(first posted 7/2/2014) I wanted to post this car on the fourth of July; I really, really did. It was the best selling privately purchased passenger car in the US for the first two years of its production, and outdid many other born in the USA efforts. But it represented a very different way of making a car, being one of Honda’s last engineering-led efforts (famously running over budget). So as this car is an almost-American, I’ll tell its story on almost-the-fourth.
As a device conceived almost exclusively with North American customers in mind, unlike the hot-selling car which came before it, it’s almost mean to not consider it fully American, but it was still obvious this wasn’t the result Detroit’s business-as-usual. During their first test of the new Accord, Car and Driver referred to it as “the last act in a debacle,” that debacle being The Big Three’s. To provide a bit of context, this car hit the scene at the same time as the new GM10 sedans, and the JA-sedans from Chrysler (which never mounted an effective commercial challenge, anyway) were still far off. Ford’s Taurus, despite being a larger affair, proved the only effective competitor to the much more compact third-generation Accord and thus, Honda upsized its biggest seller to match.
That meant a change in design goals. While the Accord was always conservative at heart, the late ’80s saw the car rocket to the top of the charts on account of its fresh design and subtle sporting ethos. But making a safer, more refined car, better suited to automatic transmission duty and neglect in ownership was the goal in designing the fourth-generation Accord (code named the CB-series). And where previous generations shared some fundamental DNA in terms of engines and transmissions, the 1990 Accord was truly an all-new car from top to bottom.
A conservative restyle which ditched its predecessor’s aircraft style door frames and retractable headlights marked the new car as a decidedly family-friendly effort. At the same time, a nearly five-inch stretch in wheelbase, a seven-inch increase in length and an officially large four-cylinder (2.2 liters) effectively moved the car solidly into midsize territory in terms of exterior dimensions and market placement.
Interior space, mainly larger in front, was nevertheless skimpy given the expectations of American rear-seat passengers, and the car was still designated by the EPA as a compact, making its commercial success all the more impressive (and possibly related to the reputation of the outgoing Accord). The contemporary VW Passat and upcoming Volvo 850 were brilliantly packaged, by comparison.
Most of the extra space went to tilting the engine backward, and banishing any trace of front wheel well intrusion (which blighted both the roomy Volvo and VW); the rear suspension was still as bulky as ever.
At a time when the Accord was facing larger, softer, often V6-powered competitors, Honda focused on quality and solidity, not sheer capacity or feature content. Indeed, sparse equipment levels and overall blandness became sore points that cost the car sales by the end of its life cycle. It was a reversal of the sales pattern of the 1986-1989 car, which sold the greatest number of units at the end of its life cycle.
In fact, sales for 1993 were down thirty-percent from 1992 levels and Honda began marketing value packages and lease specials that year. The whole company was actually in a degree of trouble and that meant the car which came after in 1994 was very much a repackaged version of the white car we see here. In fact, basic parts of the architecture were even carried over to the 1998-2002 model, if one ignores that car’s optional V6 and then-new rear suspension. That the Accord continued to remain thoroughly contemporary in terms of its road manners and safety speaks to the solidity of the 1990 design, which was one of the last Hondas conceived when engineers were allowed to run the show.
The thoroughness of their efforts is evident in terms of longevity, which is beyond what the third generation cars could muster. I would even argue that these (we’ll also include the 94-97) are some of the most bullet-proof cars of the past twenty-five years. I simply had to take pictures of this particular car, since it’s uncommonly rust-free, and as an LX, with 1990-only black mirrors, represents the car in its first year of production in its most common trim.
It’s also very dull to look at in its filthy condition with white paint (another white Curbside Classic for Perry). Paul has run an article about these serving as Eugene taxis and they’re well-suited to the task, despite being seldom used in fleets. As long as you change the timing belt, these cars can generally be neglected, though you’ll pay out the nose for a front brake job because of a hub-over-rotor design, and the occasional main relay or distributor might put you out of commission for a bit.
So if attention to detail, quality and a rewarding driving and ownership experience explains the car’s success, let’s see how these measures expressed themselves in the new car. A good place to start, as always, is under the hood. Honda avoided stuffing a V6 in the Accord’s engine bay, though it was supposedly what everyone wanted. Competitor’s V6s made in the range of 135-160 horsepower, though the ones which offered solid torque ran out of breath higher up the rev range. Honda’s response to this was to tune its new 2.2 for a solid upper midrange, at the expense of top-end rush; compensation for its smaller displacement was achieved through low gearing.
This meant a lot of high-rpm upshifts in normal driving; indeed, the new electronically controlled (finally) automatic refused to shift up to second below about 2,700 rpm even under the lightest applications of throttle. When that shift would finally occur, it’d be accompanied by a jerk. It was an idiosyncrasy which would be exorcised in later models, but it avoided wasting power and preserved the clutches inside the transmission (the 98-02 model’s automatic was smoother but not as hardy).
In contrast was the balance-shafted 2.2’s uncanny smoothness; no large-displacement four was as free of harshness in the ’90s and even today, despite the loudness when compared to new cars, it’s hard to call this a harsh engine. One could argue that GM’s 2.8/3.1 and Ford’s Vulcan V6s were rougher runners. Buyers who opted for the manual transmission, now cable operated and transmitting power through a hydraulically actuated clutch, naturally got the most out of the driving experience, but Honda’s adherence to the four-cylinder was largely free of sacrifice either way. The grudging addition of the original Legend’s 2.7 liter V6 for the 1995-1997 model years (in what was fundamentally a very similar car, remember) made only a small difference in the car’s performance.
The new platform was also a major change, though the layout was much the same. The feeling of a somewhat delicate, fragile car with light control inputs perpetually running at the top of its suspension travel was gone. The surefootedness of the new car was limited mainly due to small tires and a very deliberate balance to understeer. It’s rare to meet an owner of any 1990-1993 Accord who didn’t genuinely enjoy driving their car, which was a key point of distinction versus rivals, but the chassis itself was capable of far more than what Honda’s product planning ultimately specified.
In terms of interior ambiance, the new car also managed to stand head and shoulders about the competition. Upholstered surfaces were of high-quality and in abundance and the new dashboard was a soft, richly grained, one-piece moulding. The cowl remained very low while the seats lost their butt-on-the-floor position and gained quite a bit of firmness, making the car far more hospitable to larger drivers.
Like the 1992 Camry, but possibly even more so, the materials used wouldn’t be out of place in a much more expensive car, though this would be the last Accord for which this was true.
There were other signs of overspending on engineering in overseas models, with twin-cam motors and such options as four-wheel steering offered despite a size, badge and layout which meant the car could never be popular. Here in the US, that would’ve trampled on the toes of cars like the Prelude (which the Accord coupe killed anyway) and Vigor, and that speaks to Honda’s predicament both at the time and today.
