From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can't live without. In this installment, we head down memory lane to appreciate the remarkably practical, but fun-to-drive Honda Accord EX, and trace its evolution through the years.
Back in the 1990s, there were only a few midsize sedans that really appealed to driving enthusiasts. The Honda Accord EX was one of them. Fast forward to today, and it's clear that Honda found the key to Accord success early on as more than 13 million have sold over Accord's 40-plus year history. Let's look at how this version of the Accord evolved over the years.
The Accord EX first appeared on in the U.S. as a high-end version of the fourth-generation Accord. This was back when Honda was light years ahead of just about everyone on the design and engineering fronts. A standard sunroof, upgraded interior trim, and extra speakers for the stereo would become the basic formula for most EX Accords to follow, along with a little extra under the hood with a 140-horse engine in '92 and '93. It was a tantalizing taste of things to come.
1994 Honda Accord Ex | Rick Graves | Motor Trend
The Accord went all futuristic with its styling for the fifth-generation model, and the EX continued to lead the way. The '94 and '95 Accord EX shared a particularly attractive set of alloy wheels, and all EX Accords from this generation boasted the first application of dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder with variable valve timing technology (DOHC VTEC). The sharp triangular taillights got a bit more generic with the '96 refresh, and the EX's six-speaker stereo was amplified by Alpine for crisp, clear sound. Driving a fifth-gen Accord EX with the sunroof open, the stereo cranking and the VTEC on boil might be the best time you'll ever have in a top-selling family car.
The Accord got bigger for '98, but not too big, with the four-cylinder engine swelling to 2.3 liters but carrying over that DOHC VTEC technology. In fact, all four-cylinder Accords shared in the VTEC love this time around, but the EX continued to offer its exclusive sunroof, trim and stereo upgrades. Despite plenty of room in the backseat, it wasn't that big on the outside, and maintained Honda's traditional low cowl for superior outward visibility. Throw in a five-speed manual that positively glided from gate to gate, and you had an all-around package that was still tough to beat.
2001 Honda Accord | Cars.com
When the seventh-generation Accord appeared in '03, it lacked that low cowl and tidy styling that had always set the Accord apart, but was produced in separate versions – one for the North American market, and another for Japan and Europe – with the latter wearing the Acura badge.
The eighth-gen model was just plain overgrown. So much so that the EPA even classified it as a large car. The 2013 Accord was a significant improvement over the '03, but was still a relatively tubby, ungainly thing, unlike the sophisticated, visceral, light-on-their-feet EX Accords from 1990-'02. As part of the eighth generation family, a coupe version was also available, as well as the Crosstour Fastback for 2010 – a hatchback/wagon Accord version.
2014 Honda Accord | Motor Trend
For the ninth generation, Honda took a page from Accord's storied history, bringing back engineer Shoji Matsui who worked on the '85 Accord. This next generation saw the debut of a new grille, front and rear lights, and alloy wheels. Available as either a two- or four-door, this Accord featured rear- and side-view cameras, along with numerous safety features, including warning systems to prevent forward collisions and lane departures.
2019 Honda Accord EX | Honda
The 2018 model year came with a lot of excitement over a complete redesign and updated engine specs. The biggest change, however, was the disappearance of the two-door coupe's availability. Restyling gives this new Accord a lower stance, and drivers improved forward visibility, while more legroom amps up the comfort level. Bucking a trend among competitors in its class, Honda still offers a six-speed manual transmission on these latest models, and a 1.5- or 2-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged four cylinder churning out 192 and 252 horsepower, respectively.
With sophisticated styling, this next generation of Accord is aging gracefully as a mature, but still exciting-to-drive sports sedan.
Have you ever owned a 1990-'02 Accord EX? Have a different take on how Honda's been doing since then?