Review and road test of the Honda Accord Coupe (1998 - 2001)
COUPE DU MONDE
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Consider for a moment the concept of the 'world car'. Ford coined the phrase when launching the Mondeo, a car that was sold in a number of global markets, but a truer example would probably be the fifth generation Honda Accord. This acme of Japanese cars is bankrolled in Japan and sold all around the world. The saloon and hatch models are built in Swindon, the Type-R models developed in Hiroshima. The car we examine here, the two-door Accord Coupe hails from Marysville, Ohio in the industrial heartland of Uncle Sam. Would putting a used one on your driveway make you a part of the cosmopolitan cognoscenti or would you merely be depriving the global village of an idiot? Find out here.
2dr Coupe 2.0, 3.0 petrol [ES, V6]
Before the fifth generation Accord Coupe was unveiled in July 1998, Honda had been bereft of a coupe they could be proud of. Yes, the manic Integra Type-R was gaining plaudits, but Honda's showing in the sort of market sector that the Ford Cougar and Vauxhall Calibra had made their own was lamentably poor. The fourth generation car never had the style or substance to attract the notoriously fickle UK coupe customer and the fifth generation carried a great deal of hope.
Unfortunately it bombed. Why? The reasons are complex and have little to do with the fact that it was a beautifully engineered and elegantly styled car. It seems that British buyers expected Honda coupes to either be rock hard buzzboxes like the Integra (which sold well) or bloated barges like the Legend Coupe (which didn't). Given that the Accord Coupe was never cut from the same cloth as the Type-R brand, it was instantly, and somewhat unfairly, labelled a duffer. Two models were imported, a 145bhp 2.0-litre ES model and a197bhp 3.0-litre V6. Both sold in criminally tiny numbers until they were quietly withdrawn in early 2001.
Tracking down a used version will therefore mean that you may have to compromise on your exact preference on year, colour and trim but it's almost impossible to find a lemon. The staid image and mature ownership profile means that the Accord Coupe has steered clear of the boy racers. It's difficult to go far wrong.
What You Get
Here is a car which allows four to stretch out in luxurious comfort, defying the traditional restrictions of the coupe concept. Most other rivals in contrast, have rear benches good enough for little else but transport to the local hostelry. And, you could add, comfort levels that hardly fill you with anticipation for the next tiring journey. The fifth generation Accord Coupe is far bigger than any of its predecessors, despite a wheelbase reduced by some 45mm. Somehow, the designers managed to create 22mm of extra rear legroom and this, along with repositioned A-pillars and redesigned seats, means that it can be considered a true five-seater - unique in the class. To some this will be a virtue whilst to others they will denigrate the car as merely an Accord saloon less the utility of a pair of back doors.
As you might expect, both the Accord Coupe models come exceptionally well equipped, with air conditioning, cruise control, twin airbags, ABS, leather seats, alloy wheels and electric everything. The V6's tally is identical to that of the 2.0-litre, save for larger alloys, twin exhaust tailpipes and a gas-filled bonnet support strut (why not on both?). Each model boasts a large boot. Honda, after all, were out to create a Grand Tourer in the true sense of the term.
What to Look For
Look for a bargain, look for accident damage, but don't expect to find too many Accords with inherent faults. These are well-engineered cars with an impeccable reliability record but the V6 is hungry on front tyres. It's also an engine that needs the right fluids, so make sure the oil has been changed regularly and that the head gasket isn't on its way out. Body panels for the Accord Coupe can be difficult to source and correspondingly pricey, so check bodywork carefully.
(approx. based on a 1998 Accord Coupe 2.0ES - EX VAT) A clutch assembly is around £175 and an exhaust system about £420. Allow a budget of around £45 respectively for front brake pads and £40 for the rear. A front headlamp should be around £180. A radiator is about £180, and a starter motor around £280.
On the Road
The entry-level 2.0-litre ES comes in manual and automatic forms and, though a little slower than its predecessor, is rather smoother thanks to twin balancer shafts in the engine. Variable valve timing makes it feel more eager too. The V6 flagship model on the other hand, has the figures to back up the feeling. Rest to sixty occupies 8.5s on the way to 140mph, so it's a little sad for performance enthusiasts that it comes in automatic form only. Nor is there a sequential shift transmission system to allow you to use the auto 'box like a manual. Never mind. Honda say there's no need, believing that the Accord Coupe will be aimed at an older, less performance orientated clientele. Sales data seemed to back up this claim.
Certainly, you wouldn't blanch at the thought of a trip to the south of France for this is a luxury mile-eater par excellence. Refinement has obviously been a key priority on the engineering agenda, yet shift down a gear and both engines reveal a sporting sound and character that reminds you of Honda's past motor racing successes. Strangely it's also the only way to get hold of a V6 engine in an Accord, Honda deeming the 2.2-litre VTEC engine quite capable of mixing it with six-cylinder rivals in the executive saloon market. We'd beg to differ.
If you know what you're looking for and that something is a car that's comfortable, reliable, well-engineered and sleek without being ostentatious the Honda Accord Coupe could be just your thing. Sales figures would dictate that this sort of customer is something of a rare beast and your best opportunity for tracking down a well looked after Accord Coupe may well be via a franchised dealer. Some cars make all kinds of sense new and suddenly become awful; used buys. The Accord Coupe is the opposite. There were always several more compelling new buys in the Accord's corner of the market, but second time around the Honda's blend of reliability and owner profile make it worth a look.
Honda Accord Coupe (1998 - 2001) review by ANDY ENRIGHT