Unlike Toyota, which could upgrade the hell out of the Camry, giving it room to grow, while offering very Japan-centric cars at home and a bevy of luxury models in the US, Honda didn’t have the budget to simultaneously enlarge the Accord and keep the rest of its line-up healthy. It’s particularly sad when you consider that their reputation was such that cars like the original Legend were met with such universal acceptance while people waited and paid sticker for whatever Honda dealers were cranking out in the ’80s. Of all the Japanese makes, Honda was in the best position to aspire toward a premium image.
Would it have made sense for Honda to keep the Accord smaller while pursuing its evolution as a sports sedan? That’s certainly an odd question to ask when analyzing what seems like a home run. But the 1990 Accord was a flop in Japan, and remained so until the 1998 models strayed from the “world car” formula, and the popularity of its decidedly compact predecessor begs the question as to whether taking on the Taurus and GM10 with a larger car was absolutely necessary.
While the ultimate failure of such cars as the pre-2002 Altima, or the somewhat posh and very sporty 2005-2009 Legacy calls into question any future the Accord may have had as a leaner, meaner car, Honda’s family sedan was a phenomenon of its own, not merely another contender in the midsize market. The inability of big softies like the ’96 Taurus to unseat the 1994-1997 car shows that it often set the trend in spite of its size. And even the cheaper, big-selling 1997 Camry had to rely on fleet sales to out-do the Accord.
Add in the potential for better overseas sales of a smaller, sportier Accord, lessened development costs and more breathing room for upscale models in the US and you have interesting “what-if?” As a Honda fan, it’s a tempting idea which could spark hours of lively debate, but at the end of the day, the most sure-fire path to profit was what mattered. Having a much more US-centric business plan than either Nissan or Toyota meant that demands of the Accord’s core North American buyers would win out, even with engineers running management. Even still, the CB-series Accord maintained its fair share of eccentricities and remained a Honda, first and foremost. That makes its adoption of American mainstream virtues a classic immigrant success story.
Taxis Of Eugene Outtake: Honda Accord – An Old One At That
1996 Honda Accord Wagon: You Might Think It Was the Last of the Breed
1986-1989 Honda Accord: Ignoring The Future In Favor Of The Present
I do like this generation of Accord but if I had to choose between this generation or the previous generation, I would choose the gen before this one as I have always admired the fact that Honda offered an Accord with pop up headlight, which was a bold statement.
Indeed! This generation of Accords is very good looking and then the next Generation one came in 1994 and was the exact polar opposite of this one. It still to this day is the Honda Accord generation I totally dislike the most.
Great account of the 1990-1993 Accord Perry! This is without a doubt my favorite generation Accord. It seemed to have the right formula for styling – nothing too exciting, but enough that it looked relatively sporty and upscale. Its design has aged much better than the two succeeding generations, as well as Camrys of that era.
As for your “what if” scenario, to some extent Honda did carry it out in the U.S. with the Acura TSX and TL. Of course, both are marketed as sports sedans, which accounts for their similar sales figures. It would have been interesting if Honda had sold both generations of the TSX as a Honda here, as it is overseas. I believe that’s what they do in Australia, sell the smaller, sportier “Accord Euro” alongside the larger, softer Accord we get in the U.S.
You’re right, but it’s still interesting to imagine how different things may have been if the TSX were marketed as an Accord, with low trim versions with cloth seats and the 160-hp 2.4. I have a suspicion they may have sold well.
NZ gets both breeds of Accord not sure about Aussie, Hondas tended to be expensive there when I lived there priced above the competition but without any reason for it.
We get both Euro and Amero Accords- Honda is pitched as a some what up market brand, something like a Japanese Mercury.
Honda pricing has been like that here since the original Accord came out. I was quoted $6700 when the (admittedly RWD) competition was like $2k less.
Sheer greed. They kept that “pseudo-luxury pricing until the last five years or so, when they’ve cut prices to chase market share.
You tend to see more Accord Euros on the road than US-type Accords.
I bought a 91 – two-door – 5-speed LX model – white – blue interior. It was a great car that lasted 12 years – towards the end I started having all the typical Accord problems – rust around the rear wheels and the main relay started to go. It seemed like it was related to heat – it stranded me once – so I just opened the windows ( he relay was actually inside the car) and let it cool for awhile and it eventually started. The final straw was when the distributor went on a cold day driving my daughter to pre-school. It felt like the clutch went, because all of sudden there was no forward motion. We glided to a stop and had to walk walk the last 1/4 mile to school in freezing cold temps. I got it fixed, but it never ran quite the same after that.
Have you ever heard of this guy? Joe “Million Mile Joe” LoCiero of Maine purchased a used 1990 Accord LX in 1996 when it only had 74k miles on it. About 3 years ago he hit a million miles, because he wanted to push the car to its limits and see how long it would last.
This car still has the original engine and transmission. It also lives in Maine 365 days a year – how it has not rusted in that environment is beyond me. I’m originally from Vermont and most 1990-93 Accords have long since gone to the junkyard due to severe rust.
Also, Mr. LoCiero, according to Honda, has only replaced the fuel pump, both cooling fans and the radiator twice, as part of the car’s major repairs. Timing belts and water pumps have been replaced on schedule.
That article says Joe drives ~ 63,000 miles per year. That’s roughly 3.5 hours per day if he is driving at 55 mph.
I like driving as much as the next guy, but that’s insane!
It’d be more like 6 hours a day (who commutes/delivers 7 days a week?). Makes the story all the harder to believe ;).
An excellent account of a very important car. These were all around me at one time, and I spent a fair amount of passenger seat time in several of these. Only now do they really seem to be thinning out.
Even my father bought one of these, maybe a 91. It was the only non-Ford product he ever bought for himself after maybe 1960. He had an accident in it and totalled it when it was about a year and a half old. He claimed that he got more out of the insurance company than he had paid for it brand new. However, it was back to another Taurus for him – he liked the Accord but said that he just did not really feel comfortable in it.
I had not recalled how new this car was, but had figured that it was a heavy refresh of the 1986-89 car. How wrong I was.
I have the generations of most old cars in my head, listed chronologically by their image. When it comes to the Honda Accord I have to pause for a bit before placing this ’90 model after the older but more contemporary-looking ’86.
Great story on a very significant car. Surprised to see no mention though of the one area where Honda cheaped out in a big way on this car—-motorized seat belts.
The motorized seat belts disappeared for 1992, IIRC, when an airbag was added.
I had one of these for 3 years, and took it from 180k to 245k…changed the oil pn schedule, and replaced the radiator. Loved the style, the space, the handling. It is to this day my favorite car. It’s one of the few I’d buy new right now I if I could.
I like the Accord, and I like Hondas, but I hate timing belts. I can change them myself, I know they are reliable during their scheduled service life, but I am still very reluctant to purchase a car with one. A “lifetime” timing chain is what I seek (among other things, of course). If engineers were truly in charge of things during this car’s development, I would have thought they would have finessed a chain.
