Since March of 2006, I’ve been driving a Toyota Corolla. 186,000 miles later, I decided it’s time to get a new car. This wasn’t a new decision because I have been waiting for the 2019 models of both cars to come out since 2018 was a new model year. If you’re looking at either the Camry or Accord, you’re probably looking at the other one. YouTube always has some good car review videos so spend an evening watching them if you’re investing in one of these cars.
Spoiler Alert I purchased the Honda Accord Hybrid EX. Why? Read on.
Note: No matter which car I bought, I don’t think I would have gone wrong. Like my trusty Corolla, both cars should last a decade.
Toyota’s reputation is well known and I experienced this reputation with the Corolla. It still runs but I felt a new car was important for reliability in life. Toyota offers a try-before-you-buy deal where you can rent a car from them for around $70 a night to take home. I did take the Camry home for two nights to get a feel for what it would be like living with the car.
The Camry feels like a Camry. It’s predictable and solid. If you’ve owned a Camry in the past, you’ll probably have a general feel for the 2018⁄2019 models. Late models do have a sportier feel.
Honda has an almost equal reputation to Toyota which is what brought me into considering the Accord. My Honda dealer didn’t offer any sort of trial program outside of a test drive. They asked that we agree on price before taking a car home to try. I told them I wasn’t happy with that approach and they were able to work something out.
Honda and Toyota generally feel similar but are a little more sporty than older models. It feels like what a sedan should feel like.
All 2019 Camry Hybrids come with Apple CarPlay and Alexa integration. Sorry Android fans, no Android Auto support this year. CarPlay was a must before I’d consider a car and I consider Toyota’s capitulation to the integration to be a huge positive. Toyota’s entertainment system is generally good. The screen is of adequate size and built into the dash. Screen quality is decent. It is a lower grade screen than in the Honda (more on that later). If you remember using a Garmin touch screen from the early 2000’s, you’ll know the feeling of the Toyota Entertainment console. Smartphones have ruined the older touch screen feel and the console does feel a little dated.
Climate controls use knobs and can be adjusted using the touch screen. My preference is to use knobs and buttons where possible. Camry comes with dual-zone climate control and seat warmers.
Non-XLE trim levels come with a single USB port. According to the dealer, no additional ports are available as an option. There was a traditional car plug type adapter so my old car phone charger would work. A single USB port feels like a poor compromise to me as a second would be welcome.
Toyota is following the tech industry’s trend toward subscription models. Remote start is built in but uses an app on your phone instead of the normal key fob buttons of ancient days. Enabling this feature requires a subscription. I believe it was around $50 a year and includes other services so it isn’t prohibitively expensive but is just another subscription I need to pay for. However, because it is satellite based instead of RF based, you can start your car from wherever you are (remote start in a parking garage is an open question). No more will you have to go to a window to make sure your car started. Just press a button in your app and the car starts.
Toyota cars come standard with many technology based safety features. Blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, etc. were all included and worked as advertised. These are expected features which shouldn’t be surprising. Toyota did a good job with all their safety features in my experience. Note: I did drive a late model Toyota Sienna from Chicago to Florida and back (a little over 2,000 miles) so I have that experience to work with.
Accord includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touch screen on the Honda is much better than that of the Toyota. Honda’s feels much more like a full-on tablet with higher resolution and brighter colors. The screen sticks out from the top of the dash as though it is a tablet mounted to the dash. I don’t think that particular design decision will age well, but there’s nothing wrong with it either.
Climate controls are also physical. There’s not much to say except it works as it should. Accord comes with dual zone climate control and seat warmers.
EX, comes with 2 USB ports up front. The primary port is under the stereo in front of the “shifter” and the other port is in the center console. Two more ports are an option for the back seat.
Honda’s key fob is typical for remote start. There is no phone app or subscriptions. I think the preference here is subjective.
Honda has similar safety features to Toyota. Lane assist, adaptive cruise control, and the like are all included. One cool feature Honda has is road sign detection. Sensors in the front of the car will pick up speed limit road signs as the car passes and displays the speed on the dash or heads-up display. The feature works well but it doesn’t know the difference between truck speed limit signs and some of the more nuanced ones. In other words, if you see a sign for 70 mph, then in 1/8th of a mile there’s a truck speed limit sign which specifies 60 mph, it’ll set to 60. A firmware update for more intelligent reading would be nice, but I understand it’s a harder corner case.
I can’t tell why, but the Camry didn’t feel as roomy as it should have. Compare Camry and Accord measurement specs and you’ll find they’re similar. Yet when my wife got into the front passenger seat, she immediately said it didn’t feel like she had a lot of head room. Lowering the seat didn’t improve the situation enough for her liking. It’s possible the first impression stuck and space was adequate, but perception is reality. The front passenger seat also had to be pushed up a decent amount when mounting a rear facing car seat in the back passenger side seat. Everything fit, but for some reason, the car didn’t feel larger than my Corolla for most uses.
On the positive side though, the trunk space is good. Hybrid models have suffered with small trunks due to battery storage. Toyota fixed this problem and was able to include a full spare tire in the trunk without cutting down on trunk space much, if at all. The rear seats fold down in a traditional 60⁄40 manner.
Interior space is one metric which may have given the edge to the Accord over the Camry. My wife got in the front passenger seat and immediately said it felt larger than the Camry. Considering Accord comes standard with a moonroof, that makes the space even more impressive. With a rear facing car seat in the back seat, the front seat is able to go all the way back. Accord’s interior is spacious and feels like it is.
Trunk space is also good. Accord doesn’t include a spare tire but instead has a repair kit which uses foam to fill the damaged tire. I wish Honda included a full spare but I know this is a compromise we’re likely to see as MPG becomes more important. The rear seats are 60⁄40 fold down rear seats.
