For two decades now, there have been two perennial no-brainer choices for a midsize family sedan: the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. Both have legions of satisfied owners and top reputations for reliability and safety. Deciding between the two often came down to this: If you wanted a softly sprung car with superior isolation, the Camry was the way to go -- and if you wanted a sporty ride and could live with a tad less refinement, the Accord was the sedan of choice. There's still some truth to this adage for 2009, but things have changed rapidly in the midsize sedan segment. For one thing, the Accord has grown bigger and softer with its latest redesign; for another, the competition has caught up.
Here's how things shake out for the Accord in today's family sedan free-for-all. The Honda is now roughly the fourth-sportiest entrant, by our count, trailing the canyon-king Nissan Altima, the upsized but still capable Mazda 6 and the often-overlooked Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan twins. It's also still hampered by traditional Honda foibles like elevated road noise and exaggerated brake pedal vibration during hard stops. Performance is likewise uninspiring -- while the upgraded 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the EX is pleasant, the base engine is merely adequate, and the top-of-the-line 3.5-liter V6 is overmatched in terms of acceleration by many rival six-cylinder engines.
Don't get us wrong -- the 2009 Honda Accord remains an appealing car, for a variety of reasons. First of all, it's got an ace up its sleeve that most competitors don't: its sterling reputation for reliability. Also, the Accord has ballooned to such a degree that the EPA classifies it as a "large car," and it shows in the commodious cabin, which boasts one of the most accommodating backseats of any family sedan. The center stack is undeniably button-happy, but its premium look and feel evokes luxury sedans such as the Infiniti M series. Like most Hondas, the Accord feels extraordinarily well constructed, and its interior materials are a cut above the rival Camry's. Moreover, that reputation for reliability pays off when it's time to sell, as the Accord boasts one of the best resale values around.
The Accord is also one of the few family sedans that's available in a coupe body style, and we should note that the coupe is substantially sportier than the workaday sedan, particularly with the optional V6 and coupe-exclusive six-speed manual. Whichever style you prefer, the Accord remains a smart choice on the strength of its proven track record. However, unlike Accords of the past, it doesn't really elevate itself above the competition once you get behind the wheel. As before, you're not going to go wrong with the Accord, but we'd advise taking a close look at the above-mentioned competitors, along with the Hyundai Sonata and much improved Chevrolet Malibu before making your decision.