JASPER, Alberta—The all-new 2018 Honda Accord is everything you can ask for in a sedan. It’s a blunt statement that’s backed up by its smooth, quiet, and comfortable ride, and its roomy and technologically-well-appointed interior. Then you can throw in its improved styling both inside and out, and at that point you might as well toss in the kitchen sink. It’s truly hard to find fault.

With many automakers shifting focus towards SUVs, it’s refreshing to see such excitement from a mid-size sedan. But the Accord isn’t just any sedan, it’s hit double-digit generations – it’s now in its tenth – with more than 870,000 units sold in Canada since its first rendition in 1976.

“We expect this new model to define the segment and rekindle a passion with Accord,” says Steve Hui, assistant vice-president, Honda Sales and Marketing.

It’s a bold statement from Honda’s executive, but one that’s made easier when that soon-to-be outgoing vehicle is leading the segment thus far in 2017, forging ahead of the Toyota Camry. There’s only a few other vehicles that could accomplish that, and one of those is the Honda Civic, on track for its 20th year in a row as Canada’s top-selling passenger vehicle.

Similarities between the Accord and Civic go beyond sales figures, and into design. Each sedan has placed its stamp on its segment through a sporty physique highlighted by a low seating position. Honda has done a fine job in moving the Accord away from a pedestrian look, transforming it into a slicked-back, more upscale sedan.

HeapMedia355327

The 2018 Accord comes in slightly lower by 15 mm, wider by 10 mm, and with a 55-mm longer wheelbase versus the previous generation. It might not appear like much, but the added space allows for increased visibility, rear legroom, and extra trunk space. Despite being stretched out, weight is reduced by roughly five percent through the use of more high-strength steel.

Honda paid closer attention to detail by pushing back the front roof pillars and adding a variety of new grilles as you move up the trim level, including an accessory blacked-out grille we were treated to during out first drive program in picturesque Jasper. In addition to more creases running along its body, Honda smooths out the look of its doors by eliminating the roof moldings, providing a clean and fresh one-colour design.

Inside, the Accord takes on a wider cockpit with all the bells and whistles, or in this case, knobs and soft touches. On this program, we were only privy to the top-of-the-line Touring trim, so fit and finish were at an elevated level.

The overall look is clean and simple, something consumers come to expect from a Honda. There’s a mix of smooth leathers throughout, including around its steering wheel, which has been altered for a more comfortable grip. However, it falls short with its rather mundane faux wood trim.

Plenty of headroom and legroom is found in both rows with families in mind. The front seats sport a new 12-way power seat with lumbar support, up from 10. The rear provides ample space to stretch your legs for those long road trips, albeit with a thick and flimsy armrest with cupholders.

HeapMedia355330

Standard on the Accord is an eight-inch freestanding infotainment screen that takes over for the previous dual screen. The new system is colourful, intuitive, and easy-to-understand, and if touchscreen buttons aren’t your thing, Honda has kept exterior buttons and two knobs to work the system. It resembles Mazda’s floating screen in looks, but it has more features, and doesn’t need a scroll function to adjust.

To its left, a seven-inch full-colour TFT meter provides a plethora of information to the driver. On the Touring trim, a new heads-up display (HUD) keeps the driver focused on the road ahead. What separates this HUD from others is a customizable display that can re-arrange the information on the windshield, giving you turn-by-turn nav, traffic sign and speed recognition, tachometer reading, safety technologies being used, and incoming calls.

As impressive as all that is, the new Accord comes standard with Honda Sensing, its suite of safety technology. There are more advanced technologies like Honda Lane Watch, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, and Blind-Spot Information that are added in upper trims, but all trims receive Traffic Sign Recognition, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control with low-speed follow, and Lane-Keeping Assist.

In addition, the 2018 Accord arrives with Apple Car Play and Android Auto as standard equipment, while wireless charging – now available on iPhone 8 products and on Android phones – can be found in Touring trim.

‘Out with the old and in with the new’ is the motto of the new Accord. Naturally aspirated engines and the V6 are gone, replaced by two turbo engines that deliver enough power through four cylinders, and plenty of torque.

The base engine is a 1.5-litre unit that produces 192 hp and an equal 192 lb-ft of torque that’s matched to a much-improved CVT or six-speed manual transmission.

If you’re looking for that extra oomph, jump into the more powerful 2.0-litre (available in Sport and Touring trim) that ups the ante to 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque but gets a ten-speed automatic transmission – a first in a front-wheel-drive sedan – or that six-speed manual shifter. The latter engine is shared with the sporty Civic Type R and has the highest torque number ever in an Accord despite decreasing its cylinder count.

HeapMedia355328

Most of our test was spent in the base engine car, and I can tell you unequivocally, even though it may sound strange given all the numbers in the top engine, that the base possesses all the power one needs in a mid-size sedan. The volume-selling 1.5-litre has a quiet and smooth driving style that doesn’t work hard to get up to speed. Don’t be worried about the CVT either, even on hilly climbs; it’s much improved without any noticeable droning.

Sure, the 2.0-litre was fun, especially on initial acceleration, but that added layer of excitement is found only when pushed. The ten-speed tranny allows for more red-line action, but is also set-up for quicker shifts with fuel economy in mind. This can be solved by manning your own transmission, but there was no time to jump into the only 2.0-litre manual unit available, so I can’t vouch for it.

Overall, the new Accord is a cruiser that handles like a champ. The sedan is sharp on turns with only small steering inputs needed. The roads were mostly smooth around the Jasper area, but the Accord soaked up the few bumps found. We may have had a smooth path, but the snow-capped Canadian Rockies are home to a variety of wildlife, including a large bull moose that allowed me to give the Chuck-Norris-thumbs-up to the Accord’s quick and efficient braking abilities.

As for fuel economy, the 2.0-litre unit hasn’t been rated yet, but in my short drive I managed a 9.2 L/100 km combined. The base turbo is rated at 7.9 L/100 km in the city and 6.3 L/100 km on the highway. During the various drive routes around Jasper, my personal combined total fluctuated significantly depending on the type of roads. At one point, an uphill route had me at 11.6 after some brisk curvy roads; while a downhill section had me as low as 5.6.

The 2018 Accord starts at $26,490 for the six-speed 1.5-litre; that jumps only to $27,790 for the CVT. That’s not much more than the outgoing model, and if you consider the amount of standard equipment thrown in, it seems like quite the bargain. It’s rare to see much more than a rearview camera as safety technology on a base model, and Honda offers up a lot more than that, including LED headlights and taillights, a remote engine start, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a Canadian-only front wiper de-icer.

Sport trim is your first option for the 2.0-litre, and that clocks in at $32,790 for the manual and $34,090 for the auto. If top-of-the-line trim is your thing, the Touring caps the range at $38,790.

HeapMedia355326

The all-new 2018 Honda Accord is hands-down a trailblazer when it comes to reshaping the mid-size sedan segment. It breaks the stigma of boring with a good-looking design and refined interior that’s added to a quiet, comfortable, and smooth drive from two brand-new engines.

At a time when SUV is king, the Accord allows for some respite and perhaps a glimpse of an exciting sedan comeback. Regardless the shift, the mid-size sedan segment still brings in significant numbers, and this Accord will surely help in bringing some recent SUV buyers back into the fold.

The 1.5-litre unit will be available in late October, followed by the 2.0-litre at the end of November, eventually joined by a hybrid (no details were provided) in early 2018.

————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.