1976. It was our country’s bicentennial, Jimmy Carter was elected president, “Rocky” was the big movie that year and Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci attained the first-ever perfect scores in Olympic gymnastics. Oh, and Honda introduced the Accord.
Joining the successful but diminutive Civic, the larger Accord was a smash success right away. Having felt the sting of an oil crisis a few years prior and realizing that, indeed, fossil fuel is a finite entity, Americans began seriously considering (and buying) small, economical cars. With the Civic, Honda had quickly established itself as a builder of a high-quality, fun-to-drive, dependable and fuel-stingy little car. The Accord took this concept to a higher level by offering more room, style and power while still being economical, reliable and easy to park.
Initially available only in two-door hatchback form, the Accord rode a 93.7-inch wheelbase, weighed about 2,000 pounds and sported a clean, uncluttered body style. The interior layout featured a combination of comfortable seating, logical control/gauge placements and high-quality switchgear. These characteristics would all become associated with Honda in the years to come. Another reason for the Accord’s success was the car’s generous standard equipment list (for the mid-1970s, anyway), which included features such as AM/FM stereo radio, rear defroster/wiper/washer and remote hatch release.
With an output of 68 horsepower, the Accord’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine pales in comparison to some “economy” cars of today that have double this output from their four bangers. But remember, back in ‘76 many American V8s were struggling to put out 140 horses. A unique feature of the Accord’s engine was Honda’s CVCC head design that promoted cleaner, more efficient combustion. The CVCC design, introduced a year earlier on the Civic, did not require a catalytic converter nor unleaded fuel to meet emissions standards. Nearly every other U.S. market car underwent the change to exhaust catalysts and unleaded-only fuel requirements the year before. Transmission choice consisted of the standard, slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox or a two-speed “Hondamatic” that blunted any attempts at peppy performance.
There were no changes in the Accord’s sophomore year, 1977.
An LX version debuted in 1978 and had standard luxury accoutrements such as velour upholstery, air conditioning and a digital clock (the last item was a big deal back then). Accord’s popularity grew rapidly as sales rose from 18,643 in 1976 to over 120,000 for 1978.
1979 saw the logical expansion of the Accord family with the addition of a four-door sedan, aimed to do battle with the likes of Toyota’s Corona and Mazda’s “new” 626. Though it shared the same platform and wheelbase as the two-door hatchback coupe, the sedan was nearly 9 inches longer due to the three-box body style. Unlike the coupe, the sedan came only in one trim level; an “LX” version was still five years away. The engine grew in size to nearly 1.8 liters and output went up to 72 horsepower. Other improvements included the addition of an oil cooler, power steering and a tachometer to the standard features list, a larger radiator and more efficient exhaust system.
Other than the optional automatic transmission having three speeds instead of the former two, and minor cosmetic upgrades, not much else changed for 1980.
In 1981 a full-blown luxury trim level, called the SE, was offered. Sending out the first- generation Accord in style, the SE stocked an Accord Sedan with leather seating, power windows and door locks, alloy wheels and a sound system with cassette deck. Though this may not seem like a big deal now, back in 1981 manual window cranks and vinyl seats were typical for small cars while leather seats were reserved for big American luxury cars or expensive European makes such as BMW.
As far as pricing went, a 1976 Accord was $3,995. By 1980 the base hatchback’s price had gone up 50 percent, to $5,949, and the LX version was $1,000 more. The 1980 Accord Sedan was $6,515. Unfortunately for consumers, demand for the early Accords was greater than supply, so dealers would typically add a second window sticker next to Honda’s. Appearing on this second sticker would be vastly overpriced dealer-added options such as pinstripes, mud flaps and rustproofing. And, as if this wasn’t bad enough, sometimes this huge profit “tool” (the second sticker) wouldn’t even show anything tangible being added to the car, just the letters “A.D.M.U” (which stood for Additional Dealer Mark-Up) or the words “Market Value Adjustment” followed by a dollar amount that could oftentimes exceed $1,000. Nonetheless, people were willing to pay a premium to drive this jewel of a small car.
Making a good thing even better, Honda revamped the Accord for 1982. Increases in the wheelbase (by about 3 inches) and length (by less than 2 inches) provided more room for rear seat occupants. And a restyled body and interior presented a more upscale look and feel than the first generation. Under the fancy new skin (and aside from a slight increase in horsepower for the 1.8-liter engine from 72 to 75 hp), the Accord was basically unchanged, with mechanical components carried over from 1981. Pricing for the ‘82 Accords was $7,399 for the base two-door hatchback, $8,245 for the four-door sedan and $8,449 for the LX version of the two-door.
1982 also saw the start of Accord production in the U.S. Now those folks who wanted to “buy American” but really wanted a Honda had the best of both worlds. By 1991, this Marysville, Ohio, plant had produced over 350,000 automobiles for American consumers.
