2016 Honda Accord First Drive - Coupe, Sedan, and Sport

Scale is important, and so when it came to refreshing the best-selling 2016 Accord, it's no surprise that Honda took no chances. Volume seller in the company's line-up, both the sedan and the coupe body-styles needed bringing up to speed with the latest technology like Android Auto and CarPlay, but with minimal damage to the sticker price along the way. Refinement on a budget isn't easy, so the question remains: does Honda still make the car for the everyman?

Honda sells more Accord cars than any other model in its line-up, which means changes don't get rushed into. For 2016, that means building on the more comprehensive redesign of 2013's 9th-gen car, with a focus on technology, safety, and ride.

That's not to say there haven't been some exterior changes, too. Both the coupe and the sedan get a new front-end, a little more aggressive than the old design, and there's greater use of LED lighting, too. There are new side sills and a rear deck spoiler on the sedan in Sport and Touring trim, and the wheels are all new.

They're bigger, too, in many cases. The EX and EX-L coupe gets 18-inch wheels as standard now, rather than 17-inch, and for the first time on the Accord there are 19-inch alloys for the Sport and Touring sedan, also paired with larger front brakes.

The result is a handsome car, though still fairly conservative. None of the swoops of the Mazda6, for instance; just some solid proportions lifted with better use of chrome work, more distinctive lights, and a bolder grille. The vents in the lower fascia have been reworked, too, and look all the better for it.

Under the metal there've been changes as well. Most models get new, high-performance dampers, while the Touring packs new amplitude reactive dampers and hydraulic rear subframe bushings. All have new stiffeners, a thicker front shock tower bar, and a sturdier rear bulkhead.

The result is a smooth, compliant ride, that proved easy-going even on run down road surfaces. Opting for the style of the 19-inch wheels does have a minor impact there, though I'm a sucker for how they fill the Accord's arches.

Honda hasn't changed its engine choices, so there's either a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6, which are variously paired with a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic, or a CVT depending on model.

Unsurprisingly the 4-cylinder is the volume-seller, and so thankfully it's a reassuring engine. 185 HP and 181 lb-ft of torque – bumped, unnoticeably, to 189 HP and 182 lb-ft in the Sport sedan, thanks to a high-flow exhaust system – are the same as the old car, but Honda's expecting a 1 mpg jump for the CVT model, to 37 mpg on the highway, thanks to factors like a new aluminum hood and other tweaks.

If you go for the 4-cylinder, your choices are the manual or the CVT. The former isn't a bad gearbox but, even when your steed is wearing a Sport badge on the trunk, it won't be mistaken for a Miata transmission. Arguably the target audience will be more interested in the easy-going clutch, though.

More relaxing, however, is the CVT. Untamed, continuously variable transmissions have a tendency to leave you wishing for power when you jab the accelerator, and droning unpleasantly when cruising.

Happily Honda has curtailed most of the bad behavior, with the transmission mimicking traditional gear changes and doing a solid job of delivering overtaking power when you want it. Make no mistake, though, this isn't a sporting experience.

Switching to the 3.5-liter V6 gets you 278 HP and 252 lb-ft of torque, and a choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. It's a smooth engine and one I can't really imagine most buyers wanting to pair with the stick shift, in sedan form at least. In the Touring, the soft woofle of the V6 settles into the background, the compliant suspension allows you to all-but-ignore the road, and the automatic slicks through the ratios with the minimum of fuss.

If that makes it sound like not much of a driver's car, that's no accident. The 2016 Accord sedan is a thoroughly dependable, reliable beast, and for the person who wants reassurance not an edge-of-their-seat experience. In the coupe, the V6 puts its power down with more eagerness, and some of the body roll of the outgoing model has been finessed out in this 2016 revamp.

Honda Sensing, the company's umbrella term for its safety and driver-assist technology, can now be added as an option to any 2016 Accord, and comes as standard on the top-spec Touring.

Effectively the same suite of gadgetry and aids as we saw branded AcuraWatch on the ILX recently, it includes collision-mitigation braking and forward collision warning, lane-departure warnings and lane-keep assist, road departure mitigation, and finally adaptive cruise control. As standard, every 2016 Accord gets a rearview camera, while the Touring gets parking sensors front and rear.

For the most part, the safety gadgetry sits quietly in the background, at least until it's needed. New to the Accord for 2016 is Straight Driving Assist, for instance, which monitors the little corrections you have to do to keep in a straight line when the cruise control is doing its thing, and then tries to generate those adjustments automatically.