–No mention whether the 2.2 is an interference engine, but knowing Honda, it is.
Yes, it is. It’s a tradeoff to keep the head as compact as possible while maintaining a desirable combustion chamber shape.
I dunno, timing chains stretch over time and often have issues with their guides and tensioners. If you consider how reliable these cars are, changing a T-belt and H20 pump once every 90k miles isn’t too much to ask. But I do know a lot of people who share your opinion, especially as it’s not a cheap service.
The thing about chains is that while they can go wrong, they usually give you a fair amount of warning before it reaches the catastrophic level. With a belt on an interference engine, the space between it slipping and hundreds of dollars of valve repair may be barely enough to say, “Wait, what’s it doin–“
as the owner of 1995 Altima with 411 k miles on original motor&had abseloutly no issues with timing chain.i would prefer a car with chain over belt any time.
You should share stories of your Alty with us sometime.
Great article. There are so many of these in Vancouver still running, it is a real testament to their quality. In fact I see more of this gen, than I do of either the two most recent ones! I’ll have to post some in the cohort of all the ones just within a mile radius of my house. The current Accord has become too large for the sweet spot in the Canadian market.
I just had to write in today.
This is my favourite Accord..Nice article and that white car is in great condition.
Even though I like this car a lot…When you posted the original design sketch..I was just sad that they didn’t build the car exactly like that.
I think If Honda did make a car like that sketch..It would sell plenty.It looks fresh today.
Considering how car sizes have grown. since the 1990’s they could call it a Civic!!!!!
BTW..I love the whole take on the Naturalised citizen thing..I, myself on European..But I understand what you are saying, If If I obviously can’t relate to it as such. But I did find it a humourous take on the Accord status..And an interesting approach..Very creative.
The other day I was lamenting in the Nissan write-up that my demographic as a new college grad worker bee in the early ’90s seemed harshly slotted into the higher end Nissan, Honda, Mazda market. Being a post brougham guy that just liked big cars, it was a tough time to enjoy what I drove and be cool at the same time.
My sister and BIL went the Accord route and had an ’86 car and a white ’90 that could have been this car. Your comments about size and amenities and why the ’90 – ’93 car started losing some sales mirrors my sister’s experience. By the late ’90s they had two kids and two Accords weren’t cutting it. They were starting to look at mini-vans, and commented on the large trunk on my ’95 Chrysler Concorde as being something that could make another car livable. Big brother and his big cars were not so crazy after all.
She ended up with a Plymouth Voyager, that is now a Toyota Sieanna, which will likely be her last mini-van. Her husband has an F-150 which replaced the ’86 car a long time ago. They bought a used Hyundai Santa Fe that she researched carefully for all its safety features for their kids to drive.
Her progression mirrors most of the popular points of the American market for the last 20 years almost perfectly. Honda sedans to mini-vans and trucks to CUVs.
Her Hondas were good cars, suffered only moderate rust in their semi-small town environment, and proably would have gone on a long time if she had not outgrown them. The ’86 was a bit tough to live with – a bottom line stripper that lacked even a radio until they added one after market. An automatic and air may have been the only options. It was quite literally a Consumer Reports driven purchase based on price and practicality that appealed to two freshly graduated and broke engineers. The ’90, being appliance white, also fit in with her practical outlook.
I know that Honda did a bang-up business starting in 1999 selling Odysseys to people who had outgrown their Accords. From 95-98, they had a very high quality sort-of-minivan, but it was small, slow and expensive.
Unfortunately, the Odyssey transmission debacle (at least in my experience) has moved quite a few former Honda customers into the Toyota column.
The other problem the Accord had was the introduction of the Camry V6. Especially after the new 92 Camry V6 came out. Good (and adequate) as the Accord 4 was, it was no match for the much-stronger 6.
I got the time line off a bit, her Accords were probably ’88 and ’92.
The V6 issue as you mentioned had to be a bit of thorn for Accord. The market was all about V6 engines during the ’90s as gas was cheap and some of the new 6’s were very nice as you noted with the Camry. The 210hp (IIRC) 3.5 in my ’95 Concorde was very nice for its time, putting my ’87 5.0 Grand Marquis to shame for both performance and milage. My Concorde lasted 10 years and was a pretty good car overall. A solid V6 was what it took to get me in a modern FWD sedan.
I thought it pretty amazing that the Gen III Voyager was good enough to get a dedicated & practical Honda buyer to go domestic and Mopar! I recall the extent to which a lot of people were quite excited about the Gen III Mopar mini. Her Voyager was probably a ’97. I had a ’99 T&C for a while myself. Nice, but lacking sound insulation even in Chrysler trim.
Honda was obviously aware of where some of their customer base was going when they brought out a mini in ’99 that followed much of the Mopar play book. Were they the first to finally compete with Chrysler in the segment?
I never thought to ask, but with my sister’s penchant for Consumer Reports researched vehicle purchases, I would imagine the Sieanna was her answer to the paragraph they wrote on the Odyssey transmission.
Honda was definitely the first of the Japanese automakers to be able to really seriously compete with Chrysler in the minivan realm (after having stumbled with the first Odyssey). Among all rivals in that segment, it’s a little harder to say. I have a vague sense (which I don’t have time to confirm) that once GM ditched the anteaters, its minivans might have come close in aggregate volume, simply on the “stack ’em high and sell ’em cheap” model.
“The market was all about V6 engines during the ’90s as gas was cheap and some of the new 6′s were very nice as you noted with the Camry.”
I suppose that’s true if by market you mean domestic mid-size sedans like the Ford Taurus. The V6 take rate has always been minuscule on the Asian brands, so much so that the choice has all but disappeared (Fusion, Sonata. Optima, Mazda6). Honda was finally shamed into offering a V6 and did so with that pathetic stretched nose version of the 5th gen that they sold maybe five of.
From the 6th gen forward the V6 was designed into the car with the requisite additions in weight, overhang and length to all models. This is one reason the earlier Accords are so much prettier than the later ones. That said the 6th gen Accord V6 Coupe was a nice car and made adding the V6 less of a cave-in for Honda, but it was the start of the Americanization of the Accord.
Agree with your assumption and point. The Asians had to be a bit worried when the V6 only Taurus was number one, Chrysler, which had basically been neutered into a 4 banger company, was in the game with solid V6 entries, and GM’s aggregate V6 sales were keeping it the top worldwide automaker. I see a decent number of Honda / Toyota V6 badges. The rate may not be great, but the hard numbers, especially in the Midwest are decent. Even 5, 10, or 15 percent of a top selling car is a decent number.
I don’t have much 4 cyl experience, but recent drives in an older Honda element and a really old Nissan Altima left me still quite turned off on 4s. Too much vibration at idle, noisy under cruising conditions. My 3.0 Ford Duratec seems like a luxury engine by comparison.
