Friday, April 4, 2014

2006 Honda Accord VP - Good Car, Great MPG and Safety

Although I have been happy with the car my mother drove (2000 Mitsubishi Galant ES), the car lacked something I now consider essential - side and head airbags. It only got 3 stars in side crash test. It was a great car with excellent handling and reliability, but it was time to upgrade.

I have considered both the new 2006 Hyundai Sonata and the 2006 Accord. In fact, I also looked into the new Civic as well as Civic Hybrid and the upcoming Toyota Camry Hybrid.

The Civic was more expensive than either the Accord or Sonata (Accord currently has a $750 marketing support incentive from Honda; Sonata features a rebate, making both of the Accord VP and Sonata 4-cylinder cheaper than a Civic LX. I consider A/C essential in CA and Civic DX does not have one), so even though it is very safe (according to crash tests) and is more frugal with fuel, I decided against it.

The Camry Hybrid is not here yet and will probably cost more than $26K, especially taking into accont how much over the MSRP the other hybrids sell for. The Civic Hybrid is also in $24K range, a bit too much, even taking into account the tax credit it comes with. Plus it is just too slow.

The Sonata has excellent warranty, full array of airbags and dynamic stability control as well as better wheels and tires. But its automatic transmission has only 4 speeds, it is slower than Accord and the rear-world fuel economy seems worse and the resale value is questionable. Plus it is a brand new model with questinable reliability. True, the warranty is impressive, but it would not prevent me from taking the car in if something does break.

Upon seeing that the Honda Accord VP could be had for less than $17K, I decided to replace the Mitsu with it. I bought the silver 2006 Honda Accord VP sedan with automatic transmission for $16,200, which with taxes and fees turned into $17,791.

As a basis for comparison I can use my current car (2004 Infiniti G35) as well as my mother's previous car (2000 Mitsubishi Galant ES) and some other cars I drove recently, including 2005 Toyota Camry.


The 2006 Honda Accord VP (Value Package) replaces the last year's DX model. It feature air conditioning, power locks and windows, remote keyless entry, panic alarm, remote window opening, 4-cylinder 166-hp engine and (in AT-equipped trim) a 5-speed automatic transmission. The manual transmission-equipped cars have a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The VP rides on 15 inch steel wheels with 195/65R15 tires (mine are mediocre Bridgestone Turanza EL41). The VP has manual mirrors (other trims have power mirrors). All Accords have ABS, front, side and head curtain airbags. New for the 2006 model year is the Maintenance Minder system that monitors the oil life and shows it to you in percents at a push of a button. It also tells you when you need to change oil and go for other service based on driving conditions.

The 4-cylinder 2006 Accords were rated to deliver 24 mpg city / 34 mpg highway with auto transmission, 26/34 with manual. The back seats fold to increase usable trunk space, the steering wheel tilts, telescopes. And has standard cruise control buttons.

The car has a remote control that lets you lock and unlock doors, remotely lower all windows, activate panic alarm, open the trunk. The fuel door locks and is unlocked by a mechanical lever from the inside. The car has a locking glove box, sliding dual-compartment front armrest, a couple of storage consoles in front.

The car has daytime running lights, dome light and vanity mirrors in both visors. The taillights are long lasting and quick-illuminating LED. And they look much better than the ones on the last year's models.

The VP model has the following shortcomings compared to the LX model and above: tires are 195/65R15 vs. 205/65R15, mirrors are manual, door handles and window have black trim instead of chrome, the vanity mirrors have no light, there are no reading lights (just the dome in the middle), there is no rear anti-roll bar (only the front one), the radio/CD player has only 2 speakers vs. 6 in LX, the rear seat has no armrest.

Interestingly, unlike my Infiniti, this CD player can play CD-RW rewrutable discs, which is pretty conventient (in the absense of an aux input or a USB slot) for listening to podcasts and such.

About the Car 

The car is roomy with excellent fit and finish. The fabric seems durable and the controls are within easy reach, aside from the mechanical passenger-side mirror. The driver seat has easy to use adjustments for height, recline and front-back adjustment. The seats are comfortable: more so than the seats of the Mitsu and even than my Infiniti G35. The driver seat has very good lateral support.

There is one caveat however. The driver's seat lumbar support is somewhat lacking and is non-adjustable. Still, the seats are pretty good and comfortable for long trips.

The transmission shifter could use better defined detents - it is too easy to leave it in between fixed positions (e.g. "D" and "D3") if not careful.

The Accord has an A/C that works very well and features air filtration. There are two cup holders in front and a couple on back. There are seatback map pockets and the carpeted floor mats are standard. The trunk has a large opening and the rear seats fold. There is no handle on the inside of the trunk however to close it without touching the exterior.