More noticeable is LaneWatch, standard on the EX, EX-L, and Touring. That puts a camera in the offside mirror, delivering an 80-degree view of the blindspot to the dashboard display whenever you indicate right. It's something I appreciated on the Fit and the HR-V, and now the camera boots up quicker which makes it more useful again.

Inside, the sturdy and well-constructed interior of the 2013 car gets a polish, with a choice of new wood, piano black, or carbon fiber trim to the dashboard. SiriusXM is now standard on the EX and above, as is HD Radio, while the EX coupe gets 8-way power adjustment and the EX-L and Touring coupe throw in seat-memory.

In the rear, the Touring sedan gets heated seats, while every sedan from Sport up gets a 60/40 split. Total trunk volume is 15.8 cubic feet in the sedan and 13.7 in the coupe. LX and EX trim get cloth seats, the Sport gets fabric and leatherette, and the EX-L and Touring upgrade to real leather.

Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, and USB/aux-in ports are standard across the range, while EX and above have keyless entry and push-button start.

For me, the most interesting addition is CarPlay and Android Auto, however. True, the Accord isn't the first car to embrace both Apple and Google's smartphone-connected infotainment platforms – Hyundai got there first – but its sales scale should make for a big splash for the two systems.

On so-equipped cars, the 7-inch lower display is the touchscreen interface, while the 7.7-inch upper display is slaved for things like the currently-playing music, and directions from Honda's own optional navigation system. Connect an iPhone or Android handset, though – there's a neat little cubby in the center console for them to be tucked away while you're driving – and a button on the touchscreen offers either CarPlay or Android Auto.

The actual experience of each is exactly as you'd get in other cars, just as you'd expect. Honda has integrated them neatly, mind; get a call while you're using the Accord's native infotainment, and CarPlay or Android Auto will temporarily appear so that you can handle it. End the call, and you're returned to where you were before. Both platforms feed track information to the upper display, too, lending to the feeling of integration.

So far so good, but it's also where I think Honda has made its biggest goof, mind. The Sport – which, company execs were eager to point out, has been particularly popular among drivers younger than the Accord's traditional demographic – seems like the obvious place for the latest smartphone connectivity to be included, but it can only be had with a basic audio system.

That does away with the touchscreen altogether, opting for physical buttons and knobs. You still get Bluetooth audio streaming, but no matter how much money you offer to throw at the dealership, you can't get the more advanced Display Audio unit installed. Honda tells me that's a conscious decision to encourage upgrades to the EX, but then you lose the bigger wheels and the bodykit trim.

As for pricing, Honda is promising minimal changes despite the refresh, and indeed the entry-level LX spec cars still kick off at $22,105 for the 2.4-liter four-cylinder sedan with the 6-speed manual, or $23,775 for the coupe with the same engine and transmission. Switching to the CVT will set you back $22,905 and $24,625 respectively.

The Sport sedan, meanwhile, starts at $24,165. If you want a V6, you're looking at $30,645 for the EX-L with the 6-speed automatic, while the top-spec 3.5L V6 Touring sedan is $34,580.

Over on the coupe side, entry into the V6 club starts at $30,925 for the 3.5 V6 EX-L with the choice of a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. The V6 Touring coupe is $34,125.

The 2016 Accord sedan will arrive in showrooms from August 19, while the coupe will follow on come August 26.

Unfair, maybe, but you probably don't climb into an Accord expecting to be wowed. Not for nothing has it achieved – and held – a reputation for dependability and reliability; those words aren't entirely incompatible with driving excitement, but they're fairly unlikely bedfellows all the same.

The good news, then, is that the 2016 Accord is more of the recipe that has served Honda – and the drivers of its cars – so well. The sedan can waft with the aplomb of cars from the segment up, it's refined and economical, and with the addition of Honda Sensing, I'm left wondering whether Honda will inadvertently be cannibalizing would-be buyers of its Acura cars.

As for the coupe, though the segment it plays in is sparsely populated, Honda hasn't phoned in its entrant. There's still practicality and cruising ability there, but push a little harder and you can find a surprising amount of fun as well.

Factor in CarPlay and Android Auto, and you have a car that's surprisingly technologically advanced despite its conservative reputation, even if I still think Honda's decision to go tech-lite on the Sport is misguided.

Packaging arguments aside, it means that while the 2016 Accord may be a purchase you make primarily with your head not your heart, living with it is nothing close to a hair-shirt experience.