With larger engines dying at an alarming rate, I hope someone has a 4 that could easily be confused with a good V6.
The Odyssey transmission issue, plus fuel economy, was why we went for the Sienna ca. 2004. Ours generally has given good service after over 100Kmi; main annoyance is its “binary” throttle response, which reviewers noticed as well.
I loved my ’88 Accord, but held onto it so long (sold it only after we got the Sienna), I never got to sample the later incarnations. Main thing I didn’t like was the oil filter location & popup headlights, for battery-acid leaks, as the car aged, kept killing a plastic fastener. Otherwise it was a great drive, I still miss it.
I respect Honda for not compelling customers to get a V6 for decent performance, as Consumer Reports noted on several occasions. Our ’94 Camry Wagon, OTOH, *did* need a V6.
I married a girl with an 88 Accord, and the car made quite an impression on me. Another Honda never really fit into our family. I particularly remember being interested in an Odyssey about 1995, but one cost all the money of a Ford Club Wagon but gave you only 5/8 of the passenger/cargo capacity. (I later picked up a cheap, used, high mile early Ody and liked it a lot.) I finally came back into the Honda fold with my 2007 Fit Sport. It is just as good as our old Accord. It is nearing 90K and has cost me nothing but routine maintenance. (Oops – just watch something break tonight. 🙁 )
CC effect this evening, I tracked one of the Odyssey tall wagons across town. I rode in one once, as a New York taxi in 1997, and was quite impressed with this different vehicle. I give Honda credit for trying a segment buster. The early Odyssey probably deserved a better fate, but it may simply have reeked of too much practicality.
We had a wagon version of this car when I was a kid, and while my parents loved driving it, we apparently got the only one that was a lemon. According to Dad, the balance shafts caused all sorts of problems immediately after the warranty expired and had to be replaced twice. Then they swore off Honda forever.
I suppose this protected us all later in life from the notorious Odyssey minivan transmission, but it just goes to show that lemons come in all shapes and sizes, even at the top of Honda’s game.
I thought the styling of these was dull when they came out, after the 1986-1989 Prelude style Accords(hidden headlights!!!), to me, looking at the shapes of the car, its almost like the they took the 1982-1985 style Accord and enlarged it slightly and gave it some aero cues, as if someone was trying to hide the existence of the pop headlight Accords. Seriously, look at a picture of an 85 and a 90, several of the themes are repeated.
These did have a low low low cowl which made it feel as if you were driving a picture window, I remember that they did feel a little tiny since they were still pretty light cars, this generation and the tail end of the pop headlight Accords were some of the first Hondas with a factory leather interior available in the US, the SEi leather Accords were pretty popular down here.
Every generation of Accord alternates between a more formal squared-off look and a more rounded sporty look. It’s a pattern that continues today.
Another great writeup, this one of a car that I have a lot of personal experience with. While the styling isn’t as daring as the previous model–the ’89 SE-i in particular being perhaps the best-looking mainstream 80’s sedan–it’s still a clean and well-executed design, still retaining its predecessor’s wedge-y profile in a more suble fashion, and it doesn’t look horribly dated today. In fact I think the styling has aged quite well.
I owned a 1991 LX 4-door myself, purchased in 2001 with over 150,000 miles already on it. For a car with that kind of mileage, the condition was remarkable–there wasn’t a thing wrong with it. Ran well, shifted well, the power accessories and the A/C worked. And, coming from larger cars (I had previously owned a ’79 Malibu and a ’91 Crown Vic) the handling was a revelation. Sure, it wasn’t a sports car and had a good amount of understeer, but it felt so light on its feet, so responsive, and so composed, compared to what I was used to. Despite accusations of losing some sportiness compared to the previous car, to me at least it was very enjoyable to drive. The car really hit a great balance between practicality, comfort, and handling, something that is very hard to do. These cars make it seem effortless. I only had mine for a little over a year before I sold it to my father, which was in retrospect a mistake. But it continued to be a great car for him, and made it to 2008 and 190,000 miles before an accident finally ended its life. Even at that point, it had held up–the paint was heavily oxidized, the A/C worked intermittently, and it needed motor mounts, but other than that it still had a lot of life left in it before the wreck. It’s still the record holder in our family for high mileage. Another friend had a ’93 EX that I drove on a number of occasions, and that one served him well until he finally traded it in on a new Civic in 2009.
There’s a ’90-’91 DX that someone on my block here in Richmond owns, and other than a little rust at the back of the rear wheel arches, seems to be holding up nicely for a daily driven vehicle of almost 25 years old!
All of the pictures of the cars in this article look exactly the same! Is this just me or does anyone else agree? Dare to be different!!
We had two of these cars, both LX models purchased new in 1988 and 1993. With bad experiences from Ford and GM products, these were a breath of fresh air and held up so much better than the domestics at the time.
But, and it was a big BUT, they were obviously engineered with manual transmissions in mind. The automatics in mine hunted incessantly between third and fourth when driving around 35-mph, so I usually ran it in third (D3) when driving around town. If it had been equipped with a manual transmission, it would have been so much more pleasant to drive.
If you dared to have the a/c on at a stoplight, the whole car would shake to death just begging you to put it in neutral. New motor mounts would help for a while, but the shaking always returned and it drove me nuts. I remember test driving a new 1996 but, noticing that it behaved the same way, decided to pass on the brand after that.
Not sure what was causing your shaking issue but they didn’t all do that. Our ’91 did get a case of the shakes when it needed motor mounts , probably starting around 175K, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the A/C being on, and it didn’t do it until then. My friend’s 93 was glassy smooth at lights until the end.
I do remember some transmission hunting but it was never a big enough issue to bother me.
Different experiences for different folks, I guess. The only reason Hondas aren’t on my list currently is the distinct lack of that sporting character that used to be evident even on the more pedestrian models. There’s still the desirable Civic Si, which would be in my driveway right now except for my wife’s stubborn refusal to drive a manual (I guess considering it’s her car I can’t be too upset). But the rest seem to have lost the thread. A shame considering I still see the brand as about the best you can do for quality and reliability.
This is the Accord that is worth all the accolades, not the first generation like I had.
The ultimate Accord, from my POV. A superb balance of many requirements and abilities, in terms of satisfying American needs as well as engineering ideals. I loved these, and would have owned one, had it not been for my company car Benz.
These are still very prolific here, and I expect will be so for many years/decades to come, thanks to their longevity. I’ve recommended them to a number of used car buyers, some of which have racked up very high mileage (300+k miles).
Excellent write-up on a true milestone car.
A number of points to add here:
First, I think it’s maybe overstating the point to say that the CB was aimed primarily at the U.S. That was obviously the lion’s share of the Accord’s market, but Honda expected the CB to sell much better in Japan than it actually did. Their initial sales projections were about 10 percent better than the CA’s: about 100,000 a year, which would have been respectable for what was still considered a fairly large and expensive car there. As it turned out, the Accord consistently underperformed and the Ascot version (same thing with a different grille and taillights for a different dealer network) was a marketing disaster.