I like the feature that lets you open the windows by just pushing and holding the "unlock" button on the remote. But to close the windows, you have to actually insert the key into the driver-side door keyhole and twist it once (to lock the doors), then twist and hold do make the windows close.

The engine compartment is neatly organized with easy access to all fluids. The lid, when open, is held by a prop rod.

The headlights work well at night and the daytime running light feature makes the car more visible on the road around the clock.

The gauges are very legible and controls are easy to use with good tactile feel. And for some strange reason I love the fact that at any time you can press the button that switches between the trip odometers a couple of times and see the remaining oil life in percentage points. At first, it says "100%", then decrements to 90%, then 80%, etc. Once it approaches "0%", it is time to replace oil. The speed with which it declines depends on how the car is driven, which should reduce the trips to the dealership and the worldwide oil consumption. After all, motor oil is made of mineral oil, just as the gasoline.

The only item that is subpar is the stereo or rather its sound quality. But it is no surprise, most cars' OEM stereos are pretty poor-sounding anyway.


The car is relatively quiet and the road irregularities are felt rather than heard. At first, the tire noise from the car does not reach the cabin and on the freeway you hear other car's tire noise rather than your car's. Later, when the tires are worn, the tire noise increases.

The steering is well-weighted, requiring more effort than that of the Camry of Galant, which is a good thing. It is more sensitive off-center than either of the two. The brakes are easy to modulate and very reassuring. The ABS is a welcome feature.

However, the standard Bridgestone Turanza EL41 tires are narrow and mediocre. They squeal in moderate turns and I engaged the ABS a couple of times in moderate braking. Their dry traction will no doubt improve once they wear a little, but I do not expect too much. This is unlike my Mitsu with upgraded Kumho Ecsta 716 HP4 tires, that had amazing grip when worn.

I am sure the Accord itself is capable of better performance once I get proper tires. But it is still not a sporty vehicle. Which is OK; I have my G35.

The Accord is not only quiet, but it feels very stable at any speed (at least at any speed that does not exceed 90 mph; I have not gone faster than that yet). The 5-speed auto transmission is tuned for fuel economy and the engine turns at only slightly higher than 2000 rpm at freeway speeds, whereas my G35 is closer to 3000 rpm at the same speeds.

The car so far produced 26-30 mpg on average and up to 37 MPG over long distances. My Mitsu got 23-25 overall when new, 26-29 at 78K.

The acceleration is very good for a 4-cylinder car, significantly faster than the Galant and slightly faster than the 2005 Camry's. This is not only my impression - according to Car and Driver as well as other reports, the Accord is faster than Camry as well as new 4-cylinder Hyundai Sonata.

DIY (Do It Yourself)

The maintenance tends to be easy and most do-it-yourself items are easy as well with one exception. The air filter check and replacement on the 4-cylinder 2003-2007 Accord is slightly difficult.

Whereas in most older cars (e.g. 2000 Mitsubishi Galant or Volvo 740) the air filter replacement takes at most 2 minutes and requires no tools, the same operation on this Accord took me almost an hour at first attempt, required the use of my toolbox, application of force and constant cursing. But it was simply lack of knowledge and now I can do the same in 5 mins.

The air box lid is held with four bolts and the air intake hose is short and inflexible. Even after removing the bolts and the undoing the clamp on the hose, the hose flexibility did not allow me to move the filter housing out of the way. I ended up removing the battery brace, disconnecting the MAF and even then was barely able to remove the air box cover and replace the filter.

That was my first stab at it. Not I know simply to remove the bolts and then use brute force to bend the hose out of the way.

Most other tasks are easy though. A/C (cabin) air filter can be replaced with no tools in 2 minutes. The oil is easy to check so is the transmission fluid. And the Maintenance Minder system (MM) tells you what services to perform and when based on the way you drive.

Also reassuring is the oil color. It seems to stay "fresh"-looking (light) for a long time. Whereas my G35 tends to make the oil very dark after 2K miles, the Accord's oil stays light after 5K miles, when the MM tells me to change it.

Note: you can always see the remaining oil life in percentage points and it seems pretty conservative. I need to change the oil about every 5.1K miles with mostly city driving and I am sure more highway driving results in longer intervals. In fact our 2007 Accord asks for fresh oil every 6.7K in mostly freeway driving.

The brake fluid needs to be changed once every three years however, which is something I am not used to. Neither my 2000 Mitsubishi Galant nor the 2004 Infiniti G35 required that. But I am sure with regular service, the Accord will last longer and should be more trouble-free than the above two.

After 8 Years

As of September 2014, in the over 8 years we had the car, there were no mechanical issues with it whatsoever, aside from the battery dying at exactly 4 years. I don't blame it - it is very hot here and the battery was fully discharged three times. The car currently has 45,200 miles and had 7 service stops for oil/filter changes: at 5.1K miles, 8K miles (because 1 year passed and you have to replace the oil at least once a year), 12.9K, 17K, 22K (changed oil myself), 28K, 33K (changed oil myself), 38K and 42K. There also was a stop at a 3-year mark to replace the brake fluid and another at 7-year mark.

