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Honda revamps the popular Accord

How to improve on the Honda Accord? It's not an easy thing to do. To identify the '86-model Accord, look at the low hoodline and retractable headlights, both of which enhance the air-flow qualities of the car. It is slightly lower and a wee bit wider than the '85, while the overall length is increased about 3 inches.

It's also a very slippery car, the drag coefficient of the four-door sedan dropping to 0.32 in the 1986 version from 0.37 in '85.

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Lowering the roof, of course, means less headroom for the tall driver or passenger, especially in the rear.

The wheelbase is lengthened by nearly 6 inches, going from 96.5 inches in 1985 to 102.4 inches in '86. Curb weight is up by 180 pounds in the hatchback and 117 pounds in the sedan. The longer wheelbase and overall dynamics of the vehicle, however, add to the car's stability on the road.

A gussied-up Honda Accord is not a low-priced car, by any means, with the 4-door LXi sedan (4-speed automatic transmission and lockup converter) going for $13,125. The Accord DX hatchback, on the other hand, carries a window sticker of $8,429. Honda's '86-model prices are up an average 4.3 percent.

In this latest rendition of the Accord, the Honda engineers opted for the double-wishbone suspension of the sporty Honda Prelude instead of the popular MacPherson-strut system that is in wide use today.

Engine power is beefed up in the 12-valve, 4-cylinder engine, going from 86 to 98 in the carbureted version and from 101 to 112 in the fuel-injected model. This means spirited performance, especially in the injected version.

Sadly, I didn't have the car long enough to be able to judge the mileage, but the federal government figures it at 23 m.p.g. in the city and 29 m.p.g. on the highway with a 4-speed automatic. With a 5-speed manual, the m.p.g is a little bit better. Honda's highest-mileage car is still the 1.5-liter Civic CRX HF, listed as 52 city and 57 highway.

While not totally flush all around, the window glass comes very close to the ideal. The side glass is slightly curved, the doors wrap over the roof, and the drip moldings are concealed.

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Honda, the first Japanese automaker to build cars in the United States, expects to sell some 273,000 Accords in 1986, with more than half of them produced in Marysville, Ohio, and the rest shipped from Japan. Honda will add a second shift to its Ohio plant and roll out the Civic as well as the Accord.

Honda's target with the Accord is the Mazda 626, which has just introduced a turbo version for '86 (something that Honda still does not have), plus the Toyota Camry, General Motors subcompact J-cars, Ford's new jelly-bean-shaped '86 Taurus and Sable, and the Dodge Lancer and Chrysler LeBaron GTs.

Honda also has made a few changes in the Prelude and Civic, but it's the revamped Accord that is stealing the show.

Is the Accord worth the money? Judging from the superimage of the car and a few hours behind the wheel of an '86 LXi, it is from where I sit.

Charles E. Dole is the Monitor's automotive editor.

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