Looking more like a refresh than an all-new, next-generation model, the 2013 Honda Accord sits looking exactly as you should expect.
What’s that? You expected more. Why?
Sure, it’s OK to hope for the design equivalent of variable valve timing, but apart from reasons like branding and continuity, there’s a more important reason for the Accord’s minimalist aesthetic change, namely, that Honda always has and always will chart its own path, taking no advice or input from anyone, for better and for worse.
Perhaps you’ve always thought the best word to describe Honda is “reliable” or “sporty.” It’s not. The best word to describe Honda is “stubborn.”
And in a way, the new car looks it. More squared-off up front, it refuses to hit the gym to impress a few bimbos. The Accord knows it’s a catch. True, it might have dressed up for the occasion, sporting a more angular front end and a nice chrome splitter, but that’s just what’s expected.
Under the skin the Accord carries on generations of hallmark qualities, from fuel economy, to interior space, to value. And let’s not forget a reputation for reliability and longevity that has always made the Accord a smart purchase.
Its looks are defined by an all-new platform and a desire to maximize outward visibility. Better proportioned that the outgoing model it’s 3.6-inches shorter in length, while maintaining the same interior space and adding slightly more trunk room. Totaling 15.5 cu-ft, the trunk now also has a smooth floor to help maximize the useful space.
Less dramatic than some of the new rivals on the road, the Accord is less about being seen and more about being able to see out of. In place of a high beltline and tiny windows is plenty of glass and excellent visibility, while the view out the front is further improved by smaller A pillars. Plus, there’s a larger driver’s side mirror to further improve outward visibility at all angles.
Another design cue of almost all modern sedans, the sloping roofline, is absent here. As a result, the rear seats don’t just heave plenty of headroom, they’re easy to get into and out of.
Notable upgrades include standard 16-inch aluminum wheels (no hubcaps here) and chrome door handles, helping give the Accord a more established premium look.
HONDA ENGINE-TECH MOVES INTO 21ST CENTURY
All new in every way, the Accord is perhaps most reengineered under the hood where it gets three entirely new engines and new transmissions as part of Honda’s new (and oddly named) Earth Dreams lineup. The base 4-cylinder gains direct-injection to make 185-hp and 181 lb-ft of torque with a fuel economy rating of 27-mpg city and 36-mpg highway. Less than segment-leading, it’s just one unit off the Altima and during our drive we actually registered the claimed 30-mpg combined rating.
Speaking at the car’s launch, Honda marketing boss Mike Accaviti commented that while fuel economy is obviously hugely important, in the mid-size sedan segment it’s just one of many factors. Of course, you’d expect anyone but the fuel economy king to say as much, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
A new six-speed manual is standard and optional is a Continuously Variable Transmission – a first for the Accord. CVTs are used specifically to achieve maximum fuel economy and generally compromise both driving performance and throttle response. That said, it’s a rather un-Honda-like technology, though thankfully Honda has managed to minimize the drawbacks.
Light throttle application still delivers somewhat hesitant acceleration, while medium inputs are met with immediate response, the tach jumping suddenly to higher rpm, delivering a sensation similar to a conventional automatic downshifting, though far smoother. As a result, power is perfectly acceptable and Honda claims its 4-cylinder family sedan is the fastest on the market, aided by a 55 lb reduction in weight.
As for the V6 engine, it now makes 278-hp and 252 lb-ft of torque and is capable of 25 mpg combined (21-mpg city, 34-mpg highway), as good as other V6 models but not quite up to some of the new turbocharged 4-cylinders. Available exclusively with a 6-speed automatic in the sedan, coupe models also get a choice of that slick-shifting manual. Combined, it’s far more fun than any Accord should be.
Cruising in the sedan, it’s luxury smooth and incredibly quiet. Pick up the pace and the Accord feels livelier than before, due mostly to its reduced size. Of note, the ninth-generation Accord does away with the trademark double-wishbone front suspension in favor of a MacPherson strut setup, but you’d never notice. Steering has also been changed over to a more modern electric unit and it’s excellent too. A bit loose, it does have a consistent steering feel – a rarity for electric units.
