2011 Honda Accord SE Sedan Road Test Review

By:Simon Hill
2011-01-15 00:32:44
 
Since its introduction more than 30 years ago, the Honda Accord has been nothing if not consistent - it has been consistently reliable,
2011 Honda Accord SE
Honda's Accord has grown larger and larger over the decades, and today's version is largest of all. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
it has been a consistent bestseller, and it has grown consistently larger. This last characteristic has been especially apparent since the late 1990s, when the design of the North American Accord was uncoupled from the European and Japanese versions to better cater to North American tastes.

The Accord started out as a compact model, and remained that way until the fifth generation was introduced as a mid-size model in the mid-1990s. When the current, eighth-generation Accord was introduced to North America back in 2008, it cracked even the mid-size ceiling and was classed as a full-size car. Honda typically refreshes its cars midway through each model run and the eighth-generation Accord is no exception, undergoing a minor facelift for 2011. True to form, the end result is a car that's just a tiny bit bigger than the 2010 model.

The increased size comes courtesy
2011 Honda Accord SE
The Accord is one of the most popular cars on the road today. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
of a redesigned front end that is said to be more aerodynamically efficient and which features a somewhat bolder, more prominent grille. Park the 2011 Accord next to a 2010 model and you can definitely see that the new car has a bit more snout, although interestingly while the official U.S. Honda specifications reflect that the overall length has grown from 194.1 inches (4,930 mm) to 194.9 inches (4,950 mm), the Canadian specifications continue to show 4,930 mm. No matter, it certainly looks bigger.

The changes, of course, aren't limited to the front end. At the back, the deck lid has been refreshed with thin light bars running between the taillights and the license plate recess. This is a big improvement to my eyes, giving the rear end a much more finished look.

In addition to the improved front-end aerodynamics, Honda has also reduced the engine friction and tweaked the transmission gear ratios for 2011, which together contribute to across-the-board fuel economy improvements, with the automatic 4-cylinder models seeing improvements of seven percent in the city and 11 percent on the highway.

Inside,
2011 Honda Accord SE
A conservative, but well-built cabin. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
Honda has addressed complaints about the Accord's button-laden centre stack by moving the most frequently used climate-control buttons to the left side of the control panel, closer to the driver for ease-of-use, and moving less-frequently used buttons to the right side.

From a potential buyer's point of view, perhaps the most significant change for 2011 is the replacement of the base LX trim with a "special edition" SE trim. Now, your idea of "special edition" and Honda's idea of "special edition" might not be exactly the same - the SE is, after all, still the base car. But it now gets several new standard features compared to the outgoing LX trim. These include an 8-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, 16-inch alloy wheels instead of steel wheels, premium 270-watt audio with a subwoofer and XM satellite radio, Bluetooth
2011 Honda Accord SE
Not as busy as previous centre stacks, the Accord's instrument panel is easier to figure out. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
hands free telephone connectivity, automatic headlights, security system, one-touch driver and passenger power windows, and more.

New features on other models include a USB audio interface on all Accord EX models and above, and a rearview camera on sedans equipped with the available Honda GPS navigation system. In the coupe world, the Accord EX-L V6 Coupe gets steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

I got to try out the new SE trim in the form of a Celestial Blue sedan with black cloth interior and an automatic transmission (it's almost surprising in this segment, but the SE is also available with a 5-speed manual transmission). With all the goodies Honda added to the base car - and with all Accords getting the full array of safety equipment including ABS disc brakes, front, side and side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle stability assist and active front seat head restraints - it may be more helpful to explain what you don't get on the SE (at a suggested retail price of $26,540 with the automatic transmission) compared to the next-higher EX trim (at a suggested retail price of $28,040): Mostly, what's missing is the power moonroof, the active noise cancellation, the dual-zone automatic climate control (manually-controlled heating and air conditioning will have to suffice), rear console ventilation, exterior temperature indicator, USB connector, one inch of wheel size (you get 17-inch alloys with the EX) and 13 horsepower.

