2007 Honda Accord LX (USA)

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With increasing levels of affluence in Japan as the nation recovered from the effects of the second world war. by the early 1960s there was a growing demand for four-wheel transport and several of the Japanese brands that are familiar to this day started to produce cars. Among them was Honda. Their first products were tiny by today’s standards and pretty small even by what was normal in the early 1960s, with the S600 and later S800 sports car and the four seater N Series cars that followed them. Their first effort at a truly family-sized car, the air-coooled 1300 saloon of 1969 was a sales disaster, but this did not put the company off and they tried again in the 1970s. The Civic of 1972 was a portent of what was to come, a neatly styled and well-engineered two door saloon that competed with the likes of the Fiat 127, Renault R5 and closer to home the Datsun 100A Cherry and Toyota 1000 Publica. Sales started to rise not just in Japan but also in Europe and America. It was their next car which would prove even more significant, though that was not perhaps immediately apparent in 1976 when the Accord was launched. Initially sold as 3-door hatchback coupe to compete with the likes of the Ford Capri and VW Scirocco, whilst it received good reviews, in Europe sales were limited by various quotas such as the “Gentleman’s Agreement” in the UK which restricted Japanese brands to no more than 10% of the market. The four-door saloon that followed a few months later, though showed the direction in which Honda were heading, further reinforced when more luxurious versions were added to the range. In the 1970s and 1980s, all Japanese brands stuck pretty rigidly to a 4 year model cycle, and the Accord was no exception, with new versions appearing to this timeline. Each was that bit bigger and unquestionably better. And sales continued to rise. There was a wholescale jump in global sales when Honda decided to increase production capacity and address some of the concerns of their cars being imports by building factories in Europe and the US, among other place. This also allowed for them to produce models tailored to the particular preferences of each of these markets, so by the 1990s, the European Accord and the models sold in the US and Japan diverged, and that has remained the case to this day. Whilst sales in Europe remained respectable but not massive, the Accord enjoyed a massive surge in popularity in America, as this car, now built in America was a clear class-leader, easily beating the rather humdrum of the US Domestic makers and only really having the Toyota Camry to fear, a car which had evolved in much the same way as the Honda and which was also now US built. The latest Accord, the seventh generation to bear the name, with a different model for the US compared to the Japanese and European market cars, was launched for the 2003 model year and had a fairly comprehensive mid-cycle update for 2006 with new rear end styling making the cars easy to tell apart from the earlier models, which makes it one of the oldest designs in its class at the moment, but that is no impediment to sales, as it is still the second best-selling passenger car in the US, after the Camry, fending off all its rivals. It’s a car which I have long been keen to try, but, as I have found out over the years, that is not that easy. There are few Honda models in the rental fleets, and those that you do see are mostly the smaller Civic. However, on arrival at New York’s JFK airport for a work trip which would take me Upstate to the Poughkeepsie area, it was an Accord that I was offered without even asking. Slightly surprising the rental car agent with my enthusiasm for what he came up with, I, of course, said that this would be perfect for my trip, so he completed the paperwork, and I could set off for a trip with little time to do things like photography, and weather that also militated against it, so there are sadly not many photos to accompany this report.

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None of the manufacturers who compete in the commercially crucial mid-sized sedan segment deviate much from the same formula, as this is one where customers want to know what they are getting, which is solid comfortable reliable transport, with excitement not that high a priority. The Accord follows suit. So you get a neatly styled saloon, with front wheel drive, ample space for five people and their luggage and a driving experience that has no unpleasant surprises. As this is a Honda, and among the reasons for the continued success of the Accord, you can add excellent build quality, decent levels of equipment, excellent safety ratings, reliability and good residual values. The majority of cars in this class come with a 4 cylinder engine, though almost everyone of them can be specified with a bigger V6 unit as well. The test car had Honda’s 2.4 litre 4 cylinder, which puts out 160 bhp and although you can have what the Americans call “a stick”, it had the optional five speed automatic transmission. This engine was new for the seventh generation Accord, and introduced a direct ignition system for the first time to the model. Whilst 160 bhp is not enough given the size and weight of the car it has to power to make the Accord truly fast, the car is brisk and has ample reserves of power for those occasions when a burst of acceleration is called for. It revs willingly and never gets coarse. Noise levels remain well controlled, so once at cruising speed on the freeways as I headed north, the car was quiet and pleasant to be in. The transmission is well-matched to the engine and changes gear smoothly and willingly. The steering is well-judged, with the balance between weight and feel just right and the suspension set up to ensure the car handles the bends and the grips the road well, the Accord is good to drive. Better, I thought, as a complete package, than any of its rivals that I have sampled in the US. It rides well, too, with the standard 16″ wheels and suspension set-up coping well with the often poorly maintained New York State roads. The brakes did their job with no fuss. And all-round visibility is generally good, with the field of view that you need from the door mirrors, though there is a bit of a blind spot as you get on all cars. You can actually see where the tail ends, but the boot is relatively short, so it was not hard to park the car.

