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Buy a Camry LE or Buy This: The 2020 Honda Accord LX

It’s time for the budget round of our Camry vs. Accord face-off.

Nelson IresonWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Today, we reach the culmination of the 2020 Toyota Camry vs. 2020 Honda Accord showdown: The base models, Camry LE and Accord LX. Up to now, we've been explored what you might buy if you were looking for something more than even a well-equipped Camry, whether for sporty driving fun or for fuel-sipping commutes. This one is for everyone who wants something larger and more capable than a Corolla or Civic, but who doesn't have a pile of cash to burn.

But hold up, you say. There's a Toyota Camry L that's a few hundred bucks cheaper than the LE! That's the real base model! Right you are, technically, but the L is a true stripped-down version best left to rental fleets, as it has a few major omissions (no upgrade packages available, for one) that put it at a severe disadvantage to the Accord LX. The Camry LE is the fairer fight.

So, as usual, to the specs!

2020 Toyota Camry LE Specs

2020 Honda Accord LX Specs

PRICE: $25,965 (base) PRICE: $25,225(base)
POWER: 203 hp @ 6,600 rpm POWER: 192 hp @ 5,500 rpm
TORQUE: 182 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm TORQUE: 192 lb-ft @ 1,600-5,000 rpm
WEIGHT: 3,310 lb WEIGHT: 3,131 lb
0-60 MPH: 7.6 sec 0-60 MPH: 7.6 sec
L x W x H: 192.1 x 72.4 x 56.9 in L x W x H: 192.2 x 73.3 x 57.1 in
EPA MILEAGE: 28/39 mpg (city/hwy) EPA MILEAGE: 30/38 mpg (city/hwy)

2020 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2020 Honda Accord LX: Power and Performance

Toyota and Honda both put four-cylinders in the base cars, but that's where the similarities end. Where the Camry LE's four-cylinder is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated unit, the Accord LX's is a 1.5-liter turbocharged powerhouse. Sure, the Toyota tops the Honda in peak power (by 11 horsepower in base FWD LE trim), but the Honda's power reaches its peak 700 rpm sooner, meaning you don't have to thrash the engine as hard to get everything out of it. Torque flips the balance in the Honda's favor: The smallish turbocharged 1.5-liter generates 10 lb-ft more than the Camry's 2.5-liter and does it strong and steady all the way from 1,600 rpm to 5,000 rpm, compared to the Camry's single 4,400-rpm torque peak.

That may sound like a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, but it means the Accord's turbo four-cylinder will feel much stronger and accelerate quicker in most normal driving situations. On the other hand, the Camry gets a more traditional eight-speed automatic transmission, while the Accord gets a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The wide torque band of the Accord LX's turbocharged engine helps keep the annoying sonic traits of a CVT-equipped car to a minimum, but it's still not as nice of an experience as a proper automatic transmission—a fact Honda tacitly acknowledges by equipping its higher-spec Accords with a 10-speed automatic.

Gas mileage is a toss-up, more or less. The Accord LX's 30-mpg city and 38-mpg highway ratings result in a combined rating one mpg higher than the Camry LE gets from its 28/39 city/highway mpg. If you drive a lot (like, more than 20,000 miles per year), you'll save a few bucks driving the Accord—eventually.

In terms of driving, neither of these cars are dynamic wonders in modern terms; these are the base models, after all. That said, both the 2020 Toyota Camry and 2020 Honda Accord are so fundamentally sound in their basic layout and construction that, compared to (much more expensive) sports sedans of 10 or 20 years ago, they might disappoint less than you'd expect. Basically, neither car is going to call you up into the canyons for a spirited drive, but both may entice you to take a scenic drive or 10.

All-wheel drive is the one thing the Camry LE offers that the Accord LX does not. Opting for AWD shaves 1 hp and 2 lb-ft of torque from the Camry's spec sheet, but it adds some all-weather driving confidence.

Performance and power, then, are more or less a wash, unless you absolutely need AWD—but then, you aren't looking at a base car, strictly speaking, and you might be better off sticking with front-wheel drive and spending your money on a set of winter wheels and tires, anyway.

2020 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2020 Honda Accord LX: Features and Equipment

Neither car has had a single option box ticked; they're both in their unaltered base-car state. In the case of the Camry LE, you can choose from three packages. A basic convenience package adds an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and blindspot monitoring ($1,315), or you can add a power moonroof for $2,215 and get the convenience package goodies, too. The $3,180 audio upgrade package includes both of the above plus an upgraded sound system, Qi-compatible wireless phone charging, and dual-zone climate control.

The Accord LX, on the other hand, has the full range of Fashion appearance packages, interior accent illumination, and 19-inch wheel upgrades available to add, as well as modern conveniences like wireless phone charging. So, if you aren't stretching to make it into Camry/Accord territory, the Honda offers a more a la carte upgrade path at the entry level.

But back to the base spec, since that's what we're here for. In standard form, both cars are reasonably well equipped, though there are some interesting omissions for both, too.

Equipment Included With Both Cars

  • Air conditioning
  • Display screen
  • Bluetooth handsfree calling and music
  • Power locks and windows
  • Keyless entry
  • Adaptive cruise control

Standard Equipment in the Accord LX and Not Included in the Camry LE

  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Automatic climate control
  • Push-button start

Standard Equipment in the Camry LE and Not Included in the Accord LX

  • Android Auto/Apple Car Play
  • SiriusXM (3-month subscription included)
  • USB smartphone audio input
  • Power-adjustable driver's seat (8-way)

In all, both cars are well-equipped for the price, and each faces reality by cutting out a different set of features. The choice will mostly come down to how you use your car. If you're a phone-centric driver, you'll run screaming from the Accord LX's lack of smartphone integration, especially the absence of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. If, however, you are fine with Bluetooth for your phone, but hate having to fiddle with the AC dial every few minutes to stay comfortable, the Accord LX is your best base-car bet.

Toyota Camry LE vs. Honda Accord LX: Safety

When it comes to safety features, neither manufacturer skimps. As noted above, both come standard with adaptive cruise control, a real safety boon to those who spend lots of time behind the wheel commuting or driving on the open highway. Both cars will also alert you to an unintended lane departure, and gently help you steer back into the lane. Neither car comes standard with a blindspot alert system.

Both cars are also chock full of airbags, and both perform very well in crash testing, both rating five stars in NHTSA testing, and both earning awards in IIHS testing. The Camry LE, however, scores higher than the Honda Accord LX in IIHS testing (earning a Top Safety Pick+ award, one notch higher than the Top Safety Pick of the Accord) thanks to superior headlight performance for the Toyota—despite the fact the Honda is the one that offers automatic high-beam assist. The Camry's headlights just provide more light at distance in IIHS testing.

2020 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2020 Honda Accord: Which Should You Pick?

This overall shootout is much closer than some of the previous Camry comparisons, in part because we've taken most of the fun off the table by limiting ourselves to the base cars. But whether you're looking for a completely un-upgraded model or one with a handful of features added on, the Camry LE and Accord LX will both accommodate. The ultimate decision for most will likely come down to the technological features each car offers, and whether having Apple CarPlay or Android Auto without incurring an extra charge is high on your list of priorities.

On the other hand, if you're simply looking for the best-driving budget-sedan option for your family, well, it's still a very close race. Both cars drive well for what they are; both cars are equally efficient; both cars have plenty of room for people and things. Both look pretty nice.

The winner of this round? All of us! We get to pick between two unreasonably good, surprisingly well-equipped, and rather fuel-efficient sedans with plenty of room and nicely turned-out interiors for around $25,000. That's a win-win if we ever heard one.