This last item caught
2011 Honda Accord SE
Front chairs are designed for larger folks. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
my attention because the SE and the EX have basically the identical engine - a 2.4L, 16-valve, DOHC i-VTEC inline 4-cylinder that in the SE makes 177 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 161 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm, but in the EX makes 190 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, with no changes to bore, stroke or any other technical specification. It would seem as if Honda were electronically de-tuning the engine simply to provide an extra level of differentiation between the base car and the higher trim levels. Closer examination shows that this is only partially true - the engine does indeed have its powertrain control module reprogrammed in the EX, but this is only possible because the EX has a bigger exhaust system with larger-diameter tubing and a variable-valve silencer, which is the real key to the performance boost.

On the road,
2011 Honda Accord SE
A larger exterior has resulted in a roomy interior. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
all the changes add up to ... well, no change at all, really. The styling remains slightly derivative in a good way, resembling more expensive cars like the Mercedes E 350 or BMW 5 Series, and this year's tweaks will only be noticed by the most astute observer. The ride remains pure Accord, which is to say competent, capable and comfortable, but biased heavily towards touring rather than sport.

The 4-cylinder engine, like the handling, is competent and capable enough, but hardly awe-inspiring. I found it reasonably peppy off the line, and reasonably quick when really pushed, but without the active noise cancellation it tends to create a gruff growl that, while not unpleasant, doesn't seem entirely in sync with the staid character of the car. On the other hand, the available 3.5L, 271-horsepower V6 has been criticized for being too smooth and powerful, so the four may well be
2011 Honda Accord SE
A sizable trunk gobbles up cargo. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
better suited for the chassis. Fuel economy is an important factor too, with the automatic 4-cylinder SE turning in an estimated city/highway rating of 9.0 / 5.8 L/100km, versus 10.3 / 6.5 L/100km for the V6.

Inside, the Accord offers plenty of space to stretch out, which seems to be what people want, but personally I found it a bit like a one-size-too-big suit. It just didn't quite fit my medium-size frame, especially in terms of the armrests on the doors, which are too far out, too low down and too far back, leaving my arms no option but to hang in space when my hands were on the wheel. But the seats are comfortable, there's plenty of legroom and shoulder room for three passengers in the back, and the trunk is positively cavernous. For families needing to carry kids and gear to hockey practice, or for retirees wanting to take a couple of friends and their clubs
2011 Honda Accord SE
It might only be a four-cylinder engine in a rather large car, but the Accord SE moves along well enough. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
to the golf course, this is all good stuff. The fit, finish and materials are likewise good, if perhaps a little austere in the SE, with its abundance of black cloth and grey plastic. I did appreciate the simple, understated analog gauges, and I think the revised switch arrangement in the centre stack makes good intuitive sense.

There's no doubt than that the 2011 Accord continues to do what Accords having been doing so well for 30-plus years: It provides competent, safe and reliable family transportation in a well-built package, but not much in the way of driving excitement. The question becomes, is this still enough in a world filled with increasingly worthy (if very slightly smaller) competitors? The Toyota Camry has long been the Accord's primary competitor, but there are plenty of others too - the Nissan Altima comes to mind, and there's Hyundai's Sonata, and both Ford and
2011 Honda Accord SE
It's a name that goes back more than three decades. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)
Chevrolet nicely bracket the Accord in terms of size and price with the Fusion/Taurus and the Malibu/Impala respectively. And now Volkswagen is set to take on the Accord and Camry with a bigger, less expensive Passat.

Honda's strategy, as embodied in the 2011 Accord, is to give the faithful what they've always wanted, plus a little bit more. Priced at $25,990 as tested, plus $1,550 in destination charges, and backed by a three-year/60,000km limited warranty and five-year/100,000km powertrain warranty, the 2011 Accord SE offers a strong reliability record, a bit more space than most of its direct competitors, and a few more features for the money than last year's model. Who's going to argue with that?
(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>

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