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The interior of the Accord is neatly finished. Nothing flashy here, but the combination of a very dark brown upper and light brown lower to the dashboard, matching the oatmeal colour of the seat upholstery, makes it feel light and airy. Build quality is excellent with all the parts fitting well together and the materials feel much higher quality than you get in US domestic rivals from GM and Chrysler. A simple instrument display comprises a large central speedometer, slightly smaller rev counter to the left and smaller fuel level and water temperature gauges to the right. All are clearly marked and easy to read, and well lit at night so just good after dark. Column stalks look after the indicators, wipers and lights. Cruise control buttons are on the right hand steering wheel spoke. The centre of the dash contains an integrated audio unit which offers AM and FM wavebands and a CD player. Below this are the air conditioning dials. And that is it. Very neat and simple and easy to use but covering everything that is needed, though of course if you get one of the posher trims, you will get a few more features, such as an upgraded audio unit and wheel-mounted radio controls.

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The seats are covered in a good quality cloth. There is manual adjustment fore/aft and for the backrest and seat height and a telescoping steering column allowed me to get the driving position just as I wanted it. The seat proved comfortable. Space for those in the back is good, with ample rear legroom even if the front seats are set well back. The seventh generation US Accord is significantly bigger than its predecessor, and this is particularly evident when you look in the rear seats. There is sufficient room here for three adults and headroom should not trouble anyone either. the boot is a generous size, and would have accommodated a lot more luggage than what I had with me. The rear seat backrests can be folded down for a longer load bay. Inside the cabin there is a good-sized glovebox, pockets on the doors and there is a lidded cubby at the base of the dash, in front of the gearlever, which should provide the sort of space for odds and ends that a family might accumulate.

The US 2007 Honda Accord is available as a mid-size sedan or coupe. There are two main trim levels, LX and EX, and their supporting subsets, LX V6, EX-L and EX-L V6. Honda also offers two additional trim levels for the sedan: Value Package and SE (Special Edition). The entry-level Accord Value Package sedan provides air-conditioning, power windows and locks, a CD stereo, keyless entry and cruise control. To this the LX trim adds power mirrors, an upgraded audio system and a few extra interior features. The SE is similar to the LX but has 16-inch alloy wheels (17s for V6-equipped SE models), rear disc brakes, a six-disc in-dash CD changer and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. V6-equipped LX models have 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a moonroof and a power driver seat. The four-cylinder EX is equipped much like the LX but with a few extra features; going with the EX-L provides leather upholstery, heated front seats, satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control and an optional navigation system. The V6-powered version of the EX-L and the Hybrid top the range by having all of the Accord’s available features (except navigation) as standard, as well as a power passenger seat and a HomeLink transmitter.

I was very impressed by this Accord. It had no weaknesses at all that I could discern. For sure it is not exciting, but for those looking for a spacious family car that is nicely finished, drives well and with an excellent reputation for reliability, frankly they need look no further. And looking at the sales charts, it is clear that this is exactly what a lot of American buyers think, too. This is a very competitive market segment and every entrant is on a different timeline, so although the Accord is now one of the oldest designs in the class, it is quite likely that new versions of some of its rivals will appear before the eight generation Accord does. They will have to be exceptionally good to better even the seventh generation car, though. I am glad I managed to sample this one, and although I do generally always try to get a car I’ve not driven before when I come to the US, if I get lucky and get offered an Accord again, I have no doubt that I will take it, with at least as much enthusiasm as I took this one, as now I know just how good it is.

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