Second, calling the CB bland is a little unfair. Its exterior styling took a fair amount of criticism for being too conservative, but its road manners and overall refinement were of a higher order than pretty much any of its similarly priced U.S.-market rivals. (It was in a completely different league than the Lumina in every respect except trunk space and the ability to stuff three people in the back seat.)
The CB’s mechanical layout was similar to the CA’s, but Honda did listen to all the complaints about the earlier Accord and increased wheel travel significantly (which I think is one of the reasons the CA’s low hoodline and popup lights went away) while firming up the damping quite a bit. They also sharpened up the steering response and made the power steering’s assist variations a lot less abrupt. The EX, which had 15-inch wheels and anti-roll bars, was really quite sporty for a family car.
As JPC said above, I think the CB’s sales decline here toward the end of its run had a lot to do with the arrival of the bigger Camry, which was roomier and — a crucial point for Americans — had a much slicker automatic transmission. (Yes, the Camry was offered with a V-6 while the CB Accord was not, but I think most U.S. buyers got the 5S-FE/automatic.) Honda also lagged on offering airbags or ABS in the U.S. market, and when they did introduce ABS it was available only on the SE and EX, which were a lot more expensive than the LX version that was the volume seller. I don’t know why, since ABS was optional in Japan from the start.
U.S. cars all had the F22A engine, but elsewhere there was also a sportier 2.0Si with the twin-cam version of the 2.0-liter F20A and 148 hp/150 PS. Interestingly, in Japan, you could get the Si with the same 4WS system as the Prelude — that would be fun, although had it been sold here I imagine Honda would have sold about three of them. Of course, there were also cheaper SOHC 1.8 and 2.0 models (including some carbureted 1.8s).
ETA: Also, I think a big part of why Honda didn’t develop a V-6 for the CB, aside from their feeling that it wasn’t necessary from a performance standpoint, was that they plowed a bunch of money into the five-cylinder versions for the Inspire and Vigor, which they ended up selling here as an Acura instead. The five-cylinder cars never did particularly well sales-wise — even the Japanese salespeople would have rather than a V-6 — were expensive to make, and I think ended up being money-losers. That was an engineering-led decision and its failure may have contributed to later generations being much more cost and product-driven.
Too bad, too; the five’s added displacement allowed them to focus more of top-end pull, and the sound was marvelous. Just imagine if they conjured up a 5-cylinder derived from the H-block.
The Japanese models actually didn’t have any displacement advantage to speak of. The CB5 Vigor and Accord Inspire had the G20A, which was 1,996cc — about the same size as the F20A four — to stay in the small car tax class. Since it had 20 valves to the F20A’s 16, it had 10 PS more than the twin-cam 2.0Si, but the same torque. (The 2,451cc G25A came out later, but the G20A stuck around until the late ’90s.)
The salespeople didn’t like the five because buyers who wanted prestige would inevitably see a five-cylinder Honda as a step down compared to a six-cylinder Toyota or Nissan. The accountants didn’t like it because the five-cylinder cars had longitudinal engines and a bunch of unique hardware. They were probably particularly frustrated because Honda had a transverse V-6 (which was available in a smaller tax-beater 2.0-liter version as well) that probably would have sold better and cost less, although the small V-6 was actually down about 15 hp on the five.
You’re telling me the Vigor didn’t offer 2.5 liter 5-cylinders in Japan from 1992 onward?
The 1992 CC2/CC3 Vigor and Inspire offered the G25A, but the 1990–1991 CB5 versions did not. The earlier CB5 was essentially a long-wheelbase four-door “hardtop” Accord with the longitudinal five; the CC, which arrived in Japan in January 1992, was the bigger U.S. Vigor body. Different cars, more or less.
That was followed by the smaller CE Ascot and Rafaga in late 1993, which was actually much smaller than either the CB5 or the new CD Accord, but offered offered only five-cylinder engines. That didn’t work either and both died around 1996. I think Honda kept shuffling the lineup around, trying to find a way to get their money’s worth out of the G-block five.
If this brochure is indeed from 1990, then the 2.5 liter engine was offered earlier.
That brochure looks to be for the 1992 model. One clue is that the brochure identifies the car simply as the “Honda Inspire”; the earlier CB5 was still called “Accord Inspire.” As best I can determine from Honda’s own materials, the CB5 wasn’t offered in a wide-body version or with the 2.5-liter five.
I think what happened was that Honda was caught off guard by the major reform of vehicle-related taxes that Japan enacted shortly before the CB debuted. Before that, cars that were too big for the small car class were so costly to run that automakers didn’t really offer them except on the priciest lines, and then only the more expensive grades. The tax changes made bigger cars a lot more affordable (albeit still not cheap), so everyone started introducing prestige big-engine/wide-body grades.
My guess is that the CB was so close to production by the time the law was passed that Honda didn’t have time to add a wide-body model until after launch. When they did, they probably decided the U.S. Acura Vigor version was the first production priority, so the wide body debuted here and then was introduced in Japan.
“…Honda did listen to all the complaints about the earlier Accord and increased wheel travel significantly (which I think is one of the reasons the CA’s low hoodline and popup lights went away)…”
Yes, possibly, with respect to the hood and fender dimensions – but the 1986-89 Accord already had exposed headlamps in other markets, such as the UK.
That’s true — Japanese CA Accords were (eventually) available either way (as was the Prelude, interestingly). However, I believe a major reason for offering the popup headlights in the first place was to allow the low fender line while still meeting U.S. lighting laws (which changed around the time the CA debuted, but were clearly a factor in the design thinking).
Ah. Makes sense. The U.S. still required sealed beams (which came in only a few sizes/shapes) when the ’86 was designed.
I’m pretty sure that was the same reason the AE86 Corolla Sport coupe we got was actually based on the JDM Sprinter Trueno rather than the Corolla — the Corolla Levin of that vintage had exposed halogen lights while the Trueno had popups.
I don’t see how one could say the car wasn’t uniquely US biased when you consider cars like the Corona and Bluebird in Japan.
And as far as blandness is concerned, when you consider cars in the US like the turbocharged Legacy and 626, or even the 2.4 liter Stanza with limited slip, Camry LE V6 or Quad-4 cars from GM, there was a distinct lack of pizzazz. It’s not that the car wasn’t rewarding to drive, but they whole thing was very restrained, and excessively so when you think of how surefooted and refined it fundamentally was.
I feel that, if there weren’t cars like the Legend, Vigor, Prelude and Integra sedan to consider, the Accord wouldn’t lack the sense of occasion which characterized some versions of all the cars I listed above. Honda was holding back. I think DX and LX versions could’ve offered the EX’s tweaks and that the EXs could’ve offered at least the H23.