1983 brought one major improvement; a four-speed automatic replaced the three-speed unit. Other than that, the 1983 Accords were similar to the 1982s.
Found under the hood of the freshened 1984 Accord was a new 1.8-liter engine good for 11 more horsepower over the ‘83 models, for a total of 86 ponies. Honda did away with the CVCC head design, as more stringent emissions standards required a new approach and the use of a catalytic converter. The body’s facelift included a new grille and headlights along with smoother, more integrated bumpers. The two-door models also received suspension revisions that imparted sportier handling. An LX Sedan was added to the lineup, fully equipped with A/C, power windows and door locks, and a four-speaker stereo with cassette deck.
1985 was the last year for the second-generation Accord, and as before, Honda offered a special version of the four-door to celebrate (and probably to generate more interest/sales for a design at the end of its life cycle). This time it was called the “SE-i,” the small “i” indicating that the engine’s induction was by fuel injection, as opposed to the other Accords, which had a carburetor to handle feeding duties. A healthy increase of 24 horsepower added a bit of sizzle to the decked-out SE-i, which also had exclusive alloy wheels, bronze-tinted glass and leather seating added to the LX’s already substantial standard features.
Accord took a big jump up-market with the introduction of the 1986 version. Bigger and better was the theme, with an increase of nearly 6 inches in the wheelbase and 3 inches in overall length. Weight for an LX Sedan increased nearly 200 pounds; from 2,341 lbs. for a 1985 to 2,529 lbs. for the new 1986. The new Accord also had a much sleeker look, with pop-up headlights (unusual on a sedan) and much better aerodynamics. Even the rain gutters were flush with the body in order to make the car quieter and more aero-efficient. Sedans came in base DX, luxury LX and loaded LXi trim levels. The two-door hatchback came in either DX or LXi guise. The top dog LXi included all the features of the LX (such as air conditioning and power everything) and added fuel injection, alloy wheels and, on the sedan, a power moonroof.
To handle the bigger, heavier Accords, the engine was increased in size, from 1.8 to 2.0- liters and produced either 98 horsepower (in the carbureted DX and LX trims) or 110 ponies in the fuel-injected LXi. An all-new suspension featured “double-wishbone” design at all four wheels. Derived from Formula 1 racecar chassis design, this setup allowed precise handling (by always keeping the tire perpendicular to the road surface) while still delivering a comfortable, slightly firm ride. As the family sedan battle between Toyota and Honda heated up, it seemed that those interested in sporty handling went for the Accord, while those who weren’t looking for a poor man’s BMW and who preferred a softer ride chose the Camry.
Pricing for the 1986 Accords ranged from $8,429 for a DX Hatchback Coupe to $12,675 for the LXi Sedan.
1987 saw no changes to the wildly popular Accord.
Catering to those who prefer a formal coupe body style with a trunk, an Accord Coupe joined the hatchback and sedan for 1988. As with the hatchback, the new notchback two-door was available in either base DX or loaded LXi trim. Very minor tweaks to the sedan’s taillights and bumpers were the lone visual changes for the ‘88 Accord. Functionally, a bump in horsepower for the LXi engine (from 110 to 120 hp) improved the performance of the top Accords. By now Honda’s reputation for building extremely well-built, reliable and long-lasting cars was common knowledge, and sales of over 360,000 units for 1988 confirmed the public’s affection for the Accord.
In accord with Accord tradition, Honda brought out an SE-i version of the Accord to mark the last year of a generation, in this case 1989. Chock-a-block with luxury features, some highlights of this special Accord included plush leather seats, a high-performance Bose stereo/cassette sound system and remote stereo controls located on the steering wheel. Also setting the SE-i apart from ordinary Accords were 14-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes and bronze-tinted glass. The other Accords were unchanged for 1989.
The 1990 Accord was completely revamped, inside and out. The fourth-generation Accord grew in size, power and popularity (in fact, the Accord was the best-selling car in America for three years in a row, 1990-1992.) The hatchback was dropped, leaving a notchback coupe and a four-door sedan as available choices. Wheelbase was increased by nearly 5 inches (now 107.1 inches), and weight went up, though even the heaviest Accord, the EX four-door, still weighed less than 3000 pounds. Styling in and out was very clean and purposeful, with a low beltline, large greenhouse (window area) and slim roof pillars that minimized blind spots. The uncluttered and chiseled appearance of the ‘90 Accord gave an overall impression of quality and solidity. This notion was confirmed when one simply hopped in the car and shut the door or turned a knob to put on the headlights. Doors shut with a solid “thunk” and switchgear had a precise and satisfying action.