The Camry formula is well tested so I expected a positive ride feel and it didn’t disappoint. Road bumps felt fine. Road noise was excellent. My wife commented on the quiet interior. This is one area I think Toyota is a little better than the Honda. Honda’s interior is quiet, but Toyota just felt a little bit more so.
Acceleration was surprising too. It comes with a 4 cylinder engine but it didn’t feel sluggish. Expressway driving with the Camry was easy and pleasant.
My wife did say she felt there was a little hesitancy when accelerating from a stop, which may have been the gas engine engaging. I didn’t notice it but I can’t deny it’s there.
Accord’s suspension feels a little harder than the Camry but not by much. Road bumps aren’t too noticeable. Road noise is good too, but the Camry may be a little quieter.
Acceleration is another advantage of the Camry over the Accord. If you compare the actual performance numbers, the two cars are similar but Accord feels more sluggish, especially on the highway. The Accord Hybrid engine also emits a particular tones when cruising at highway speeds.
Toyota’s Hybrid system is well tuned over about 20 years so I had no doubt it would be good. It is.
I tested a Camry EX which has a NiMH battery while the LE has a Lithium Ion battery. EX and Touring are rated at 47mpg while the low end LE should get around 52mpg. My two days of driving yielded just under 47mpg so I have no doubt the numbers are close to advertised. While driving, the hybrid motor compliments the engine well and I always felt the right mix of hybrid and electric motor only propulsion was correct. The hybrid system used the old Apple mantra of “it just works”.
Camry Hybrids come with an EV mode which forces the car to operate on the electric motor only. This is one place I feel Toyota can improve the hybrid system. EV mode seems limited to only 20mph so I couldn’t even use it comfortably in my subdivision which has a 25mph speed limit. Also, a gentle touch of the pedal is needed when using EV mode as anything more than light acceleration will stop EV mode and bring the gas engine into action. I expect this but I don’t expect how light I had to be on the throttle before EV mode turned off. Anything more than the slightest touch of the accelerator caused the EV mode to shut off.
A few weeks after I returned the car I was driving in my Corolla and stopped at a stop light waiting for a green left arrow. My light changed and I saw the car in front of me was accelerating slowly. When I saw the Camry Hybrid badging, I knew why the driver was accelerating so slowly - they were in EV mode and trying to keep it there. EV mode is nice but doesn’t allow for realistic driving.
EV mode also comes up a little short in heavy traffic. A lot of expressway traffic will often hit 20 or 25mph before stopping. Between slow acceleration and the 20mph EV mode cap, I felt the gas engine engaging on more than I wanted it to. I was getting great mileage out of the car so I don’t know if my EV mode complaints matter.
The more I drive the Accord, the more I feel Camry has a better hybrid system. Accord EX is rated at 48 mpg. Like the Camry, the system will always adjust the mixture of electric motor and gas motor propulsion. It feels like it makes good decisions but getting close to the rated gas mileage, consistently, hasn’t been easy. It is winter so it’s possible summer will improve mileage but my average has been high 30’s or low 40’s.
Honda’s EV mode is superior than Toyota’s. Honda’s doesn’t have a defined top speed and instead is governed by acceleration, climate control, etc. Driving through my subdivision on all-EV mode often achievable and is only interrupted by hills. While driving on the highway, the Accord’s EV system has powered the wheels at 70mph. I don’t recall if Toyota can do this. Honda’s EV mode works how I expect it to.
I haven’t had the car long enough to gather gas mileage but the in-car readings are showing consistently mid to high 30 mpg. I’ve had low speed limit drives (<35mph) which have hit 50mpg. Note: See update at bottom of this post.
Both cars are what you’d expect. They’re going to be (hopefully!) reliable, comfortable, and provide ample utility. No one looking at a Corvette is looking at a Camry but people looking at a Camry will look at an Accord. They’re both excellent cars for many people. Talk to your dealer and see if they have an extended test drive option. Pay for it if you need to.
I chose the Accord for two reasons. First, the Accord feels more spacious which was a big deal. Second, the Accord just felt right. When I returned the trial Camry, I felt if I chose it I’d settling.
Test drive and do extended test drives for both. If you’re in the market for this class of sedan, you’ll know which you prefer.
Update - 01.07.2019
I’ve had more driving time with the car and can offer some updates on the Accord. I’ll do another update at around 1,000 miles.
- MPG is dependent on many things, including the weather. Temperatures in the Chicago area crept up to the 40’s and 50’s over the past few days and MPG went up significantly. Drives which were in the mid to high 30 MPG range were in the mid to high 40 MPG. I am pleased with this turn of events.
- Honda’s break hold feature is nifty. When break hold mode is on, it will hold the break when you are completely stopped. A simple touch of the accelerator will remove the break hold. I am looking forward to using this in heavy traffic.
- The throttle has a very slight rumble when the gas engine is engaged. I don’t recall having felt this on other vehicles so maybe that is normal and I have already grown accustomed to the smooth electric engine.
Update - 01.22.2019
I’ve passed the first 1,000 miles on the car. When I picked it up, it had more than 100 miles because it was driven in from Wisconsin so I haven’t been there for every mile or fill-up but can give some additional feedback.
- MPG is indeed variable based on weather. Drives to work have ranged from mid to high 30’s to 49.8 mpg.
- For the first 1,000 miles, I have filled the gas tank twice and close to a third. Manual logs are showing an average of 42.2 mpg. Over 1,095 miles in total, the car is showing 40.2 mpg. This variance is reasonable considering weather and use. I expect average mileage will go up with improved weather.
- Getting my son in and out of the rear facing car seat is harder in the Accord than the Corolla. The roof line leaves less space for him to be lifted and removed. Test this with your kid first. I think it’ll be easier when he’s front facing.