I’m not arguing that the U.S. market represented the bulk of the market for the Accord — even if the CB had sold what Honda initially hoped in Japan, the ratio of U.S. to home-market sales would have been close to 4–1. In fact, Honda built more Accords in the U.S. than they expected to sell at home. The point I’m making is that while it’s clear they wanted to build on their U.S. success, it was not a matter of dismissing the home market Accord to focus on North America as they’ve subsequently done. JDM Accord sales had been steadily improving throughout the CA’s lifespan and Honda was hoping the new model would make them a more serious player at home. That ended up not happening, but that was definitely the goal.
I’m not sure how the Accord was less bland than the T185 Corona/Carina. The only parts of that line that had any particular styling pizzazz were the EXiV and ED hardtops, which weren’t exported. Likewise the Stanza — a limited-slip differential was novel, but didn’t make the car not eye-wateringly dull — and the Capella/626 of that generation, which, other than the turbo that I don’t think many American customers bought, was a perfectly competent car that you could lose in a parking lot without ever taking your eyes off of it. (At one point, my parents had a 1990 or 1991 626 LX, which even in five-speed form was a decent car with absolutely no distinctive or memorable features.)
You could make a stronger case for the Legacy or the Galant, although making them stand out in that class also made them quite expensive. I have a hard time calling a basic early-90s FWD normally aspirated Legacy any more interesting than the 626 of the same period, but the turbocharged AWD sedan listed for about $3,000 more than an Accord EX, which wasn’t cheap itself. Likewise the Galant. The cheaper base and LS models were underpowered while the AWD GSX was more expensive than an Accord EX (about $1,500 more if you added air and a sunroof, which were standard on the Honda) and came only with a manual transmission. (As for the Quad 4, well … I suppose an engine that’s rough, loud, and sounds like a cement mixer at higher engine speeds does stand out in a crowd, but I would hesitate to call that character.)
Technological points of interest are all well and good, but if someone thought the Accord was hopelessly bland, would they have suddenly changed their tune if it had slightly sharper turn-in, a shorter turning radius, and 4WS badges on the tail? Probably not.
The blandness was in comparison to other US market offerings and I stand by my assertion that cars like the 626, Stanza and especially the Legacy were generally friskier, with much better turn in and in the Subaru and Mazda’s case, better damping, even if they were still less refined. The Accord was had potential to be more fun than all except maybe the Subaru. And cars like the more expensive Camrys before 1992 could still be gussied up to a higher level, as could the Taurus and GM10 family. That’s where the blandness criticism comes in.
Competence and integrity makes for character, but not necessarily excitement. And obviously it did Honda well, but criticisms of blandness stuck to the car. I think that more power and standard features and interesting options might’ve helped maintain interest toward the end of the life cycle.
As for the Japan, I was talking about size and optimization for respective markets. In that sense, it’s hard to see how Honda could’ve expected to out-do the CA-series with such a big car, especially when cars like the Corona or Bluebird or Galant were all a bit smaller.
I think Honda was hoping to straddle the line between the Corona/Carina/Bluebird class and the bigger Mark II/Laurel class (which is where the CB fell in size and more or less in price, although it didn’t offer a six). When the CB was planned, that price segment was growing by leaps and bounds. The CA’s JDM sales had increased steadily and significantly each year, and with the economy booming, I suspect Honda figured those buyers would soon be able to step up a bit more. Except for the imported coupe and wagon, the JDM Accord was still in the small car tax class, so that wouldn’t have been an unreasonable plan in principle.
Great article on a great car. However, I sometimes wonder why Honda made the vehicle so 1980s blocky since the 1990 Lumina has more curves than this generation of Accord and by 1992 there was the curvy Camry, Civic, Del Sol, and Taurus.
“Interior space, mainly larger in front, was nevertheless skimpy given the expectations of American rear-seat passengers…”
Amen, add to that a more difficult step-over at the lower front rear door opening. My first ride in one of these was in the back seat. Other than that, it was right out of the Chevy Lumina school of design as to low window sills – good visibility, what a concept! OEMs – are you listening?
Still, this generation Accord remains my favorite for styling – make mine in that aqua-greenish-blue – even though our 1990 Acclaim blew it away in interior roominess.
Aqua-green, so so so many of these were aqua-green, with a tan interior of course, it was that burst of teals, aquas and greens that returned to brief popularity from about 1990 to 1996.
The years of teal! L.L. Bean Jackets and Escorts to match!
1994 Ford Probe SE in Xtreme Lolapalooza Teal Aqua Metallic, it comes with a free CD that includes the Spin Doctors, Counting Crows and the Stereo MC’s!
I lol’d, though you made me throw up a little; I suspect this was intentional. Can I cleanse the palette with a Sentra SE-R with Siamese Dream, Little Earthquakes and Violator?
JSYK; I enjoy the 626/MX-6/Probe quite a bit.
I actually liked the Stereo MC’s, I still have a dusty CD somewhere to prove it…. the other 2…..not so much.
Your SE-R selection is fine…..as long as I get my 6 speed LT1 Camaro Z28 with Saturation, Achtung Baby and Ill Communication.
The Accord’s rear seat also suffered from too much rake. It was less comfortable than it might otherwise have been because the only way to get any shoulder support was to lean back at an unnatural angle.
When the 1990-93 Accord was being made, I believe I read at the time that all dashboards were black, regardless of interior color, for the entire generation. Is that correct? Did Honda do so out of cheapness or for some obscure but positive reason?
I would guess it was because upscale European cars like BMW and Mercedes mostly did the same thing, and had been for a long time.
Only on the tan versions. All others were color keyed.
Not true, my mother in law’s has a burgundy dash.
I think that’s the point, that only the tan interior cars had black dashes. My buddy’s ’93, white with blue interior, had a blue dash. For that matter, so did my Dad’s 84 with blue interior, though that was clearly a different generation.
My ’91 was charcoal, with light gray seats. I’m trying to remember if they bothered to make a gray dash, or if it was just black, and I’m failing to remember which it was.
The Ivory colored interior on this gen Accord was coupled with the Teal exterior and was a huge seller. If they colored-keyed the dash to the rest of the interior on the Ivory, like they did on the other darker interior colors, there would have been too much light reflection on to the windshield on too many units. German cars had been using dark dash pads for years for the same reason. I always viewed the strong contrast between the dark dash and light rest-of-the-interior as a positive. There was less of a dipped look, which I associated at the time with the domestics.
During this era, I drove a Civic DX sedan, but wanted to move up to the Accord. The looming expenses of law school made this impossible. I remember stopping at the local Honda dealer many times (when it was closed) to look at the teal EX coupes that were either featured in the showroom or on the lot. These cars still look good today, although I also like the next generation.
I never cared as much for the previous-generation Accords with the pop-up headlights, which apparently puts me in the minority today.
