The Civic and Accord are the soul of Honda’s lineup. When many buyers considered Japanese cars to be cheap and flimsy, they established Honda’s reputation for reliability and engineering quality in the United States — a reputation the automaker still enjoys today.
The compact Civic and midsize Accord gradually became the default choice for buyers looking for affordable, no-frills transportation, eclipsing most American brands in popularity. At the same time, Honda proved that ordinary cars can still be fun. The Civic and Accord became favorites of car enthusiasts for their excellent handling and rev-happy engines.
Today’s Civic and Accord are very different from their predecessors. They’re bigger and more complex, but the mission remains the same: Provide reliable, safe, and fun transportation. Here’s how each car tries to do that.
The Civic and Accord share the same basic platform, and like most automakers, Honda tried to give them a familial resemblance in exterior styling. Each car has some unique styling elements, but others, like the chrome monobrow above the headlights, are shared. Both cars are currently in their 10th generation. The current-generation Civic dates back to the 2016 model year, while the current-gen Accord was launched as a 2018 model.
The Accord is available only as a four-door sedan. The Civic is available as a sedan, five-door hatchback, or two-door coupe, although Honda is dropping the coupe body style for the 2021 model year. The Civic is a size down from the Accord. It’s considered a compact car, while the Accord is a midsize.
Comparing apples to apples, the 2020 Accord is 9.5 inches longer, 2.4 inches wider, and 1.4 inches taller than a 2020 Civic sedan, with a 5.1-inch longer wheelbase. However, the two sedans are fairly close on passenger space. The Accord has a scant 0.2 inch more front headroom. Front legroom is identical, although the Accord offers a generous 3.0 inches of additional rear legroom.
At 16.7 cubic feet, the Accord also has 1.6 cubic feet more trunk space than the Civic sedan. However, the Civic is also available as a hatchback, with 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in place.
The Civic gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, but only on Sport and higher trim levels. Base LX models get a 5.0-inch screen, without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
It’s a similar story with the Accord. You have to upgrade from the base LX trim level to the Sport to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which come bundled with an 8.0-inch touchscreen. The top Touring trim level also gets standard wireless phone charging and a head-up display.
Honda does better with standard driver-assist tech. The Civic may be Honda’s entry-level model, but it comes standard with Honda Sensing, including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking. Automatic high beams are standard as well, while EX and higher trim levels get LaneWatch, which uses a camera to compensate for blind spots. However, LaneWatch is expected to be discontinued in the near future.
The Accord gets the same standard Honda Sensing features as the Civic, but with traffic sign recognition and a low-speed follow function for the adaptive cruise control. Automatic high beams are standard as well, while EX and higher trim levels get blind-spot monitoring.
The base Civic engine is a 2.0-liter inline-four making 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can also upgrade to a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four, with 174 hp and 167 lb-ft in the sedan, and 180 hp and 177 lb-ft in the hatchback Sport model. Both engines are available with six-speed manual or continuously variable transmissions (CVT), although the turbo engine makes slightly less torque (162 lb-ft) with the CVT. All Civic models are front-wheel drive.
Honda also offers two performance versions of the Civic. The Si sedan (a coupe version is being discontinued for 2021) uses a tuned version of the 1.5-liter turbo engine, giving it 205 hp and 192 lb-ft. The Civic Type R hatchback uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, which produces 306 hp and 295 lb-ft. The Si and Type R are available only with six-speed manual transmissions.
The Accord offers fewer powertrain choices. The base engine is the same 1.5-liter turbo inline-four used in the Civic. In the Accord, it makes 192 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque and is coupled to a CVT. Higher trim levels get a 2.0-liter turbo-four that is essentially a detuned version of the Civic Type R engine. It makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft, and is coupled to a 10-speed automatic. Honda previously offered a six-speed manual option for both engines, but that will be discontinued for the 2021 model year. Like the Civic, the Accord is front-wheel drive only.
Both cars are at their most fuel-efficient with the 1.5-liter engine and CVT. With that combination, the Civic sedan is rated at 36 mpg combined (32 mpg city, 42 mpg highway), while the Accord is rated at 33 mpg combined (30 mpg city, 38 mpg highway). Honda also offers an Accord hybrid model, rated at 48 mpg combined (48 mpg city, 47 mpg highway), as well as the Insight, which is a Civic hybrid in all but name. The Insight is rated at 52 mpg combined (55 mpg city, 49 mpg highway), although Touring models get slightly lower mpg.
Both the Civic and Accord received a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and both cars missed out on the highest “Top Safety Pick+” rating due to poorly-rated headlights. That safety rating applies to both sedan and hatchback versions of the Civic, but not the Type R performance model.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Civic sedan and hatchback a five-star overall rating, but did not rate the Civic Type R. The Accord received a five-star overall rating as well, and both models received five stars in all individual crash tests.
The 2020 Civic starts at $20,955 for a base LX model with the manual transmission. The Civic has always been positioned below the Accord in Honda’s lineup, but with the discontinuation of the Fit subcompact, it will become Honda’s de facto entry-level model, undercutting the HR-V by a few hundred dollars.
You can spend a lot more on a Civic, though. A fully-loaded Touring model starts at $28,805, while the sporty Type R is priced at $37,950.
The base price for a 2020 Accord is $25,225, which buys a base LX model. The top Touring model starts at $37,355.
If you prefer a hybrid, the Civic-based Honda Insight starts at $23,885 for a base LX model, with the price rising to $29,795 for the range-topping Touring. The Accord Hybrid starts at $26,825, but you’ll pay $36,295 for a top Touring model.