In keeping with Honda’s logical system of offering a few versions of each car with increasing standard features (as opposed to the American car makers’ philosophy of offering a confusing array of options and option packages), three trim levels were available. One could choose a basic DX, a well-equipped LX (which, as before, had power windows/locks/mirrors, cruise control, A/C and a decent stereo cassette all standard) or the top-shelf EX (which added a power moonroof, alloy wheels and 5 more horsepower to an LX).
On the mechanical side, carburetors were history, as fuel injection was made standard on all Accords. The new 2.2-liter engine pumped out 125 horsepower in DX and LX trims, and 130 horses in the EX. Other changes included electronic control for the automatic transmission and motorized front shoulder belts (the latter to satisfy government safety requirements).
1990 Accords ranged in price from $12,145 for the DX Coupe to $16,595 for an EX Sedan.
Honda finally catered to those who loved the Accord but needed more luggage space by bringing out an Accord Wagon for 1991, which could be had in LX or EX trim levels. The wagon provided a total cargo volume (with the second seat flipped down) of nearly 65 cubic feet. And even with that seat up, there was still nearly 35 cubic feet available — more than double the capacity of the sedan’s trunk. Curiously, driver’s side airbags were fitted to the wagons (which as a result did not need to use the motorized front shoulder belts) but not the sedans. And in a break with tradition, Honda brought out an SE (the “i” was dropped because all Accords were now injected) version, even though this was not the last year for this iteration of the Accord. The SE gilded the lily with leather seats, a more powerful engine (140 horsepower against the EX’s 130) and antilock brakes, which were a first for the Accord. Capping the changes for this year was the addition of color-keyed mirrors on the LX and EX.
Feeling more generous, Honda equipped all 1992 Accords with a driver’s side airbag, eliminating the somewhat annoying motorized shoulder belts of the sedans. This year, the SE was dropped from the team and the EX benefited by getting the 140 horsepower motor and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS (antilock braking system) formerly fitted to the SE. Revisions to the grille and bumpers were so subtle as to be barely noticeable. A more obvious update was fashioned on the taillights (except on the wagon), which made it easier to tell a ‘92 Accord Coupe or Sedan from its ‘91 counterpart.
Returning to business as usual, Honda brought back the SE for the fourth generation’s last year, 1993. In addition to the expected leather seating and Bose stereo, the ‘93 SE was also available as a coupe version and (inexplicably) the sedan but not the coupe received a passenger’s side airbag. A 10th anniversary LX Sedan model shared some features with the upper-end Accords, such as alloy wheels and ABS.
The 1994 Accord was improved over the ‘93 in many ways; more power for all engines, a refined automatic transmission, increased safety by way of standard dual front airbags on all versions and the compliance with 1997 side-impact crash standards three years early. A quieter ride and improved handling were benefits of a stiffer structure and a more aerodynamic body. But the new body, with its flared-out hindquarters and high tail, didn’t win approval from some who felt it looked somewhat chunky (especially from a rear three-quarter viewpoint) when compared to the lean ‘90 to ‘93 era Accord. Along with the new body, DX versions gained color-keyed bumpers (in place of the former dark gray ones) and a right-hand side view mirror.
The ‘94 engines were upgraded, with each version receiving a 5 horsepower bump in output, meaning 130 horses now motivated the DX and LX models and EXs boasted 145 ponies. More importantly, the EX’s engine featured Honda’s “VTEC” (Variable valve Timing and lift, Electronic Control) system. VTEC promoted more efficient “breathing” at all engine speeds, meaning there was plenty of power available at low rpm, as well as a satisfying rush as the tach needle sped toward redline. A new “Grade Logic” electronic control system for the automatic transmission prevented the gearbox from “hunting” (the annoying tendency for some automatics to cycle back and forth between two gears while ascending a hill) and instead would keep the car in the lower gear until the grade leveled off. While going down a steep hill, this tranny would downshift (as opposed to remaining in a higher gear) to allow engine braking to assist in keeping the car’s speed in check. And for ‘94, the DX and LX could be equipped with ABS, as it was made optional for those models.
Pricing for the 1994 Accord ranged from $14,130 for the DX two-door to $21,550 for an EX four-door with leather interior.
1995 saw the arrival of the first V6 engine in an Accord. Available in the LX or EX Sedans, this was actually an old engine, the same 2.7-liter used in the pre-1991 Acura Legend. Rated at 170 horsepower and matched only to a four-speed automatic transmission, the V6 was about one second quicker to 60 mph (at around 8.5 seconds) versus the four-cylinder car. It was also quieter and smoother than the four banger, itself an engine known for refinement. To accommodate the bulkier motor, V6 Accords had a slightly longer nose, and to add an upscale touch, the grille was trimmed in chrome. The EX V6 also had leather seating standard, and other EX news included the discontinuance of the manual transmission EX Wagon.
Styling was tweaked slightly and standard features were beefed up for the 1996 Accord, the third year of this generation. The facade for four-cylinder models was given the same upscale, chrome-trimmed grille as the V6 models, the tail of the car received larger taillight clusters, and bumpers were revised.
