BRETTON WOODS, NH – Ray Mikiciuk says his sister paid MSRP for a Honda Accord in the 1980s. He remembers thinking at the time, she sure wanted that car to pay full price.

I did the same thing even earlier in the 1970s, shortly after the Accord’s 1976 debut in this country. It was a hot-sellling hatchback from the start. Dealers acted like they did you a favor by selling you one.  

Looking back, it was a rudimentary compact car by today’s standards, and it had its share of mechanical and body-rust issues during my ownership. But it outperformed the competition, which was pretty lame back then. (Earlier, I owned a Ford Pinto. Tallied up, it cost more to repair it than to buy it.) 

The Accord now is a midsize car, and Honda just debuted its 10th-generation model. “It’s a big deal for us,” says Mikiciuk, American Honda’s assistant vice president-Honda auto sales. “It’s a reimagining of our 10th generation flagship sedan. Four decades of what we learned is in this car.”    

You could say it should be good after 10 shots at it. But that would be cynical. And unfair, because, as Mikiciuk suggests, the Accord just keeps getting better.

The ’18 version is about as good as it gets for a mainstream car with a starting price of $23,570. That will get you in a base model LX with a 1.5L turbo engine.

The LX and four other trim levels (Sport, EX, EX-L and Touring) went on sale in mid-October. Sport, EX-L and top-of-the-line ($35,800) Touring models with a new 2.0L turbo engine go on sale at the end of November. Look for a '18 hybrid model at dealerships early next year.

Honda has sold more than 13 million Accords in the U.S. over the years. More than 11 million of them have been made in America. The company is hoping the new version will help revitalize the midsize sedan market.

That won’t be easy, considering SUVs’ popularity. But the Accord is a tough contender that alone has outsold 30 other brands.

“News concerning the death of midsize sedans is greatly exaggerated,” Mikiciuk, paraphrasing Mark Twain, says here at a media preview. He notes the midsize sedan segment, while not as strong as before, still ranks third behind SUVs and compacts.  

Honda changed the design approach for the new Accord from traditional inside-out packaging to a focus on stance and proportion. It gives the car a new look. Honda calls it a “radical redesign,” which might be overreaching, but the vehicle has sleek lines that are pleasing to the eye as well as a rearward cabin, long wheelbase and short overhang. A-pillars are pulled back to provide wider visibility.

Inside, there’s more backseat room than before, sturdier seating both in front and back.

The interior is designed to evoke the feeling of an open concert hall. The sweeping instrument panel includes knobs and buttons designed to be used without unduly looking down at them. A new interface aims to provide ease-of-use with minimum distraction. The head-up display content includes a variety of choices including speed, tach, turn-by-turn, compass and traffic-sign recognition.

There are three new powertrain choices, including a hybrid system. Both the 1.5L and 2.0L internal-combustion engines include direct-injection, turbocharging, 16-valves and 4 cylinders. Horsepower is 192 at 5,500 rpm and 252 at 6,500 rpm. Torque is 192 lb.-ft. (260 Nm) at 1,600-5,000 rpm and 273 lb.-ft. (369 Nm) at 1,500-4,000 rpm.

Both engines have been downsized from the previous offerings which consisted of a 2.4L I-4 and 3.5L V-6.

Transmission selections for the 1.5L are a 6-speed manual and a CVT, (which Honda is particularly good at, in contrast to some CVT systems that seem like they always are in search of a gear). Transmission choices for the 2.0L are the 6-speed manual and what Honda calls the first 10-speed automatic in a front-wheel-drive car. 

The third-generation hybrid powertrain is billed as a “natural evolution.”The hybrid system in its predecessor was a 2017 Wards 10 Best Engines winner.

The new one features a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle engine with improved thermal efficiency, now at 40% (up from 38.9% on the ’17 Accord Hybrid), the highest for any mass-produced Honda engine.

The engine is paired with two Honda-developed electric motors that are the first drive motors in the world to use permanent magnets containing no heavy rare-earth metals. As before, the Accord 2-motor system operates without the need for a conventional automatic transmission.

The 2.0L produces the highest torque ever for an Accord. It’s not a screamer or a rumbler, nor is it intended to be. It is quiet, offers the precision of a Swiss watch and doesn’t want for power. It’s just the engine for the typical Accord buyer, who’s looking for transportation with personality and reliability.

A new chassis design includes improved steering feel, a lower center of gravity and reduced weight. An inner-frame weld system offers a new method of constructing the body that uses 29% high-strength steel.

The Accord can hold its own accelerating on straightaways, but it particularly shows its sturdy character on curvy roads here.

The Accord’s customer base skews toward middle-age people, but Honda is pitching the car, sort of, to Millennials.

“In addition to established customers, we want to appeal to young people,” says Junji Yamano, chief engineer. “We don’t want to pander to them, but we wanted to make a sophisticated car they could aspire to and feel comfortable in.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com