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Car Review: 2018 Honda Accord 1.5T

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One of the backhanded compliments often foisted on mainstream automobiles, like Honda’s Accord, is that they’re so reliable they’re boring – the implication that dependability must, perforce, always preclude passion.

Well, I’ve got some news for you. My dear old dad still accords about his long-gone 1990, uhm, Accord EX-R top of place in his storied automotive pantheon. Considering that said 60-year collection — he just turned 90-years-young this last Friday — consisted of such luxury liners as a Lincoln Zephyr, such stalwarts as the 1964 Chevy Biscayne and quirks as one of the few Ford Taunus’ ever to make Canadian shores, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Yes, it was reliable – in its 15-year tenure in the Booth family, it needed but an oxygen sensor and a CV joint to run as smooth as a top for 200,000+ kilometres – but that alone cannot account for the soft spot he retains for the boxy little Honda almost two decades since it passed from his hands to my son’s.

What he remembers is a solidity of purpose and chassis, the first necessary for reliable transport for his family of four, the latter imperturbable stability whenever my mom got behind the wheel. My dear old mother would have visions of doom and gloom whenever anyone else drove more than 10 km/h over the speed limit, but then made like Mario Andretti as soon as she got behind the wheel. My dad also loved the little white sedan because it was sophisticated – hey, it came with an audio equalizer – stylish and, this might surprise those raised on a steady diet of looking down upon Asian family sedans, he found it stupendously luxurious.

Which means that he’d love the new 2018 Accord 1.5T Touring. For one thing, that seemingly too small — only 1.5 litres in a car that weighs the better part of 1,500 kilograms — engine is plenty peppy. Like the new Civic, this tiniest of four-bangers is turbocharged, in this guise sufficiently producing 192 horsepower and the exact same number of torque. It’s an efficient little beast, especially mated to the continuously variable transmission, stout enough for more than ample acceleration; it feels noticeably more powerful than the normally-aspirated, 2.4-litre four-cylinder it replaces, and is an completely different league that the little 2.2L four that powered my dad’s old Accord.

Yet, it’s frugal enough to all but match the Transsport Canada’s fuel economy rating — rated at 6.8 L/100 kilometres, I achieved 6.9 — on the highway despite my 120 km/h cruising speed. I couldn’t match the overall 7.6 L/100 kilometres for combined urban and rural driving, but the car’s actual 8.2 overall average was nonetheless not too darn shabby. Dad would have liked the frugality; mom would have liked its pep.

There’s also that solidity of chassis that dad liked so much after his previously steady diet of soggy American sedans. An excellent combination of control and compliance, there’s more than enough road-holding for the intended purpose — it is, after all, a family sedan — and more importantly provides a ride not so very far removed from, say, an Audi A4. Even the steering, variable-ratio and electrically boosted, provides decent feedback. Oh, to be sure, things will get a little mushy if you start attacking on-ramps. But by that time, the baby seat has sent its precious cargo flying and Fido’s face — and ass — is probably plastered against the side window. At least for family sedans, there is such thing as enough.

The last item that would impress dear old dad is that the new Accord, in Touring guise at least, really is a cut above. Leather abounds and the top-of-the-line model is fairly loaded with gadgets and goodies. First among those has to be the huge screen for the infotainment system. Though not fully emulating a conventional tablet, it is icon based and pretty much a doddle to revise. Oh, the screen’s trip computer controls are diabolical, but then there’s an easy-to-use reset button on the steering wheel that makes mockery of the notion that every function is rendered easier with digitization.

Most impressively, however, is how the big screen has been integrated into the interior design. Not one of the fancier hideaway systems, the Accord’s fixed tablet nonetheless manages to look more integrated than similar systems in German luxury sedans. Yes, to all you brand whores, Honda does it better than Audi, BMW or Mercedes. Other highlights include a TFT-screened gauge set that looks surprisingly analogue and a bunch of onboard safety gear like blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control. Oh, and the cabin is fairly silent, blessedly free of tire whine and little wind noise intruding on the cabin’s calm.

Downsides are few. The heated steering wheel speaks to a fear of a McDonald’s-like scalding-steering wheel lawsuit. To say that its temperature boost is lukewarm is to give tepid a bad name. Seriously, even with bare hands, I could feel little warmth. And come to think of it, the seat warmers are a little wimpy too.

Those of especially long legs might also find there’s not enough front seat travel. As well, the aforementioned lane-departure system doesn’t feel particularly sophisticated wandering between the white lane lines like a drunk doing the perp march. Ditto the adaptive cruise control that performs a complete little-old-lady-from-Pasedena capitulation every time a car cuts into your lane while the computer is monitoring your speed. At least the Touring model’s adaptive cruise control has a Low-Speed Follow function that lets it crawl through traffic without the driver having to prompt it.

However, my biggest question were I shopping an Accord, especially the Touring model, would be whether to move up to the top-of-the-line 2.0-litre version – which replaces the previous generation’s 3.5-litre V6. Like the 1.5L, it too is turbocharged and boasts 252 horses and 273 lb.-ft. of torque.

But that’s not the reason I’d opt for the bigger motor; I was plenty satisfied with the 1.5T. Rather, it is the 10-speed automatic transmission to which the bigger engine is connected that I covet. You see, while the CVT works well in moderate driving and in it Econ mode, in Sport or accelerating hard onto an on-ramp, the CVT causes the 1.5L to drone on a little. It’s perhaps not a deal breaker, but the upgrade to more power and a regular transmission is but $3,000. As you’ve already spent $35,790 on a Touring Accord, an extra $3,000 probably shouldn’t be a roadblock to drivetrain happiness. It does, however, suck back an extra 1.5 L/100 kilometres, according to Transport Canada.

In the end, though, CVT and other minor foibles notwithstanding, the 2018 Accord is another area where dad and I — now that he, like all fathers, has gotten smarter with age — would now see eye-to-eye. He no longer drives, so I will take up the mantle of Accord worship in his stead. To wit: The 2018 is the best Accord in many a year, perhaps even since that fourth-generation beauty my dad loved so. Certainly, it’s head and shoulders above Honda’s most recent efforts.

As to whether it’s the best family sedan in the segment is a contention the Toyota Camry — also new for 2018 and equally dramatic in its improvement — would forcefully dispute. Nonetheless, the new Accord — 1.5L and 2.0L both — is the best family sedan from Honda in well more than a decade.

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