The, relatively short, stops for oil were caused by driving short distances. Conventional (mineral) oil was used and the filter was changed at every service, even though you only need to change the filter every other oil change, per manual. The oil visually looked good (very clean and light-colored) at each service. The exceptions were the 22K and 33K services, where I used synthetic Pennzoil Platinum and Quaker State Ultimate Durability respectively and didn't replace the oil filter.

The brake fluid has to be replaced every 3 years. The service adviser at the dealership tried to sell us the "complete fluid exchange" or flush, which would be $159 and is unnecessary. When I told him to simply drain and refill the brake fluid, he stated that he doesn't know if they do that and that would leave some of the old fluid in the system. After explaining to him that this is BS and since Honda states that the fluid should be trained and refilled only and that the flush/using the machine to circulate some cleaning fluid through the system is not only unnecessary but might be in fact harmful, the price dropped to $75.

Each oil/filter change was $22 and one of them was free, so service costs so far were $88 (oil/fitler)+$75 (brake fluid) + 20 (tire rotation)= $183. The oil used was conventional Pennzoil (a.k.a PYB or Pennzoil Yellow Bottle) and Valvoline 5W20. The oil brand was not specifically chosen; this is what the dealership used. In any case, this oil is very good and does well in this engine, according to numerous used oil analyses (UOA) posted on-line.

Other oils that tend to do best in this engine are generally the ones that have high molybdenium (a.k.a. moly) content, including Chevron Supreme.

At 22K and 33K miles, I changed the oil (but not the filter, since the filter change wasn't required) myself, using the oil extractor, pulling the oil out through the dipstick tube. Time: 30 mins, cost: $7 for synthetic Pennzoil Platinum 5w20 (after rebate) and $5 (QSUD after rebate). It would have taken 10 miles of driving and at least 1 hour of waiting at the dealer.

The filter change is not bad either - it can be done without lifting the car, from the top of the engine compartment (provided you are tall enough and/or have long hands). I have done this on our 2007 Accord several times.

The tires were rotated at 28K miles and they are wearing well, appearing to be able to go 90K or so. But I disliked them and replaced them at 43K miles with Bridgestone Turanza Serenity Plus. The Serenity Plus is a much better tire in all respects.

The battery was run down 3 times because my mother left the headlights on. The battery worked for 4 years, then died and was replaced with a Duralast from Autozone. In contrast, my 2000 Mitsu's battery died 2.5 years into the ownership with no prior discharges or warning.

I also changed the engine air filter at 13K miles, simply because it is so difficult to get to and once I decided to check it, I figured I might as well change it. It was covered in something resembling oil/soot, perhaps die to following cars that were burning oil. The filter could stay, but I replaced it due to aforementioned difficulty of getting to it. Then I figured out how to replace it in much easier fashion so I replaced it again at 30K miles just to get back to "every 30K" regimen.

The cabin air filter is easy to replace, which I did at about 15K miles and again at 27K miles, 33K and 42K.

Some other service items last a long time before requiring replacement. The 4-cylinder engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt, so it does not require a replacement. The spark plugs are good for over 100,000 miles. Coolant life and transmission fluid change intervals are determined by MM and should be very long. I will likely have to replace the coolant based on age, at 10 years. And the LED-based tail lights should last almost forever.

Total servicing costs (at dealership + DIY at home) were $183 + $12 (oil) + $23 (2 air filters) + $40 (four cabin air filters) + $15 x 2 (wiper blades and inserts) + 160 (another brake fluid change) + $60 (2 last oil changes) = $500 give or take. Even with a new battery, it works out to less than $650 for 8 years. And the tire replacement was completely unnecessary.

Our other car, the 2007 Accord lasted 73K miles before being totaled and in that time required no brake pad changes, no tire changes (tires could have lasted over 100K easy) and no issues.


The car is not entirely noise-free. There was a distinct [light] rattle emanating from the trunk area, which has been caused by a loose license frame, which was recently tightened. The front window glass also makes slight creaking noises while driving over road irregularities. Additionally, at about 12K miles, the brakes started to squeak when coming to a stop; might be due to the brake dust accumulation. At over 43K miles, there was still no break pad replacement needed.

Pros: Value, comfortable, quiet, fast for 4-cylinder and good fuel economy, safe, plays CD-RW, safe
Cons: Mediocre (but long-lasting) tires, handling is not very sporty, stereo sound is OK at best

Bottom Line 

I am happy with the 2006 Accord and recommend it to anyone. It is comfortable, practical, safe and performs well. But if you need a sporty ride, look elsewhere.

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