The cars we loved.
From the looks of it, the Ohio built sixth generation Honda Accord may have taken a few steps backward in the looks department. Although pleasant and never offensive looking, it looks more like a stylistic evolution of the fourth generation cars from the early 90’s. That design was perhaps Hondas most conservative since the Accord’s beginning in 1976. The company seemed to establish a leapfrogging styling method where one generation was daring and the next rather tame if not boring. The sixth generation was boring, from the outside at least. Under the hood however was another matter.
Aggressive Only Under the Skin
Honda would release some serious Indy car like technology, like the variable valve timing. Two of the three available engines had VETC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control). The technology was available in a 2.3L inline four and its first ever V6 application in a sedan. While the V6 produced a healthy 200hp, a smaller 2.0L four was standard in the base DX sedan. The non VETC engine made 147 hp. Most buyers in America went for one of the two VTEC engines in the LX and EX trims. While the V6 powered Accord was no BMW fighter, it did accelerate up to 60 mph in the high 7 second range. Roadholding was better than average for the segment due to a double wishbone independent suspension. And then of course there was the all season traction advantages of front wheel drive.
Variable valve timing was still big news in the 90’s with only a handful of luxury makers using it, most notably BMW. V6 engines too were still rather new to the Accord. Ford and Toyota had made the switch to six cylinder engines as options sooner. Unlike the competition, the Honda V6 was smooth and efficient, thanks to VETC. VTEC allowed variations in the opening of valves to maximize air/fuel mixture at any engine speed. This technology had come down from the NSX and filtered to the Accord, Civic and Prelude.
The Accord was offered as a coupe as it had been before. The two door had a bit more panache by virtue of only having two doors, but was still conservative looking. Its long trunk and sleek profile gave it a Prelude like appearance. It like the sedan came with the full range of engines in DX,LX and EX trims. DX cars were stripped down and usually had 5 speed manual transmissions, there were rarely seen as coupes. At this point in Accord history, it was sales three-way brawl with the Ford Taurus and Toyota Camry for sales dominance. Having a low price DX model helped bolster with what would have otherwise been an atypical Accord model.
EX cars were loaded in coupe or sedan forms and always had the trademark EX moon roof, power everything and 15-inch alloy wheels, that seemed small even in the late 90’s. Honda was using four speed automatics during this time and the Accord was sold mostly with that transmission. Now firmly a mid-sized car, the Accord was built-in no less than seven spots world-wide, with some markets getting slightly sportier version on the car we got. The interior was devoid of any excessive flair, but was a text-book example of what to do to create a world-class cabin. The famous Honda ergonomics were in full effect-so much so that other manufacturers were still trying to copy it as the 90’s came to a close. Even lowly DX cars with cloth seats looked more expensive than they were thanks to quality materials and workmanship. You could see it in the fine detailing of the controls and switches. This car flirted with the #1 sales spot through the 90’s for a reason.
The Reasonable Priced Used Car
As good as the Accord was, it was nearly the invisible car. Its styling could have been derived from any number of cars. The annominity of the sixth gen Accord is good news for those looking for a dependable used car. The 1998-2002 Accord has one of the fewest aftermarket performance parts available of all the modern Accords.
This void is good news for anyone looking for a unmolested reliable sedan. It’s likely that someone has gone to the trouble of adding giant spoilers and ground effects to the Accord of this time, but its less likely to been seen vs say the sporty looking fifth or current generation. History is not likely to judge the sixth generation Accord as a real looker, but its quiet innovations advanced the state of the art for family sedans during a time when the Accord was still a car ahead of the pack.