Like the northern white rhinoceros, the stick-shift family sedan is on the verge of extinction. The once popular transmission choice has been disappearing from the mid-size-sedan landscape to the point that we half expected Honda to drop the gearbox from the redesigned 2018 Accord.
Fortunately, the 32-time 10Best Cars winner remains a stick-shift sanctuary. The Ohio-built four-door is available with a six-speed manual in conjunction with both the standard 192-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four and with the optional 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engine.
Rowing your own gears in an Accord requires opting for the Sport trim, as the lower-level LX and cushier EX, EX-L, and Touring models are available exclusively with automatic transmissions. The self-shifting units—a continuously variable automatic (CVT) in 1.5T models and a 10-speed automatic in 2.0Ts—can be swapped into the Accord Sport free of charge.
Save the Manuals
Although Honda’s automatic transmissions are deft partners to the two turbocharged engines, it’s the six-speed manuals that provide a sense of joy and driver engagement that truly brings the Accord Sport into its own. Like the manual-equipped Sport 2.0T, the stick-shift Sport 1.5T placed a Cheshire Cat grin on our faces every time we ripped through the gears.
The 1.5-liter gives up 60 horses compared with its larger sibling, but the smaller turbo four proved an enjoyable companion during its stay with us. Its zero-to-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds is 1.1 seconds slower than that of the 2.0-liter, but the 1.5T’s lower torque output (192 lb-ft) made for more graceful off-the-line acceleration than did the 2.0T’s 273 lb-ft of tire-spinning twist. Lag from the Mitsubishi TD03 single-scroll turbocharger is nearly nonexistent, and the torque peak is broad, stretching from 1600 to 5000 rpm—just 1500 revs shy of redline—providing the 1.5T with useful grunt in daily traffic.
The engine’s plentiful torque allows Honda to use rather tall gear ratios that help the Accord Sport 1.5T achieve EPA fuel-economy figures of 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Choosing the CVT raises the city figure to 29 mpg, but its highway number remains the same. On our 75-mph highway loop, this 1.5-liter car returned a thrifty 38 mpg against the 2.0T’s 32 mpg.
The six-speed manual in the Accord is a dream to use, and we welcomed any chance to guide the shifter through the well-defined gates. Equipped with short throws and clairvoyant action, the shifter is a master’s tool capable of delighting even the most manual-averse drivers. Likewise, the clutch is both light and clear in its takeup point.
Along with its available manual transmission, the Sport includes 12.3-inch front rotors in place of the standard 11.5-inch units in other models (all Accords use 11.1-inch rotors at the rear), while 19-inch wheels replace the standard 17 inchers.
The enlarged rotors combined with our test car’s 235/40R-19 Goodyear Eagle Touring tires to help bring the Sport 1.5T to a stop from 70 mph in 162 feet, 13 feet shorter than a four-cylinder Toyota Camry SE. The Accord also circled our 300-foot skidpad at an impressive 0.90 g, a figure that bettered our long-term Mazda MX-5 Miata by 0.02 g.
On our favorite back roads, the Accord Sport 1.5T reveals its willingness to be driven hard. Its stiff structure and light, accurate steering instills confidence to drive this family sedan like a sports coupe. If we were to split hairs, we’d ask for additional steering feel and a somewhat less wooden-feeling brake pedal. Nevertheless, excepting only the Mazda 6, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another vehicle in this class as adept at tackling twisty tarmac as the Accord Sport.
Content with Content
Opting for the $26,670 Sport 1.5T over the entry-level $24,460 LX adds niceties including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a faster-charging USB port, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system in place of the lesser model’s 7.0-inch unit. However, the Sport 1.5T lacks comfort and convenience items such as blind-spot monitoring, a sunroof, heated front seats, rear HVAC vents, and proximity-key entry to accompany the standard push-button start system. To get these items, buyers need to fork over an additional $4530 for the Sport 2.0T or move to the automatic-only EX, EX-L, or Touring trims.
That said, the Sport 1.5T, like every Accord, includes standard driver-assist items such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. An ergonomically friendly dashboard design exhibits stellar fit and finish, and high-quality materials are used throughout the cabin. Even the Sport-specific seat fabric is notably plush.
While the manual gearbox may still be an endangered species, the Accord Sport 1.5T shows that the stick shift won’t go down without a fight. This Honda is a great choice for enthusiasts in search of an affordable mid-size sedan that’s as engaging as it is practical.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $26,670 (base price: $26,670)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 cu in, 1498 cc
Power: 192 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 111.4 in
Length: 192.2 in
Width: 73.3 in Height: 57.1 in
Passenger volume: 105 cu ft
Trunk volume: 17 cu ft
Curb weight: 3154 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 7.2 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 18.7 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 28.5 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 14.0 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 10.7 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.5 sec @ 92 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 127 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 162 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.90 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 24 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 38 mpg
Highway range: 560 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 30/26/35 mpg