The 2018 Honda Accord has a modern fastback shape, adaptive radar cruise control, semi-autonomous lane-keeping assist, and a road departure mitigation system that will keep you from distractedly drifting into the abyss. But it’s a feature from the history books that truly makes the sedan worthy of its 2018 North American car of The Year title.
A manual transmission.
Honda is one of three automakers to offer one in the Accord’s segment, and it doesn’t have to. It will be lucky to sell two. Few Americans would even consider buying a family car with a stick, let alone write the check.
In fact, the art of changing your own gears is becoming so endangered that Honda felt the need to produce a YouTube video to teach people how to do it. Rest assured, the record held by “Despacito” for most views is not in danger.
That doesn’t matter to the folks at Honda. The company’s founder once uttered some jibber-jabber about life being measured by how much a soul has been deeply stirred, so they feel like failures if they don’t at least try to slip a few interesting models in the bread and butter drawer now and then.
They’re not dumb, though. The six-speed is only available in the Accord Sport models, which can also be ordered with an automatic as a no-cost option.
The Sport and stick can be matched with either a 192 hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, or a 252 hp 2.0-liter in the same configuration. Each version includes racy-looking wheels, grippy tires and stiffer, but not much stiffer suspensions compared to the other trims. The 1.5-liter cars start at $26,675, while the 2.0-liters are priced at $31,205 and also add a moonroof, heated seats, a blind spot monitor and a few other extras to help justify the premium.
The entire Accord lineup is roomier than the already-cavernous old one, with a welcome interior upgrade in both design and materials. The tablet-inspired infotainment system display is a notable improvement, with a much more logical interface that past attempts, and physical volume and tuning knobs that do their specific jobs better than any touchscreen can. It doesn't have built-in navigation in the Sport, but is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, so don't forget your phone.
All of that safety tech mentioned earlier comes standard, too, plus a pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking system. The Accord is one of less than a handful of cars that combine that technology with a manual transmission. Yes, if it activates and brings the car to a full stop the engine will stall, but would you prefer the alternative?
If that happens in traffic, don’t forget to engage the parking brake before you hit the ignition. You can’t start the engine unless you do. It’s just another safety measure that anticipates amateurs and rusty customers giving old school driving one last try before the robots completely take over.
They might not ever want them too after a few miles. The Sport may not fully live up to the name, but it is a spirited sedan with an uncannily perfect blend of handling and ride comfort at its price point. And it pulls it off without any electronic wizardry in the suspension, just a well-tuned set of shocks and springs. The shifter is a gem that’s light and easy to use and always finds the right gear. Only in the worst traffic jams will you tire of using it.
Unfortunately, unlike in the old days, the manual transmission doesn’t deliver better fuel economy than its automatic counterparts. In the case of the Sport 2.0T, it gets the same 22 city/32 hwy rating as the 10-speed automatic. Oh well.
At least you don’t have to pay extra for the soul-stirring thing.
2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Sport
Base price: $31,205
Type: 5-door, 5-passenger front-wheel-drive sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 252 hp, 273 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
MPG: 22 city/32 hwy