the remote open button on the key. There’s no exterior trunk release button, and just as irritating is the lack of handle on the inside of the trunk lid. This 25-cent omission by manufacturers really gets my goat because it forces me to get handprints on my trunk lid and likely get my hands dirty in the winter.
Under the Hood
The Sport gets Honda’s 2.4-litre direct injection inline-4. It is rated at 189 horsepower at 6400 RPM and 182 lb.ft of torque at 3900 RPM – you might notice these numbers are up (very) slightly from the regular 4-cylinder Accord thanks to the dual-exhaust the Sport model gets. All Accords are front-wheel drive.
As noted, my review car was blessed with a 6-speed manual transmission. The Sport is available with a CVT transmission, but don’t do that to yourself. Even if the CVT does realize better fuel economy, show the world you give a shift, and get the manual.
The manual-equipped Sport is rated at 8.8 L/100 km (27 US mpg) in the city and 5.8 L/100 km (41 US mpg) on the highway. During my week with it, I managed a very respectable 9.6 L/100 km (25 US mpg) average while commuting to work, taking the wife and kids shopping and to soccer games and admittedly driving with an unusually heavy foot. I appreciated the large 65-litre tank – it would make for a a reasonable range during road trips.
Let’s get to the driving experience. The Accord’s manual transmission is very well done. The clutch has a nice gentle take-up and the clutch pedal requires a reasonable amount of travel – the car is easy to drive around town and commute with and frankly, you could teach someone to drive stick with this car. The shifter is just a bit notchy – it’s not the sportiest manual transmission out there, but there’s enough notchiness to make it feel mechanical and to help you know exactly where your gears are at all times, yet it never feels grumpy or becomes a pain to drive.
The manual mated to the 4-cylinder isn’t a particularly punchy combination – you won’t slingshot off the line in this car. Is it fast? That’s not the first word that comes to mind but it’s absolutely not underpowered and can lay down some rubber in first gear if you want to, but that’s certainly not what this car is all about. Instead of being a hot-rod, it offers a wonderful balance between accessible, linear and tractable power and willingness to pull hard through the gears when you ask it to. It’s as easy to trundle around town as it is to send it flying up to redline, over and over again.
The Accord is very quiet, although I heard some road noise on some occasions which I attribute to the tires. The engine is muted unless you step on it, in which case you’ll be rewarded by a fantastic 4-cylinder snarl that quickly builds to a raspy crescendo. Regardless of how high you rev it, the engine always remains refined and smooth.
If you’re expecting a revised suspension for the Sport, you won’t find it. It shares the same set-up as all other Accords, and that’s not a bad thing. It has a firm, sporty ride that is able to remain comfortable in any situation. Though the suspension tips in the favour of comfort over sport, the car’s handling is excellent – while you’ll find some body lean around corners, it turns in quickly and predictably and benefits from the pretty well-weighted electronic steering. Again, the steering looks toward comfort over sport, but it never feels floppy as, say, a Toyota’s would.
While the Accord never feels light, Honda has been able to retain a reasonable curb weight of 1496 kg (3298 lb) and in this class, considering all that this car offers in terms of size and comfort, that’s respectable.
Honda has built an excellent sporty sedan with the current Accord. Yes, you can load it up to the gills with luxury and technology. But I found this variant very refreshing. It’s got plenty of equipment, more than enough in the comfort and luxury department, and is imbued with an extra dose of sport – an outstanding coupling of a fine manual transmission and a great 4-cylinder engine that begs to be worked.
This isn’t everyone’s flavour of Accord, to be sure. But if your space requirements have outgrown a Civic, if you’re after a bit more comfort and tech, and if you’re not ready to give up the control and involvement in the driving experience, this is the Accord for you. The car has very few faults and is easy to live with, the price is right and it’s actually fun to drive. Kudos to Honda for continuing to make great manual transmissions and for putting one in the Accord.
Long live the manual. Long live Sport.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Wheaton Honda.
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Competitors: Mazda 6, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry