Pros: Solid car, nice fit/finish, ergonomic controls, great resale value
Cons: Ho-Hum styling, weak engine, thin paint, poor warranty
If you look up the word 'unique' in the dictionary, you won't find it anywhere close to the Honda Accord. You won?t find it next to Toyota Camry, either. These two cars are probably, by far, the most popular models in its class. Both are known for their dependability and craftsmanship, but what brings people to buy one or the other? In this review of the 2002 Honda Accord SE, you?ll hear why I purchased this as my family?s second car and whether it turned out to be the car we expected.
AT A GLANCE...
The body style of the 1998-2002 model Accord sedan is very functional. It fits the definition of the typical ?family sedan?. But then again, so does the Toyota Camry. The Accord comes in several trim levels: DX, LX, LX-V6, EX, EX-V6, and for 2002, there is a special edition (SE). The SE fits in between the LX and EX models. The SE has all the LX features plus it offers the following as standard equipment:
- 15? 8-spoke alloy wheels
- Power moonroof with tilt feature
- AM/FM/CD/Cass Stereo
- Keyless entry
- Power height adjustment for driver seat
- Simulated wood grain interior accents
- 4-speed Automatic transmission
DRIVING IT OFF THE LOT?
I searched all over town and found it at one of the ?mega? dealerships. I flat out told them that another dealership in town would sell me a 2002 Honda Accord SE for X amount and they spit out an offer at that exact moment which beat the price by $500. Considering the ?X? amount we told them was below invoice, their deal was exceptional! At that time, Toyota was trying to market their newly designed Camry. I saw it on TV and it looked pretty nice, but overall, I liked the look and feel of the interiors of Honda automobiles. After filling out all the paperwork and writing out a whopping check, the Accord was unleashed and ready to be driven home. The ?new car scent? was to die for. I wanted the silver one, but my wife wanted the firepepper red. She won the coin-toss. The dealership had to do a trade with another dealership across town, so our Accord would rack up some break-in miles before I was able to drive it off the lot. After they prepped it and gassed it up for me to take, our Accord SE had 37 miles on it.
Getting in and adjusting the rear-view mirror, seats, and side mirrors took little or no effort at all. I did notice that the power height adjustment was pretty useless. I actually wanted the seat to be lowered but found that it was at its lowest point. I stand about 5? 10? and raising the seat would literally match my head to the ceiling of the car. Anyhow, that didn?t matter at the time.
THE FIRST 500 MILES?
Although this car would primarily be driven by my wife, I had the opportunity to break in the car with the first 500 miles of city driving (not taking it over 3,500 RPM and keeping it under 50 MPH). I noticed that the Accord was much stiffer than my ?99 VW Passat, meaning that it didn?t absorb the bumps on the road as nicely. I could actually feel every little ditch and imperfection of roads that I used to think were pretty smooth. Before I reached 500 miles, the driver?s side door rubbed against the front panel every time we opened and closed it. This eventually rubbed the paint off both the door and the front panel. I called the dealership and they got this problem squared away by re-aligning the door and repainting the worn areas. Another thing I noticed was that the paint they used is really weak. I heard all car companies use water-based paint as opposed to oil-based paint because of environmental reasons. Water-based paint tends to chip easily and requires a bit more attention to keep scratch-free.
The 2.3 liter, 4-cylinder VTEC engine pushes out 150 horsepower (nothing to party about). The power of the Accord SE sedan will not make you comfortable enough to initiate a race at a stoplight. The engine is just adequate for city driving and for climbing moderate slopes even with a full load. Several times, I?ve tried to push this car to the extremes by rocketing off of the expressway, but the engine (although it?s music to the ears at 6000 RPM) just won?t let itself free. The sound of the engine will fool you. You may think you?re going faster than you really are, but when looking down at your speedometer, you?ll be disappointed. I must say that the transmission shifts smoothly into every gear and allows for ample time to utilize each gear efficiently. Often times when I aggressively press on the gas in order to pass a car, the Accord tends to think about it for half a second before shifting down a gear. Makes me real nervous. Almost makes me think I should have purchased a manual transmission.
We do a mixture of city and highway driving. Our average fuel economy is about 22 to 26 miles per gallon. Not the best in the world. I was expecting much more from this little engine.
The Accord SE comes with cloth seats. The seats are a little on the firm side, and they have little or no support for your back. Most cars offer a lumbar support adjustment, but the Accord SE does not. The cup holders in the front console is nice and big. It?s perfect for cups and mugs. The arm rest console is nice. The top opens up to show a small compartment for little gadgets and the lower lid opens to accommodate CDs, tapes, and larger items. Very nice.
I?d have to say that the steering wheel is a bit thin. On long drives, it?s not very comfortable and for people who tend to grip it firmly like I do, you tend to regrip and reposition your hands quite often, as the thin steering wheel feels somewhat awkward. This problem can easily be solved by purchasing a steering wheel cover or a leather wrap.
The controls are placed conveniently on a sloped center console. It?s easily visible from the driver?s seating position, as well as the passengers?. The knobs for the climate control are easy to read and feel solid when adjusted. The stereo controls can be better designed and thought out, but for the audio enthusiast, you?ll be changing out the stock stereo, so no worries there. The power windows on our Accord SE seem to be a bit sluggish. It doesn?t come down as quickly as we would like it to and it definitely takes some time for it to roll back up. I mentioned that to the dealership and they told me to bring it in next week (more on this later).
Most importantly, the visibility in the driver?s seat is great. The front pillars are thin and there are hardly any obstructions in the rear. The headrests are a bit whimpy. Previous year Accords had thicker, beefier headrests.
Overall, the Accord SE packs a lot of usable features for everyday living. The trunk space, with 14.1 cubic ft., is quite large but not huge. The rear seats fold down and allows you to haul a lot of things. The rear armrest compartment folds down for skis or poles. Nice.
The keyless entry adds a nice touch. It allows you to lock, unlock, open the trunk and also set off the panic alarm. The cruise control is easy to operate and the controls are located conveniently on the steering wheel. The dash is neatly organized, allowing the driver to see the speedometer and the tachometer clearly. The turn signal and wiper controls feel very flimsy; almost as if they?re going to break if you apply too much pressure on them.
The halogen headlights are very bright. They do a great job in all conditions.
The standard 3 year / 36K mile warranty is standard. Honda does not offer roadside assistance, which is a real bummer. The powertrain warranty is also a low at 3 years or 36K miles. One would think that Honda would offer a better warranty.
I had a choice. I wasn?t forced into purchasing a Honda, nor was I just limited to Japanese cars. My needs were simple: reliable, solid, and reasonably priced. Many cars in the mid-sized sedan class fit my needs, but the Honda Accord SE seemed to cover all the bases and also fit our budget. I wouldn?t say that the Honda Accord SE is the best car in its class, but I feel confident in saying that it just might be one of the most dependable. Although I recommend the Accord SE as a good buy, I would also recommend the Nissan Altima or the Hyundai Sonata. Both of these came out just a little after we purchased our Accord.