A TRUISM in the news business is that bad news sells. Fortunately, the news business does not have to depend on Honda Motor Co. Ltd.
This Japanese automaker is trying to do to journalists what Maytag claims to do to washer repairmen.
Honda is so consistently good, it's boring. This company just doesn't make any interesting mistakes.
Item One: According to J.D. Power & Associates, a California-based auto-market research firm, Honda was one of the few car companies in the 1985 model year to introduce a new car that didn't have any major problems.
Item Two: Honda is well on its way toward repeating that performance in 1986.
Witness the new, splendiferously speedy Honda Accord LXi sedan. It's a complete remake of its predecessor, the 1985 Accord SEi.
The LXi is a little lower in the front, a little wider in the middle, and roomier inside. The four-cylinder engine's up from 1.8 to 2 liters.
Suspension, interior, virtually evrything has been redone, with no known goofs.
I wonder if these people do facelifts.
Outstanding complaints: None.
Outstanding praise: Begin with the clutch and the five-speed manual gearbox.
The clutch gives to you what you give to it. It's remarkably responsive: no jerky starts, no miscues, no stalls.
The gearshift's equally wonderful. It glides from first to second, to third, fourth, fifth and -- zoom! The folks at Toyota like to shout, "Oh, what a feeling!" Ha, if they only knew.
Acceleration, ride, handling: The LXi's engine has lots of kick. Credit Honda engineers for a superb job of developing an electronic fuel-injection system that gives the engine the precise amount of gas needed, when needed. Having three valves per cylinder -- two intake and one exhaust -- also helps this sedan zip down the road.
The ride is a pleasant combination of sports feel and puff stuff. Seems like Honda has worked a bit of magic here. Some other auto manufacturers have tried the same thing and failed miserably.
Handling? Well, let's just say that it left me smiling.
Head-turning-quotient: Metallic graphite gray exterior with complementary gray-black interior. Tastefully done. No gimcrackery. It got lots of looks and raves. What's noteworthy here is that Honda's restyling was accomplished without sacrificing corporate identity. The 1986 LXi is not another simple-minded imitation of all things European. It is indisputably Honda.
Sound system: Honda AM/FM stereo cassette. Okay, but not up to snuff with the rest of this car.
Mileage: About 27 to the gallon, combined city-highway, running driver-only and with winter climate control system operating most of the time.
Price-as-tested: $12,675, plus $189 destination charge. The real-world overall price may be higher because of additional dealer markups -- so-called "market-value" premiums over the suggested retail price.
Don't look for discounts on the LXi's sticker anytime soon.