Curbside Classic: 1990 Honda Accord LX coupe – Coupé d’Irrelevance?

Debuting late in 2017 as a 2018 model, the tenth generation of Honda’s immensely popular and legendary Accord sedan arrived lacking a two-door companion, even if few likely cared or even took notice. As Honda ended production of the ninth generation Accord in 2017, the automaker also officially yet unceremoniously marked the end of production to the Accord coupe, a model offered for the preceding 30 years since 1988. It’s worth noting this, as in ending production of the Accord coupe, Honda didn’t just exit the midsize non-luxury coupe segment — it killed it off altogether.

The study of automobile industry trends on a broader spectrum is a truly interesting subject, and among its most fascinating topics is the plight of the 2-door coupe. Once the most popular body style of some of the best-selling automobiles, beginning in the 1980s, coupes began rapidly falling out of preference in favor of sedans, which in turn have since seen diminished popularity in favor of SUVs and CUVs.

Now I’m using the term “coupe” loosely, applying it to every non-hatchback 2-door, as in fact many “coupes” from this era were really 2-door sedans without exclusive rooflines if we’re technically speaking. In any event, there’s no denying that for many years, 2-doors were immensely more popular than they are today, often surpassing their 4-door counterparts in sales.

For many years, most coupes were actually marketed as the budget offering when compared to their 4-door siblings — think fewer doors, fewer moving parts, lower price — but by the late-1950s, coupes developed a more glamorous reputation. Helped by “halo” coupe-only models including the Chevrolet Corvette, Chrysler 300, Ford Thunderbird, Pontiac Bonneville, and Cadillac Eldorado, coupes gained a more prominent image as a more personal vehicle often purchased by those who could forsake practicality in the name of style, luxury, and performance.

Of course, more budget-friendly coupes and 2-door sedans remained, naturally constituting the bulk of sales for many automakers. Yet even 2-doors of more humble origins soon developed higher style of their own, whether it be of the more sporting or luxury image. Noticeable by the mid-1980s, demand for coupes, at least in North America, was shrinking rapidly as a result of multiple factors.

Although most Japanese automakers had been selling sports-oriented and personal luxury coupes in North America since the early 1970s, they were slow to release more mainstream-image coupes to their lineups, in a somewhat backwards move. Honda, in fact, did not release a non-hatchback 2-door Accord Coupe until the 1988 model year, a point when the coupe market was already on the visible decline. On that note, Honda even more belatedly released the Accord wagon in 1991, but that’s a tangent I won’t embark on as the focus of this piece is the coupe.

Sharing the same wheelbase and forward sheetmetal with the Accord sedan and hatchback, the 1988 Accord coupe gained its own roofline, therefore making it a true coupe and not 2-door sedan. Beyond this, the coupe was mostly the same as the sedan, which wasn’t a bad thing. Good looks, a functional interior, and superior handling for the class aided by its front and rear double-wishbone suspension, added to the Accord’s already strong reputation for reliability, dependability, and value that made it become the best-selling car in America by 1989.

Fully redesigned for 1990, the fourth generation Accord left the sharp angles and wedge shape of its predecessor’s “origami” styling for more a flowing look with softer corners and angles. In the process, the Accord ditched its hidden headlights, which were standard in some markets including the North American, for more conventional composite units. Overall, the look exuded a more grown up, more upscale appearance, with visual ties to the upcoming second generation Legend, much like its predecessor was in relation to the original Legend.

As for the coupe, although it still had a different roofline than the sedan, the differences between it and the sedan were negligible to the untrained eye. Which brings me to the question, was there a real purpose for the Accord coupes of this generation? And were Accord coupes of any generation a profitable extension of the Accord line?

Unlike its predecessor, which gained a noticeably faster roofline, the 1990-1993 Accord coupe’s roofline was far more vertical and “formal”, negating any added sportiness over the sedan. Adding to this, Honda already had a similarly sized coupe with far more sporting pretensions in the Prelude, and only with the Prelude’s looming demise did Honda give the Accord coupe a far more exclusive, aggressive appearance.

Personally, I’m all for coupes, but most people could care less for the plight of the 2-door automobile. Something nearly as strong in the early-1990s as it is today, most generally view 2-doors as less practical and thus an inferior choice when compared to a 4-door of any type.

From personal experience and observation, the buyer that comes to mind for an Accord coupe of any generation (even succeeding generations to the 1990-1993 that did exude greater sportiness) is a middle-age to older man or woman, usually having no children or grown up children. A sharp contrast to the typical buyer of most 2-door Hondas, they were always the demographic that easily could have bought a sedan next, and in many cases did.

While the visual differences between this generation Accord coupe and sedan are minimal, historically it has been the case that most 2-door coupes have more attractive styling/proportions than a 4-door counterpart. Yet in a world where 2-doors are ever less popular, the bodystyle of the 4-door coupe has emerged, blending racier styling with 4-door practicality.

Quite possibly due to their higher popularity than traditional 2-door coupes, 4-door coupes have quickly emerged as the style leaders for their respective brands. Until recently, the 4-door coupe was largely limited to luxury brands, but with the Stinger, Kia has showed us that this isn’t necessarily the case.

Honda has yet to give us a 4-door coupe, but with the discontinuation of its wallflower Accord coupe, Honda basically killed the non-luxury midsize 2-door coupe. Unlikely to ever return, it begs me to ask the question: Did the Accord coupe outlive its purpose or should Honda have continued producing it, thereby dominating a very small niche in the market?

Photographed: Brockton, Massachusetts – April 2018

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1992 Honda Accord EX