If "Honda Accord Station Wagon" conjures a vision of some Honda the Hulk, think again.
The new 1991 Accord wagon is really more like an Accord sedan that is on steroids.The wagon, built only in Honda's Marysville plant, is available in two versions, the LX and the upscale EX. The company hopes to sell about 35,000 in the first year. Another 10,000 will be divided between Japan and Europe.
Prices on the LX begin at $17,300 for the five-speed manual, while the EX with the manual transmission is priced at $19,050. That is pricey, but the amount of standard equipment is extensive for both models.
Honda recently lent us the EX with the manual transmission. The $19,050 price included such standard equipment as air conditioning, power windows and door locks, an AM-FM-cassette stereo, alloy wheels, an electric sun roof, cruise control and power steering. There were no options.
Like the Accord sedan and coupe, the station wagon has front-wheel drive. Those who either love or hate the snow and who yearn for an all-wheel-drive station wagon should look elsewhere, since Honda officials said the automaker has no plans to introduce a wagon with that feature.
The station wagon, which Honda designed in the United States, is 1.2 inches longer and 2.3 inches taller than the Accord sedan. Honda officials see it as a competitor for such vehicles as the Toyota Camry, Subaru Legacy and Ford Taurus wagons.
Flop down the second seat, and the Accord has a cargo capacity of 64.6 cubic feet, compared with 81.1 cubic feet for the Taurus. The Accord has no third rear seat, which is an option on the Taurus.
Inside, the station wagon is friendly, comfortable and very Hondaesque. There is room for four 6-foot adults, assuming everyone bends in the right places. The front seats are slightly firm but comfortable for hours of travel.
There is also a nice selection of bins and cubbyholes, as well as a pop-out cup holder. Chrysler Corp. led the way in cup-holder technology several years ago, but the Accord station wagon shows that wily Honda has focused its best engineers on the challenge, and the gap is closing.
There is an air bag for the driver, something not found this year on any other Accord. Another nice feature is that the anchoring points on the door pillar for the front seat belts can be adjusted for a more comfortable fit.
The rear seats flop down easily for carrying large objects, and there is a cargo net and several cargo anchoring hooks. There is also a pullover cover for concealing valuables and two small bins on the floor for odds and ends.
On the road, the Accord wagon feels much like the sedan, which is to say it feels good. The all-independent suspension and Goodyear Eagle GA tires provide a ride that is generally comfortable regardless of whether the pavement is smooth or rough. The one exception is that the Accord tends to slam over sharp-impact obstacles, such as the healthier species of tar strips.
The variable power-assisted steering provides a good road feel and the ability to place the car with precision.
The five-speed gearbox has the traditional Honda smoothness, meaning the clutch take-up is light and easy. If you have always wanted to learn how to drive a manual transmission, this would be a fine car in which to learn.
Two engines are available. The LX gets a 125-horsepower version of the 2.2-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder. The EX engine is basically the same but produces 140 horsepower through a different intake manifold and exhaust.
The engine gets top marks for flexibility, pulling easily from engine speeds as low as 1,500 rpm, even in fourth gear. Even when pushed hard, the vibrations are well controlled, at least for a four-cylinder.
The brakes are ventilated discs in the front and drums in the rear. The pedal on the test car was slightly soft, but the front-to-rear balance was good. Anti-lock brakes are not available, which is a disadvantage for those concerned about safety.