2013 Honda Accord: Smaller, but fine-tuned

The 2013 Honda Accord has never been about

The 2013 Honda Accord has never been about the "wow factor", but more the "smart factor." As such -- despite the smaller overall package -- there's actually more interior volume. (Credit: Honda)

Buyers expecting the ninth-generation Accord to be bigger and bolder will need to adjust their perspective concerning one of North America's most successful sedan and coupe lines.

The U.S-built (30 years and counting) Accord maintains a conservative presence, while undergoing a complete metamorphosis in style, features and running gear.

Paraphrasing Honda's styling director David Marek, the Accord's makeover started from the inside out to ensure that occupants were treated to as much room and style as possible. Reshaping the exterior included soliciting opinions from current Accord owners who made it clear they wanted a less bulky car that didn't sacrifice overall spaciousness. 

Sounds like a tall order, but Marek's design team appear to have delivered on virtually all counts. The 2013 Accord sedan is 3.5 inches shorter and loses nearly an inch between the front and rear wheels while gaining and a half-inch in width. At the same time, trunk space has increased by five percent, thanks in part to a more compact rear suspension.

The latest Accord that's now on sale appears more svelte, with none of the excessive front overhang that marred the previous generation. The look is more proportionally balanced and shows greater attention to detail in terms of styling execution. The "wow" factor remains lacking, but the sedan is far more pleasing to the eye than past efforts.

The coupe, on the other hand, already deemed a good looker, has undergone a more subtle transformation and remains one of the most appealing models of its type on the road.

Good looking also describes the Accord's new cabin. The artistically sculpted dashboard is a sensational piece and thankfully devoid of knob and switchgear clutter. Drivers will be particularly enamored with the clear and crisp white-on-black center gauges and the high-definition eight-inch multi-information display screen. All passengers are treated to more comfortable seating arrangements, with front-seaters enjoying more supportive buckets and an extra inch of valuable legroom for those in back.

Accords remain admirable road performers, with an enhanced feeling of sportiness and ride control. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder (labeled "Earth Dreams") makes 185 horsepower (189 for the Sport model), up from 177. The optional 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 gains a mere seven ponies.

Manual-transmission lovers should be pleased that the six-speed gearbox remains available with four-cylinder Accord sedans and up-level V6 coupes. A new continuously variable transmission (CVT) replaces the five-speed automatic option in all four-cylinder models, but a six-speed automatic is still the only choice for V6 sedans and base V6 coupes.

In explaining its CVT decision, Honda's stewards deemed it necessary to lower fuel consumption to more competitive levels, as in 27 mpg city and 36 highway. Those numbers are second only to the class-leading Altima's 27/38 rating.
In early 2013, Honda will introduce the Accord plug-in hybrid. In this format, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder is mated with a 124-kilowatt electric motor to produce 196 net horsepower. The plug-in travels 15 miles on electric-only power, can run on grid juice at speeds up to 60 mph and has a maximum 500-mile range. The clincher is it takes three hours - a relatively short time - on standard 120-volt house current to replenish the lithium-ion battery (about 10 minutes for a 50-percent charge), or about an hour using a 240-volt charger.

Honda plans to introduce a non-plug-in hybrid by mid-2013, giving the Accord a one-two punch in the eco-sedan category.

Gasoline Accords fall into LX, Sport (sedan only), EX, EX-L and Touring editions. At $22,500, the base LX is comprehensively equipped, including a rear-view camera, dual-zone AC and other niceties. From that point pricing heads north to the $34,200 Touring.

With plenty of new/refreshed models populating the sedan class for 2013, the Accord has girded its loins for battle and, armed with good looks and lower fuel consumption, should keep its loyal following solidly in the Honda camp.

What you should know: 2013 Honda Accord
Type: Two-/four-door, front-wheel-drive mid-size coupe/sedan
Engines (hp): 2.4-liter DOHC I4 (185-189); 3.5-liter SOHC V6 (278); 2.0-liter DOHC I4 with 124 kilowatt electric motor (196, net).
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic; continuously variable (hybrid)
Market position: The 2013 Accord is one of a slew of fresh and updated mid-size sedans, all touting improvements in style, technology, fuel economy and affordability. Buyers will have an interesting time picking their ideal vehicle.
Points: Accord's just-right redesign works well, but won't turn heads; Optional CVT works better than most, helps cut fuel costs; Upgraded cabin one of the best in class; Suspension upgrades turn Accord into a sporty sedan; Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Nissan, Mazda and VW offer mid-size V6 sedans for 2013 - Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai and Kia will not.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 27/36 (2.4, CVT);
Base price (incl. destination): $22,500

By comparison

Ford Fusion
Base price: $23,300 (est.)
New design will get attention.V6 replaced by EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder.

Nissan Altima
Base price: $22,300
Fuel-economy champ is new for 2013; CVT is the only transmission choice.

Chevrolet Malibu
Base price: $23,150
Handsome sedan cuts the flab, replaces V6 for partial hybrid option.
 

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