“I never cared as much for the previous-generation Accords with the pop-up headlights, which apparently puts me in the minority today.”
Add me to that list – I hate pop-up headlights, an unnecessary accessory with dubious value, especially when one got stuck in icy conditions, or else broke, as so many “one eye open, one eye closed” examples attested to of all makes.
I always thought the the covers on the retractable headlight covers looked like crap. They had some kind of design in grays, seemingly patterned after disposable plastic dinner plates, that appeared on both Accords and Preludes.
That was one reason to have an Integra, with which had headlight covers painted like the car.
You can add me to that list as well. While I like the hidden headlight Accord, the later version, featured here today, I like a lot better. It just has a clean modern look that the previous generation seems to lack.
The previous generation had a switch on the dash to keep the lights open during icy weather. Of course you had to remember to use it. I never had a problem with mine sticking in either up or down position. They also had manual “cranks” for each light under the hood should the electric motor fail to operate. Two of my neighbors still daily drive the generation featured today. One is immaculate and the other has a few rust bubbles behind the rear wheel.
Great write-up, Perry.
Here’s a paean for the car from one of my favorite enthusiastic young gearheads who was an infant when the car was new. You can follow his progress on fixing up the car on his site (the timing belt issue is gone). I think he does a great job in outlining the high quality/thoughtful design of the car. At 275K, this one still looks good and runs pretty well.
I have a begrudging affection for them as the ultimate Accord, and their reliability, and quality. And remembering that my ex-boyfriend’s ’93 LX never stranded us as much as my 98 Jetta GLX did.
But also remembering as a long distance interstate car it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable car to live with. And with a full compliment of passengers in Hilly Interstate work, I can see the appeal of the V6 competition.
In a lot of ways, it’s as close as it ever got to the perfect compact sedan. If only the seat weren’t so close to the floor and the transmission weren’t so jerky.
Just remember to put your foot into it at the bottom of the hill and maybe knock back the gear lever into D3 :).
V6! V6! V6! V6! V6! (I’m just being a brat).
Or Turbo Legacy (so am I).
These cars are a so common here in SoCal, you can’t go a day without seeing one, it truly attests to their longevity and quality. You never see that many Luminas, Tauruses, and whatever Chrysler made in those years as much as you see these Accords and Camrys of the same era. Most of them are beat to hell but they continue to soldier on. Honda at its zenith, the Honda I miss.
BTW it’s interesting how that design sketch looks a lot like what the 1998 Accord ended up looking like in the production model.
Well, they managed to faithfully, but loosely, stick to one design language for a while there, from about 1985-2000, and were especially good about it with the Accord. Stanza/Altima, Camry, Galant and 626, not so much.
No doubt these were a big deal new but they were overpriced for what you got in OZ and fairly underpowered ,in NZ ran into the 92 Camry we had in 1990 so not the huge sales Honda wanted, Rust ate them at a fairly rapid pace and the only survivors seem to be the JDM versions that arrived here much later we have Ascots and Vigors with Honda badging not the fake Acura non existant brand.
I think these Accords showcased Honda at its absolute best. The caliber of materials, the solidity, the refinement were all top-notch and elevated the car into a class above. Even with dealers who weren’t particularly willing to deal (still prevalent at the time), these cars represented a great value. My Pop got a 1991 SE, finished in silver with a really nice charcoal grey (black?) leather interior. It replaced a 1989 Cadillac DeVille, and frankly it felt like a much higher quality car in many ways. He absolutely loved that car, finding it responsive, fuel efficient and very comfortable. The horrible motorized belts were really the weakest part of the 1990-1991 cars, rectified the next year to better meet federal standards.
My brother had a 1989 Accord LXi, which offered an great model generation contrast. While the older car was also fantastic, with a nimble feel and youthful, sporty styling, the 1990-1993 generation felt more refined and expensive overall. It was a very logical evolution and allowed the Accord to reach a broader base and drill deeper into the core of the American market.
Perhaps they’ve now drilled too deep into that all-American well. I just wish Honda was still putting out products that inspired this level of passion today. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, Honda felt a bit like a Japanese version of a German company, prioritizing engineering and driving feel combined with a more attainable price point, whereas today they emphasize soft, safe and staid. Undoubtedly where the market is, based on the sales numbers, but not particularly inspirational.
I don’t remember a single Accord from my youth. Everyone I knew drove Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln. Granted, that was when people in America who wanted to work hard had a high-paying job 😉 My how the times have changed! Imported the cars and exported the jobs!
My academic, Civic-driving parents lusted after these when they came out. They were the holy grail, the car that was going to be purchased when my mom got a promotion or dad became a full professor. Then the new early 90s Toyota Camry caught my mom’s eye and the love affair with Hondas was over.
When we test drove the 90 Accord (we had an 86) we were shocked by how much less sporty it looked. My dad, who generally disliked our Accord, didn’t notice how much more solid and slick it was, and at only 6 years old, I couldn’t. But there was no comparison with earlier models. I would choose a 92 Accord over a 92 Camry anyway; the gearing in those cars was too tall, and the suspension too soft. Or, in 93, possibly an Altima, or as I said, a Turbo Legacy… but an EX with stick shift would’ve kept me VERY very happy; just a rear sway bar away from genuine entertainment.
I get it more than I did then (with respect to either the Toyota or Honda), at the time I was baffled by my parents as I was busy lusting after my grandfather’s ’86 and ’88 Grand Marquis LS sedans, especially the baby blue ’86. I remember going to a dealership with my parents to check out either a Toyota or a Honda; next door there was a Cadillac dealership and I went right over with my dad and asked the salesman if I could sit in the ’91 or ’92 Brougham.
My third-grade teacher had one of these, just like the pictured white car. I remember she drove us somewhere on a field trip in about 1993, and I rode shotgun. (It felt so strange and somehow wrong to be in a car driven by my teacher. I think I figured she didn’t have a car, or a house, and just lived in the classroom.)
It was my first ride in a Honda that I was conscious of. Having been raised on big American V8s, followed by a 1990 Town & Country V6 (rare bird!), third-grade me found the Accord very “buzzy” and frenetic. That, and the low, low ride height and huge picture windows, unsettled me a bit. I didn’t feel all that safe in it.
I have total respect for this Accord, and for Honda’s efforts in the 80s and 90s. They were certainly very good cars that sold very well. I live in LA and see this generation of Accord many times daily, probably on their last owners at this point.
But the thoughts of third-grade me never went away. I always found Honda 4-cylinders buzzy and never jibed with the high-rev nature of the vehicles. I always find it interesting when I read how “smooth and refined” these engines are. To me, they felt just the opposite. My behind-the-wheel driving training was behind the wheel of a ’96 Civic, and it felt very much the same to me. The thin doors that would collect dings like dust, and that distictive “winding up” sound they made in reverse — even in reverse they were frenetic engines! They just never felt like solid, substantial cars to me in terms of drive.
