In 1990 a new, larger Honda Accord based on the "CB" chassis was launched in Japan. This generation was the first not to feature a three-door model, and the first one to be exclusively sold by the Honda Clio dealer network in Japan. A sister car, called Honda Ascot, differing only slightly from the JDM Accord sedan, was launched for sale in the Honda Primo stores that also carried previous-generation Accords. On the other hand, the Honda Vigor, previously closely related to the Accord, became a rather different model, fitted with longitudinally-mounted inline five-cylinder engines.
This was one of the first US production cars to feature optic reflectors with completely clear lenses on the headlamps replacing the more conventional sealed beam styled lighting. Unlike most manufacturers moving away from traditional sealed beam lighting, Honda chose to transition to a multi-reflector headlight style while maintaining the use of a glass lens instead of polycarbonate as is most common today.
The more conservative Accord now bore a resemblance to the first-generation Acura Legend. The Accord had matured into a larger car now approaching the likes of the Ford Taurus, but was still given "compact" status. The LX-i and SE-i trim levels were renamed EX and SE respectively, leaving US models with DX, LX, and EX trim levels. The Canadian Accord trim levels varied slightly from the US models with LX, EX and EX-R. Fourth generation EXi Accords sold in Australia and New Zealand offered the same 4-wheel steering technology as was available optionally on the US Honda Prelude.
For this fourth generation Accord Honda made significant engineering design improvements. A completely new 2.2 liter, 16-valve engine would replace the previous 2.0 liter 12-valve model. All Accords sold in North America came with a 2.2 liter electronic fuel injected engine standard. Also noteworthy, all Accords equipped with automatic transmissions used an electronically controlled rear engine mount to reduce low frequency noise and vibration. The mount contained 2 fluid filled chambers separated by a computer controlled valve. At low engine speeds, fluid routed through the valve damping vibration. Above 850 rpm, fluid routed around the valve making the engine mount stiffer.
A 125 HP 4-cylinder engine was offered the DX and LX models, while the EX received a 130 hp (97 kW) version. Cruise control was dropped from the DX sedan, with air conditioning remaining a dealer-installed option. The LX kept the same features as the previous generation including air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors. The EX added 10 horsepower (7 kW) more due to different exhaust manifold and slightly bigger exhaust piping, 15 inch machined aluminum-alloy wheels, sunroof, upgraded upholstery, dual-outlet single exhaust, rear stabilizer bar and a high-power 4-speaker stereo cassette.
Because of tightening auto safety regulations from the NHTSA, all North American 1990 and 1991 Accords came equipped with motorized shoulder belts to comply with passive restraint mandates. These semi-automatic restraints were a two component system; a motorized shoulder belt along with a non-integrated and manually operated seatbelt. The shoulder belts automatically raced around each window frame encircling both the driver and front seat passenger whenever the front door closed and reversed to release them when opened. The seat belts however, still required manual fastening.
For the 1992 and 1993 model years, the awkward motorized shoulder belt system were replaced with a standard driver-side airbag and conventional shoulder/seatbelt arrangement for all but the center rear passenger. A redesigned manual transmission with hydraulic clutch was standard equipment while an all-new electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission was optional for all models. Some new dealer-installed accessories were now offered including a single-disc in-dash CD player or trunk mounted 6-disc CD changer, fog lights, security system, rear wing spoiler, trunk lip spoiler, luggage rack, full and half nose mask, center armrest, equalizer, window visors, sunroof visor, car cover, and cockpit cover.