Much like the exterior, there’s no big change inside the Accord, with a design that follows ergonomic function. A bit busy looking at first, it’s far less cluttered than before and all of the buttons are large. Mid-level EX trim levels come with keyless access and a push-button start standard, and while the red dot on the dash is a nice idea, on closer inspection it looks just cheap. As for the standard cloth seats, they just look dated – though not unattractive. Surprisingly, however, even middling trim levels with the cloth interior get faux-leather on the center armrest and doorsills – a smart move on Honda’s part to insure the materials your skin touches are higher grade. We’re also pleased to note that whatever it is Honda has used as trim pieces on the dash, at least it’s not Chevy Malibu-grade wood.
Looking straight ahead, the new gauge cluster now has a 3D design to it with a color-changing ring around the speedometer that’s connected to the Econ button. Like on the Civic and Honda’s hybrids, the Econ mode minimizes throttle inputs to further improve the car’s mileage.
SURPRISING STANDARD EQUIPMENT
Always an incredible value, especially if you’re buying for the long term, the Accord LX ($21,680) adds extra standard content for 2013 including dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch screen with Honda’s i-MID system for control of the audio features, as well as back-up camera and that Econ button. Pricing has increased for 2012, but only by $200 to $340 per trim level.
A new Sport trim ($23,390), adds 18-inch wheels, a 10-way power driver’s seat, leather steering wheel, paddle shifters, a rear spoiler and dual exhaust.
Along with some of the upgrades already mentioned, the EX model ($24,605) gains Honda’s segment-exclusive LaneWatch safety feature. Along with the available Land Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning systems (standard on the $27,995 EX-L), LaneWatch uses a camera to broadcast what is in our passenger side blindspot onto the 8-inch screen in the center of the dash. The idea seems like technology for technology’s sake and a bit counterintuitive, forcing you to look away from the road. In real world use, however, it’s actually quite handy, allowing you to spot a large car on the screen out of the corner of your eye and re-think your move. Honda even offers different settings, allowing you to have the video display constantly on, or only on once you use your turn signal.
Moving from safety technology, to the entertainment side, EX-L models will also gain a second in-dash screen with the HondaLink system that’s in many ways best for the technophiles. Along with access to apps like Yelp and the ability to stream audio books, it will even read Facebook and Twitter updates to you.
In addition to the coupe and sedan, Honda will also offer a Plug-in Hybrid Accord, marking another technology upgrade for the company as it moves away from it’s archaic Integrated Motor Assist system to a genuine two-mode hybrid system similar to that in the Prius. Looking a step too flashy with a Honda badge up front that looks better suited for a transport truck’s grille, it’s a seriously impressive piece of machinery with none of the drawbacks of past Honda hybrids.
Designed for fuel economy it pairs an electric motor, lithium-ion battery pack with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder to deliver 196-hp and 226 lb-ft of torque, offering a perfectly acceptable performance. It transitions smoothly from electric to gasoline power and the regenerative brakes are incredibly consistent feeling – unlike even some of the best hybrids. With an electric-only range of 10 to 15 miles, you can choose when to use that EV power and when to let the system operate like a conventional hybrid.
With a claimed 100 MPGe, in full EV mode, it’s hard not to be impressed with the 199.9 mpg rating showing on the central gauge. Resetting the fuel economy gauge while switching over to regular hybrid mode via a button in front of the gearshift and after a 20-minute drive on city roads and highways we still managed a remarkable 55-mpg!
On the surface the new Accord seems only moderately new, but closer inspection reveals impressive upgrades and new features that add to many already segment-leading qualities, helping put it, as always, in contention for top-of-the-pack status.
Now, the Accord knows it’s got a lot of competition out there right now, but it’s not worried. Sure you might run off with a sexy Sonata, a chiseled Optima, or the promise of a more fuel efficient Altima. But amongst all its other qualities, the Accord struts with confidence. It might not be the most enticingly styled sedan, but no one will ever accuse it of looking like it’s trying too hard. Sure its approach might come off as a little arrogant, but that’s because, in every way, the Accord has nothing to prove.