Again, all due respect to this car and Honda. I guess I’m an old soul when it comes to cars. But I still am leery to buy a 4-cylinder car, and I think it all started with my teacher’s white Accord.
Happy 4th all!
As the owner of 6 different versions of the 1990 – 93 Accord – yes 6 – I can attest to the quality and durability of these cars. I have a spot in my heart for them that no other car could ever fill. There is nothing like the low cowl and double wishbone suspension to give you the feeling these cars do behind the wheel. I have to admit the three I owned with the automatic trannys were my least favorite of the bunch, but I still enjoyed them immensely. I truly feel that the CB series Accord was extremely far ahead of its time in my opinion. Most owners of these cars did not realize they had racing inspired suspension at their disposal. Many were Moms and grandparents driving the speed limit going from point A to B with never an issue. I remember one of the car magazines making the same reference and it was so true! This model Accord seems to have appealed to a wide variety of consumer, maybe even more so than the Accord of today does. The Achilles heal of this generation is definitely rust in the wheel wells, the interior door pull surrounds love to crack, the heater control knobs also love to crack, and the power antennas were good for about five years until they decided to stick. Oh, and the main relay/distributor issue can catch you by surprise the first time your ultra reliable Accord dies on the highway. Aside from these issues, no car can give you as much rewarding time behind the wheel and with as little fuss as these 90-93 Accords. I bet if Honda made them again they would probably sell like hotcakes!
My first was a 1992 LX Coupe leased brand new through Dad’s business. I wanted a Rosewood or Bordeaux Red coupe, 5-speed, but none were available so I took the showroom car, a Rosewood automatic coupe with the rear spoiler. I drove it 45,000 miles and loved it , never having an issue but disliking the auto transmission, always wondering what a 5-speed would have been like in that car. A few years later, I came across a local couple selling a low mileage Cappuccino Brown 5-speed LX coupe so I snagged it up. It was awesome – except for the horrific dog smell that came out whenever it was warm outside. I tried everything to get that stink out but I couldn’t, so I traded it in for a white 1991 EX sedan. Another local owner, low mileage vehicle with just one problem – you got it – it was an automatic. It had the sport version unlike my 92 so it was a lot better in the sport mode to control the abrupt shifts, yet it was still an automatic and I missed the 5-speed. I kept it a few years and traded it for a 94 EX (a story for another time). My wife then girlfriend in 1996 had an 86 Cavalier that was starting to rot badly so she wanted a newer car. I found her a Bordeaux Red 1992 LX 5-speed with 98000 miles on the odometer. Her Dad thought she was crazy paying $7000 for a car with 98k on it, but after he saw how reliable it was he bought himself a 1990 EX that he still drives today with over 200k!! He loves that car so much he will not part with it! As for my wife’s, we had it for 7 years – 185000 miles – and sold it to a friend who had it only a month and totaled it. He then bought a 1991 SE which he kept several years but wanted a newer car so he sold it to me in 2008 because I knew how great that car was! Going back a few years, in 2001 I was looking for a utility type vehicle and came across an ad for a Seattle Silver 1993 Accord EX 5-speed wagon. The owner was moving across country from Washington state to Newport, Rhode Island, 20 miles from me. It was destiny – I had to have that car! It had just turned 100k and was in mint condition. He had every record from day one. That car was incredible! We sold it in 2010 with 245,000 miles on it and only because the subframe rust was getting pretty bad. My wife actually cried when it was gone, she LOVED that car as much as I did. I still miss that car every day and regret having to sell it. And that leaves me to the 1991 SE that my friend bought to replace my wife’s totaled 92 he bought from us. It was the last of the CB series I would ever purchase. I bet if I needed a car and a nice one turns up I would consider it. Our 1999 EX is a fine road car, comfortable and reliable too. But to me no other car will ever be quite like the early 90’s Accords.
I recommended buying a Taurus LX over an Accord to a friend shopping in 1990. The Taurus had an airbag; the Accord had annoying mouse-motor “passive restraint” shoulder belts (buy you still had to manual lap belt anyway). The Taurus had four wheel disc antilock brakes; the Accord lacked ABS and used rear drums in most models. The Taurus had either of two V6s that were more powerful than Honda’s four, excellent as it was. The Taurus was loaded with nice features unavailable in the Honda – power seats (both sides), height and tilt adjustments for those seats, bucket or full-width front seating, cornering lights, full-sized spare tire, Ford’s awesome pushbutton true keyless entry, the expensive but effective Instaclear windshield, auto temp control HVAC, a la carte options for leather, sunroof, or digital gauges. All this, and the price was typically comparable to what ’80s Honda dealers were gouging at the time.
Bought new with a 6-speed manual and ran it for 12 years. Other than standard wear items it was never a problem.
Great driving car for the money. The low belt line and tall window area made it look like a full size BMW 2002. The large glass area gave you great visibility when driving. It’s to bad that rollover requirements have completely eliminated this design feature.
Older Hondas are getting quite rare now newer replacements are cheaper than repairs so nobody bothers though I did see one on a recent trip north a late 80s Accord usual aged pensioner driving well below the speed limit tail pipe blowing blue smoke a lot of them do that he probably had the car since forever and is just gently driving it into the ground. My ex has an old Honda she asked recently about a light showing on the dash for the cat just pull the dash and remove the bulb and keep driving it is all I could thiink of its not worth anything so not worth spending money on just drive it untill it stops and buy another one.
My wife bought a 93 model around 1996, perhaps an off-lease car, I don’t remember. That car, especially compared to my string of maintenance-intensive, shoddily built vehicles from the big 3, opened my eyes to the wonders of Japanese cars, which I had previously (ignorantly) eschewed. The engine ran like a top for almost 200 thousand miles with only maintenance, predominantly oil and filter changes and timing belts. I remember thinking that I must have been neglecting something, fearing imminent disaster, because I so rarely bought parts for that car. We would likely have held on to it longer if it had not been stolen. The only thing I remember breaking on that car was the power antenna, which I replaced with an aftermarket non-motorized one. The car was comfortable, quiet, and got around 35 mpg. We have only had Japanese cars in our daily driver fleet since then. After an intervening Subaru, she has another Accord, and it, like its evolutionary ancestor, is a wonderful, reliable, low-maintenance machine.
One of the more curious aspects of this generation of Accord was the placement Honda chose to position it in Europe; this UK test from 1990 clearly shows they wanted to aim high. Look at the pricing, and then think how vastly different those prices would be here in North American perspective:
The 1990 Accord was the first car in the U.S. market to bear headlamps with complex-shape reflectors and window-clear lenses. Instantly they made all other headlamps look old-fashioned, regardless of performance. The complex-reflector/windowpane-lens technology was first devised and demonstrated by GM’s Guide division in 1972(!), but Stanley—one of the big three Japanese vehicle lighting suppliers—were first to commercialise it, on this Accord.