Honda Accord: A History of the Perennially Popular Sedan

The Honda Accord has been around for more than 40 years now. We take a look at the history of this powerhouse to see how it’s developed. As tastes change, though, will the Honda Accord remain a best seller?

A brief history of the Honda Accord

The Honda Accord, along with the Toyota Camry, set a new standard for the family car, says Automobile. It arrived for the 1977 model year, joining the already successful Honda Civic.

The first Accord was a two-door hatchback. It had a 68-hp 1.6-liter CVCC engine paired with either a five-speed manual or a two-speed semi-automatic transmission. This engine sometimes had trouble starting.

It offered, “precise steering, sharp handling, impressive fuel economy, and [a] comfortable interior,” points out Automobile. However, it wasn’t a performance vehicle, going from zero to 60 MPH in 13.8 seconds.

Its big features included service reminders and warning lights. It quickly became a popular seller. A model with air conditioning and power steering arrived in 1978.

A larger 72-hp 1.8-liter engine was added for 1979 when a four-door model became available. In 1980, the car gained a three-speed fully automatic transmission, and a model appeared with leather and power windows.

The second-generation Accord was released in 1982. The car was larger, sportier, and more efficient. In 1984, the car got a refresh along with an 86-hp, 12-valve 1.8-liter Prelude engine. The ride was better in some model years than in others.

In 1986, the third generation arrived. It had flip-up headlights and a larger 2.0-liter engine. This generation settled on the good handling that became a trademark for the Accord. It was still available as either a two-door hatchback or a four-door sedan. A two-door notchback was added in 1988.

The fourth generation from 1990 added five inches of length to the Accord and turned it into a midsize car. The engine was now a 16-valve 125-hp 2.2-liter one. The hatchback disappeared, but a wagon appeared in 1991. A 140-hp engine became available that year as well.

The fifth generation, appearing in 1994, was more rounded. It was also wider and shorter than before, but it still came in coupe, sedan, and wagon models. It now had a 2.2-liter engine with either 130 hp or 145 hp. A 170-hp 2.7-liter V6 engine was added in 1995, but it wasn’t well received.

Another new generation was released in 1998. The wagon disappeared, the sedan was larger, and the coupe had a different style. The engine was either a 2.3-liter four-cylinder, generating 135 hp or 140 hp, or a 3.0-liter V6, with 200 hp. Performance was improved, although transmission issues prompted a class-action lawsuit.

How the Accord transformed in the 2000s

An employee prepares to drive a silver 2018 Honda Accord vehicle off the assembly line at the Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. Marysville Auto Plant
The Honda Accord | Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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The seventh-generation Honda Accord that arrived in 2003 was different from the one sold in Europe and Japan. This Accord was larger and had a 160-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a 240-hp 3.0-liter V6 engine. A manual transmission was available with the V6. The Accord Hybrid was introduced in 2005.

2008 saw the arrival of the eighth-generation Accord. It was larger and qualified as a full-size car. It had more powerful engine options, with a 2.4-liter producing 177 hp or 190 hp and a 3.5-liter V6 producing 268 hp. However, fuel efficiency also improved. The coupe continued to have a distinctive style, and the hybrid was discontinued. This Accord began to appeal to an older demographic and started to see declines in sales.

The ninth generation, which appeared in 2013, returned to being a midsize car. The suspension and power steering were redesigned. The engines were a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, producing 185 hp or 189 hp with sport exhaust, or a 3.5-liter V6, producing 278 hp.

The four-cylinder engine came with a CVT or a six-speed manual transmission, while the V6 came with a six-speed automatic. The Accord Hybrid was reintroduced in 2014. Originally both standard and plug-in hybrids were available, but the plug-in was discontinued after two years.

The tenth generation, which appeared in 2018, was only available as a sedan. It had either a 192-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Either a manual transmission or a CVT was available for the 1.5-liter engine, and a 10-speed automatic transmission came with the 2.0-liter engine. The hybrid was also available with new tuning and handling improved. For the first time, in 2021, the manual transmission was no longer available.

The best and worst of the Honda Accord

The Honda Accord has certainly grown over the decades. After inching into full-size car territory, it has returned to being a midsize sedan. Enthusiasts feel the third generation, seventh generation, and tenth generations are the best ones.

The large eighth generation was a bit “soft” to drive, except for the sportier coupe version. Most other generations are great to drive as well. Buyers love that this sedan is reliable and affordable and that it has body shape, engine, and transmission options. 

Like all other vehicles, there are also a few model years that aren’t as fantastic. Some years don’t provide the reliability that the Accord is normally known for. The 2003 model year experienced transmission failures, a problem that also sometimes happened in 2000 and 2001. The 2008 model year had issues with brakes, oil consumption, and uncomfortable seats.

The declining sales of the Honda Accord

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Buyers don’t seem to love the Accord as much as in the past. Looking at Honda Accord sales between 2005 and partway through 2021 in the U.S., sales went down between 2007 and 2011 and then went up through 2014.

Since then, sales have seen a steady decline each year, according to GoodCarBadCar. Unfortunately for the Accord, its declining sales are part of a larger trend that has seen new sedan sales drop by half in 10 years as buyers flock to SUVs and trucks. The coronavirus pandemic only accelerated this trend.

The Honda Accord has a long history as a perennially popular sedan. Despite declining sales, the current generation is among the best.