With a 36-year history of pleasing drivers, the ninth generation Honda Accord has a lot to live up to.
And it does.
Redesigned for 2013, the Accord features an array of mechanical advances and a new way of keeping its passengers safe.
Once the best-selling car in America, the Accord is a chronic threat to the perennial sales leader, the Toyota Camry, and prey to the relentless Nissan Altima and the equally aggressive Hyundai Sonata.
This is the vast, ultracompetitive, midsize car market, where second prize seems to be a set of steak knives. Oh, did we mention that the highly appealing Chevrolet Malibu Eco and ever-developing Ford Fusion play in this league?
Like others in this class, excepting the Sonata, the Accord comes with 4-cylinder or V6 engines with manual, automatic or continuously variable transmissions. The 2013 Accord Sport that made the review circuit came with the 2.4-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine with the CVT transmission.
Honda's first use of direct injection in a North American model contributes to the 2.4-liter engine's fuel efficiency of 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The frugal fuel consumption brings annual refills to about $1,850, saving the owner $2,350 over five years compared to the average new vehicle.
Honda's design on the CVT produces a more immediate acceleration response than you might expect from conventional automatics. Among the competition, Nissan is most known for its CVT transmissions. The belt-driven CVTs eliminate shift points, giving the driver more constant acceleration in passing situations and more engine control of the speed while heading downhill. Some traditionalists who were raised on automatics suffer an aversion to CVTs.
If you demand more than 189 horses whipped up by the 4-cylinder engine, you can option up to the 3.5-liter, 278-horsepower V6 that can be mated to a six-speed automatic or, in the V6 Coupe, a six-speed stick.
Early in 2013, Honda will introduce the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid with a new 2-liter, 4-cylinder, two-motor plug-in hybrid system. Available in the Sedan only, the system operates continuously through three modes -- all-electric, gasoline-electric and direct-drive. Obviously, this car will compete the Chevrolet Volt and, perhaps, quiet critics of the more innovative forms of fuel efficiency.
The new Accord Sport targets younger buyers with the addition of 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, 10-way power driver's seats, a deck lid spoiler, dual chrome exhaust finishers and paddle shifters on CVT models. The chassis features a stiffer tower strut bar and exclusive suspension and steering tuning.
Positioned between the Accord LX and EX, the Sport is priced $23,390 plus a destination and handling charge.
Accord Touring version with V6 is also new for 2013. Equipped with Honda's first LED headlights and adaptive cruise control, the Accord Touring sedan is more of a near-luxury model at $33,430.
New technologies include Hondas first use of a cloud-based HondaLink system featuring "Aha," which supplants the smart phone.
Perhaps the most significant safety advance is Honda LaneWatch blind-spot display, which uses a camera in the passenger-side mirror to view the passenger-side roadway and display the image on the Accord's 8-inch color video screen on the dash. As someone who is constantly checking the side mirrors and worried about blind spots, this driver is thrilled at this development. LaneWatch is standard equipment on EX and above versions of the sedan, and EX-L versions of the Coupe.
If the Accord Sport has a weakness, it may be the rather predictable interior design that fails to dazzle. Nissan's new Altima has a more luxurious interior, while the Accord features a handsomely chiseled exterior.
The sedan is available in nine exterior colors, including four metallic and five pearl colors. New colors include Champagne Frost Pearl, Hematite Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic and Obsidian Blue Pearl.
2013 HONDA ACCORD SPORT
TYPE: Front-drive, five-passenger, midsize sedan.
PRICE: $24,190 base, $24,980 as tested.
WHERE BUILT: Marysville, Ohio.
KEY RIVALS: Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion.
POWER: 2.4-liter, 189-horsepower, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine; continuously variable automatic transmission with sport mode.
FUEL ECONOMY: 26 city, 35 highway, 29 combined mpg; estimated annual fuel cost $1,850; fuel savings of $2,350 over five years compared to average new vehicle.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 191.4 x 72.8 x 57.7 inches.
WHEELBASE X TRACK: 109.3 x 62.4 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,342 pounds.
STANDARD: 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, 10-way power driver's seats, deck lid spoiler, dual chrome exhaust finishers, multi-information display, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with four speakers, cruise control, power disc brakes with ABS/EBD/VSA, front/side/head-curtain air bags.
Email Richard Williamson at motorfriend(at)sbcglobal.net