Debuting in 1981 in Japan and Europe, and as a 1982 model in North America, in addition to being produced in Japan, this generation of the Accord became the first to be built in the USA, at Honda's plant in Marysville, Ohio. Since its first year in the American market, it also became the best-selling Japanese nameplate in the US, holding that position for 15 years. In Japan, a sister model called Honda Vigor was launched simultaneously with the new Accord.
Modernizing both the interior and exterior, the second generation Accord was mechanically very similar to the original, using the same 75 hp (56 kW), 1751 cc EK1 CVCC engine. Fuel economy increased by nearly 15%. Vastly improved quality control, however, made this one of the most reliable cars on the US market, a position it still holds today. This automobile included popular features of the time such as shag carpet, velour cabin trim and chrome accents. An optional extra on the 1981 Accord was an Electro Gyrocator, the world's first automatic in-car navigation system. Models were available in Silver, Sky Blue, and Beige. The LX hatchback offered a digital clock and slightly higher fuel economy (due to its lighter weight.)
The U.S. Department of Transportation had stringent lighting requirements which prevented Honda from including the aerodynamic molded headlight units which were used on Australian, European and Japanese Accords. The U.S. D.O.T. required the use of rectangular sealed beam glass units to prevent fogging and allow for easy and readily available replacement of units damaged by rocks or other road hazards. U.S. Accords were also required to have a side marker light installed on the side of the rear fenders. German Accords included additional reflectors which were embedded into the rear bumper as well as washer sprayers for front and rear lamps. The Japanese Accords were unique from all other markets in that they included adjustable ride height control and were unique in that their side view mirrors were installed on the mid forward fenders.
In 1983, Honda upgraded the automatic transmission to a four speed, a major improvement over the three speed Hondamatic. The manual, five speed transmission remained unchanged. A 120 mph (193 km/h) speedometer replaced the earlier 85 mph (137 km/h) unit. The Special Edition (SE) featured, novio-leather seating, power windows, power sunroof and locks. Columbus Slate Grey was added as a color option.
By 1984, Accords sold in the eastern US were produced at the new Marysville plant, with quality considered equal to those produced in Japan. The body was restyled with a slightly downward beveled nose; and, the slightly more powerful ES2 1829 cc CVCC powerplant was used, bringing 86 hp (64 kW). The redesign in 1984 is often called the second series of the second generation. Honda integrated side marker lights into the side of the tail light units which satisfied the U.S. D.O.T.'s side marker requirements and ended the difference between cross market tail light configurations. European Accords, however, now included signal lights on the forward fenders, just behind the wheel well. The U.S. Accord still lacked the molded head light units which were used everywhere else.
The LX offered velour upholstery, cassette stereo, air conditioning, power brakes & steering, power windows & power locks (sedan only), a digital clock, and roof pillar antenna, along with thick black belt moldings and integrated bumpers. Flush plastic mock-alloy wheels covers instead of caps on steel wheels that resembled the trend-setting Audi 5000. Supplies were tight, as in the Eastern states, the wait was months for a Columbus Slate Grey sedan, a then-popular color. The LX hatchback was the only 1984 version to include dual outside mirrors.
The 1984 sedan (regular and LX) was available in four exterior colors, Greek White and three metallic options: Columbus Slate Grey, Regency Red (burgundy), and Stratos Blue (steel). The regular hatchback was available in Greek White, Dominican Red, and the metallic Stratos Blue. The '84 LX hatchback came in three metallic colors only: Columbus Slate Grey, Regency Red, and Copper Brown. These models are still common on US roads today.
In 1985, the Special Edition returned as the SE-i, capitalizing on the final year of the second generation's production. A fuel-injected, 110 hp (82 kW) non-cvcc ES3 engine was exclusive to this model. The moniker, SE-i, was adapted from the SE trim, but included the "-i" to signify the higher trim level's fuel-injected engine. This 12-valve, 1829 cc engine was the first non-CVCC engine used in an Accord, and was the same basic engine design used by Honda until 1989. Like the previous SE trim in 1983, the SE-i featured novio-leather seating, power moonroof, bronze tinted glass, a premium sound system with cassette, and 13" alloy wheels.