Road & Track Vintage Review: 1976 Honda Accord – A True Game Changer

Admittedly, the term “game changer” is easily overused and subject to debate in its application. But the all-new Honda Accord made a huge impact on the US market; it’s difficult to overstate just how much so. Let’s boil it down to two key lasting impacts: it essentially killed VW’s attempt to reclaim its long dominance of the US market with its FWD Rabbit (Golf 1). And it set the template for reliable, economical, well trimmed, comfortable, smooth-running FWD cars that could compete for dominance in the heart of the US market. The Accord soon became a perennial favorite, and this is where it all started.

This review slightly annoys me, because R&T constantly compares it to the VW Scirocco, which happened to share a stylistic resemblance with the Accord hatchback. It should be the Rabbit, as the Scirocco was considerably smaller and set up for maximum sportiness. Meanwhile, the travails of R&T’s long-term test of their ’75 Rabbit showed how glaringly lacking in full development that car was. VW rushed it to market, and cheaped out on the fine details and especially the quality of its many components in a drive to reduce cost. The dollar’s loss of value was really crimping VW, and here comes Honda with everything that the Rabbit wasn’t.

It’s important to note that the Accord was not at all overtly sporty, despite the similarity to the sport Scirocco. It was designed to appeal to the heart of the American market, or someone considering downsizing from an Olds Cutlass or such. It came standard with all sorts of amenities and clever touches that were optional on most cars. Honda proved that making these little doodads standard did little in raising the price of the car to build overall.

Performance from the 69hp CVCC 1.6 L four was only mid-pack, but the engine ran very smoothly up to its 6000rpm redline, and suffered much less from the driveability issues that severely plagued the early Rabbit and so many other cars of the time.


Technically, the Accord was really just an enlarged Civic, which had already became the darling of the low end of the US market, and established itself to be unusually reliable, roomy, efficient and comfortable for such a tiny car. The Accord took the formula one step up, and made it the perfect car for early Civic owners to trade up to as well as huge conquest sales from the market at large. The only real problem was that Honda was constantly production constrained, and struggled for years to expand its factories to meet the demand, including the first Japanese transplant factory in the Marysville, US, where Accords are still rolling off the lines. Needless to say, meeting demand is not a problem anymore, as the current Accord is struggling a bit in the current truck-oriented market.

My CC on the 1976 Accord is here