Radio antennas (and possible car wash mishaps) were eliminated on LX and EX models via the placement of the antenna in the rear window. Other upgrades included the fitment of a roof rack to EX Wagons, restyled wheels, a trunk pass-through feature added for LX and EX Coupes and Sedans, and a power driver’s seat for V6 versions of the LX and EX.
Aside from a “Special Edition” sedan that was basically an LX with a few upscale features added, such as a moonroof and a CD deck, the 1997 Accord was otherwise unchanged for the last year of the fifth generation.
More, more, more. Honda’s flagship got bigger and better for 1998. The new body style was something of a return to the sleeker, slim pillar and lean flank style Honda used prior to the somewhat chubby ‘94 to ‘97 generation. A 7-cubic-foot increase in interior room moved the Accord sedan up to midsize status from its former compact standing.
More power was on tap, too. The 2.3-liter inline four in LX and EX models employed Honda’s VTEC system to make 150 horsepower. The DX didn’t have the high-tech variable valve timing system and was rated at 135 ponies. A new 3.0-liter V6 produced 200 hp (30 more than the V6 that was available in 1997) and could be had in LX and EX models.
The station wagon was dropped, leaving sedans in DX, LX and EX trim levels and coupes in LX and EX guise.
The few changes that occurred in 1999 included folding sideview mirrors on the LX and EX and new seat fabrics.
Both safety and tune-up intervals were increased for 2000. Side airbags became standard on V6 models and EX four-cylinder models provided the latter were fitted with the leather interior. Tune-up intervals for the four-cylinder Accords now stretched to 100,000 miles, making an already low-maintenance car even more so. An SE version made its appearance, and filled the narrow gap between the LX and EX trim levels. Essentially a spruced-up LX, the SE shared that Accord’s 150-hp inline four and added special features such as color-keyed mirrors and door handles, unique 15-inch alloy wheels and wood grain interior accents.
A new grille insert, with two horizontal bars (compared to one in previous versions) and new taillights, with the turn signals now at the bottom edge marked the 2001 sedans. Safety was enhanced via the adoption of dual-stage front airbags and the availability of side airbags for all models. The ‘01 Accords were also friendlier toward the environment, as all models met California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards. Some models were even rated cleaner, earning Ultra LEV (ULEV) and even Super Ultra LEV (SULEV) ratings.
More features were added this year, as EX models got a standard in-dash, six-disc CD changer and all V6 models were fitted with traction control. Midway through the year, a Value Package debuted for the DX that added an automatic transmission, air conditioning, a CD player, floor mats, simulated wood interior accents and special exterior trim. The SE took this year off.
The 2002 Accord marked the fifth year of this generation cycle, making it a bit of a hanger-on as a full redesign every four years was Honda’s typical policy. In an effort to extend this Accord’s shelf life another year, Honda brought the SE trim level back, now also available in coupe format. Features setting the SE apart from LX models included an upgraded audio system, a driver-seat power height adjustment, interior wood grain trim, antilock brakes, remote keyless entry and 15-inch alloy wheels.
A substantial revamping took place for 2003. This time around, Honda wanted to introduce some excitement to the Accord lineup. Performance was quickly identified as one area where improvement was necessary, and to this end Honda has boosted engine power, improved the suspension and reworked the transmissions.
With a more substantial, almost pudgy look, it seems that Honda is harkening back to the 1994-1997 school of Accord design. The handsome cabin, however, is hard to criticize, as it features large gauges, simple controls and plenty of storage space.
Once again, buyers have a choice of inline four or V6 power. The 2.4-liter four makes 160 hp while the 3.0-liter V6 pumps out an impressive 240 hp. A trio of transmissions — a refined five-speed manual (for the four-cylinder models), a new five-speed automatic (standard on the V6 and optional on the four) and a new six-speed manual (available only on the V6 coupe) — sends the power to the front wheels.
Thankfully, Honda saw fit to retain the excellent double wishbone suspension design and tweaked it for tauter handling characteristics and a more compliant ride.
This year also marked a return to just the three basic trim levels: base DX, well-equipped LX and luxury EX. The top-of-the-line EX V6 sedan is a full-fledged luxury car that adds heated leather seats, power passenger seat and dual-zone climate control to the EX’s already impressive standard features that include a power moonroof and alloy wheels. A user-friendly navigation system is now optional (on EX models only). Honda has also created a sportier Accord coupe that, in V6 form, also has 17-inchwheels, a six-speed manual transmission and a 180-watt sound system with an in-dash, six-disc CD changer.
The safety features list has grown and now includes antilock brakes with discs all around (all models), side airbags (optional on four-cylinder DX and LX, standard on all others) and side curtain airbags (only on the EX V6).