Continuing to evolve at an unusually rapid pace, the 1990 Honda Accord started another four-year design cycle for this popular car. That year's Toyota Camry was little changed, as was the market-leading Ford Taurus, so being all new was a sales asset. Honda would follow up for '91 with the first-ever Accord wagons, thus belatedly answering those two rivals. Honda also began adding key new safety features such as antilock brakes (ABS) and front-impact airbags.
1990 Honda Accord
A stem-to-stern redesign for 1990 effectively moved Accord from compact to midsize status. Four-door sedans and two-door coupes returned, but not the sloped-roof two-door hatchback coupes. Wheelbase added 4.7 inches (to 107.1 inches), while overall length stretched an extra 5.1 inches (to 184.8). Styling was evolutionary, so tailored bodylines and a glassy superstructure continued. The main change was at the front, where exposed headlights replaced hidden flip-up lamps.
Also continued were front-wheel drive and a transversely mounted four-cylinder engine, but the familiar 2.0 powerplant was replaced by a new-design 2.2-liter unit, still with single overhead camshaft and offered in two versions, but this time with multipoint fuel injection for both. Horsepower was 125 for the base DX and mainstream LX models, 130 for the top-line EX coupe and sedan (replacing LXi). Transmissions were also new: a five-speed manual and optional four-speed automatic.
The automatic now featured electronic shift control and two shift modes: Normal and Sport. Sport improved acceleration by delaying upshifts to higher rpm than in Normal mode. Despite the larger engines and weight gains of over 200 pounds, Accord's thrifty EPA-rated fuel economy was little changed. As before, all Honda Accords were equipped in front with manual lap belts and motorized shoulder belts, the latter to meet a federal requirement for "passive" occupant restraints.
Most 1990 Honda Accord sedans and all coupes sold in the U.S. were sourced from Honda's Ohio plant. Honda said American-built Accords were over 70 percent domestic by content, including labor, a point made to answer criticism that rising demand for all Japanese cars (not just Honda's) was costing jobs in the American auto industry. Per Honda policy, the Accord offered no factory options, the various models being priced separately according to transmission (manual or automatic) and equipment level. This practice would continue into the future.
Consumer Guide had named the Accord a Best Buy on many occasions, and did so again for 1990. After praising the new models on many counts, the editors concluded: "[T]he new Accord's spacious interior, greater refinement, solid construction, improved dynamic qualities and impressive overall quality make it a fine choice, whether you consider it a large compact car or a small midsize."
1991 Honda Accord
The addition of four-door wagons and a premium SE (Special Edition) sedan helped the 1991 Honda Accord nail the number-one spot in U.S. retail car sales for the calendar year. The wagon, designed in the U.S. by Honda's R&D branch, was offered in LX and EX trim and was sourced exclusively form Honda's Ohio factory. It wore specific rear-end styling with a single-piece liftgate. The SE mirrored like-named predecessors in having standard leather upholstery, but was also the first Accord to include four-wheel disc brakes with antilock control, an important plus for active safety. It also boasted 140 horsepower, 10 more than EX models. Previous SE Accords had been issued in the final year of a design generation as a sort of farewell gesture, but that wasn't the case here.
1992 Honda Accord
The SE sedan was dropped from the 1992 Honda Accord lineup, but that year's EX sedan, coupe and wagon inherited its 140-horsepower engine and standard antilock brakes with rear discs instead of drum brakes. ABS remained unavailable for other models, but a driver-side airbag became standard for all 1992 Accords.
With the American market becoming ever more affluent, Honda became the first import brand to offer a separate luxury line, launching the Acura nameplate in 1988. The 1992 Acura Vigor was basically a stretched Accord with slightly different styling, a five-cylinder inline engine, and upscale trim and features. Sized and price between Acura's flagship Legend models and entry-level Integras, the Vigor aimed to answer to the well-received V6 Lexus ES 300 at Toyota's luxury division. The Vigor proved a much tougher sell, however, though it would lead to more-popular midrange Acuras.
1993 Honda Accord
The SE sedan returned as the top-line 1993 Honda Accord, and there was a new SE coupe. Both included unique alloy wheels, leather upholstery, and premium Bose audio system, but the sedan was the only '93 Accord equipped with a passenger-side airbag. Consumers had shown a marked preference for airbags over motorized shoulder belts, and twin inflatable restraints would soon be universal. Accord had taken some knocks for not having an available V6 engine like most other midsize cars. Even so, Consumer Guide said Honda's mainstay seller still "shines for high refinement and good performance even with the four-cylinder engine, plus fine ride, sensible controls, an airy low-cowl cabin with terrific all-round visibility, and standard [driver's] airbag."
Honda Accord Reliability
: The CD changer in the trunk, a dealer installed option, may not eject; CD magazines will be exchanged for redesigned units.
: Cars with high mileage may begin to shift more harshly; this may be corrected by adding a bottle of Lubeguard conditioner to the automatic transmission fluid.
: The parking brake may not fully release because a rivet on the brake rod is too tight.
: A squealing noise from under the hood is likely to be caused by a worn alternator bearing; it may have failed because the belt tension was too great.
Steering noise (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993): If there is a squeak or squeal in the steering, especially when making a slow, tight turn, look for a label on the power steering reservoir that says PSF-V additive was added. If the noise is still present after additive was installed, the right-side end seal on the steering rack will have to be replaced.
Honda Accord Safety Recalls
1990, 1991: Front seatbelt release buttons can break and pieces can fall inside.
1991 wagons: Improperly attached washer in cargo area light may have fallen inside during assembly; if tailgate is open and switch is in its middle position, washer can cause short circuit that causes switch to overheat, resulting in fire.
1991, 1992, 1993 wagons: Rear outboard seatbelts may lock-up at angles other than those required by federal standard; this could increase risk of injury in a sudden stop or accident.
1992: Left seatbelt assemblies on a few cars were installed on the right side; as a result, the belt cannot be pulled out of the retractor, making it unusable.
See the next page to find out about the 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 Accord, a generation that saw, among other things, continued advancements in styling.
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