A few months ago, we got our first chance to drive the 2016 Honda Accord, the latest version of the car that has taken home more 10Best Cars trophies than any car in history. For 2016, the Honda Accord was refreshed, getting a new nose, a tidier rear end, a much-improved interior, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality. It was enough to bring its 10Best-award tally to 30 (and 19 consecutive!), and so it was only fitting that we strapped our test gear to one of the most popular configurations—an EX four-cylinder with the CVT—to see how its performance numbers support our sentiment.
Alas, this is why you should never judge a car by its spreadsheet. Since when does a 7.6-second zero-to-60-mph run—nearly two seconds slower than the V-6 coupe—get your heart racing? And at 0.80 g, its lateral grip vastly trails the 0.87 g and 0.84 g figures of the last Ford Fusion 2.0T and Mazda 6 we tested. In fact, the Accord CVT’s overall numbers are more or less identical to those of the front-wheel-drive 2016 Honda CR-V. Uh, yippee?
Still, the EX model, the nicest of the non-leather-lined Accords, has some life to it. As with the Mazda 6, the Accord’s sense of lightness is conspicuous and contributes to its charisma. Chassis engineers clearly prioritized ride quality over roadholding in this case, yet the steering and chassis actually communicate when cornering loads build. That said, as we noted in our first drive of the 2016 Accords, there is a bit of play in the steering’s on-center zone.
With the clever use of “Active Sound Control” and “Active Noise Cancellation,” the direct-injected four-cylinder sounds like the happy Honda four-pots of yore, and the CVT’s willingness to play along in spirited driving (in Sport mode, anyway) gives us hope for transmissions of this type. We would be remiss, however, if we let Honda off the hook for its glaring omission of manually selectable gear ratios. For those—and an attendant set of paddle shifters—one must get the more charismatic Accord Sport model. If it were our money, we’d be more inclined to choose the Accord’s slick six-speed manual transmission, which can be had on LX, Sport, and non-leather-equipped EX models.
We recognize, of course, that most Accord buyers do not have the same proclivities as us, choosing the automatic by an overwhelming margin. For them, involvement is less important than fuel economy, and at 27/37 mpg city/highway, this is the most efficient model in the 2016 Accord family. (The manual comes in 4 and 3 mpg lower in those EPA ratings.) For our part, we averaged an impressive 30 mpg during our time with the car.
The Accord also remains as comfortable and usable every day as ever. Particularly in its more modest, cloth-clad trim levels, the Accord seems refreshingly honest and unpretentious, qualities conveyed not only by its winsome styling but also its well-laid-out and downright-huge interior. A trio of large-diameter instrument dials present essential information in the simplest of terms, while more information is displayed via an info screen nestled within the speedometer. Two more information screens are stacked in the center dash, the lowermost unit a touch screen capable of turning into a limited-use clone of your smartphone via the aforementioned Apple and Google functions. We still pine for actual volume and tuning knobs for the audio system, but as consolation, perhaps, Honda has carved out even more storage in the lower dash for phones and also has classed up the steering wheel and HVAC buttons with some piano-black trim.
The Accord’s raw numbers don’t overwhelm. Rather, it’s the car’s character that wins awards.