FOR more than 30 years, the Honda Accord served North America as the bread-and-butter Japanese family car that offered great quality, superb engineering, high fuel economy and above-average practicality all mixed into an attractive package.
Year-in and year-out, it defined the midsize car segment as the Accord continued to improve. The all-new 2013 Accord sedan and coupe mark the beginning of the ninth generation of Honda's bestselling car, and without a doubt, the best version to hit our market.
Staying on top is never easy, and that's not about to change for 2013, since there are so many competitive models out there. These include the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and the Chevrolet Malibu. Also, let's not forget the new Toyota Camry that was released last year.
Honda has never shied away from a challenge, however. They keep their strategy simple and focus on giving buyers more of what they want while making the package look attractive. For 2013, Honda has pushed the Accord a little above the mainstream - thanks to its outstanding design and sharp styling. The idea is to poach sales from the higher end brands while flattering their loyal customers.
Honda claims that this car is "more luxurious, more sophisticated, better performing and better equipped than any other model in the Accord's 37-year history." The goal for 2013 was apparently to "advance the sense of luxury and craftsmanship . . . to the highest levels in their class." Well, that's a tall promise, but we are happy to report that - for the most part - Honda has achieved its goals and objectives.
The new Accord certainly looks leaner and more athletic. This is partly because for the first time ever, the 2013 model is actually smaller than its predecessor, with an overall length 3.6 inches shorter than before. While the exterior is not flashy by any standard, the new look is more dynamic and passionate. This is especially noticeable up front, where a larger grille and lower air inlets give it a brawny edge. However, down the sides, familiar body lines cut across the shoulders and sills.
With the sedan's smaller exterior, total passenger volume is just slightly less, but Honda has made the cabin more inviting with its higher class ideals. Head and hip room has decreased a little, but shoulder room is up and leg room remains the same in the front. In the back seat, leg room has been increased by more than an inch, and that's with a larger trunk that now holds 15.8 cubic feet of luggage. The overall feel is roomy and spacious.
Both available powertrains feature Honda's new Earth Dreams technology. The all-new 2.4-litre inline four boasts direct-injection for the first time in North America. It rates at 185 horsepower and 181 foot-pounds of torque and is available with a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. Also available is a heavily revised 3.5-litre V-6 with variable cylinder management that pushes 278 h.p. and 252 foot-pounds of torque through its six-speed automatic transmission.
Whether driving the coupe or sedan, both cars have that smooth, solid feel that millions of Accord owners have come to appreciate. Paddle shifters appear on the steering wheel for CVT models and there's a new camera-based blind spot display option which expands the rear view along the passenger side, improving safety. I was surprised how effective this safety feature was during my drive, and quickly learned to appreciate the "extra" measure of vision it provided throughout my daily commute.
As before, the 2013 Accord is a good long distance companion - it's generally quiet and at highway speeds the ride is silky smooth. The car feels like it costs twice its price.
That said, in the city it can feel a bit jittery on rough surfaces as the steering can feel a bit numb and artificial. The exception is the coupe, which offers higher road feel and an amazing level of handling.
So then, what is it like to drive the new Accord day-today? The best way to sum it up is that the Accord offers a totally relaxing environment. This is because the engines work effortlessly, the gear boxes are amongst the smoothest in the business, the seats are highly comfortable, the driving position is spot on and all-around visibility is perfect.
Unlike some other cars in this range, the dash is made of high quality, soft-touch materials. Everything within the cabin has that beautiful Honda feeling of solidity.
And it has decent practicality too, thanks to a large central storage space which is chilled by the air conditioning and also includes the USB input for your MP3 player. As for safety, you can get the Accord with a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning system, and cruise control that will apply the brakes in an emergency. These are features that are typically only offered on high-end luxury vehicles.
The 2013 Accord also showcases the new HondaLink system. This enables owners to keep in touch with their car and others by using an ever expanding suite of smart phone apps. Located high in the centre of the vastly improved dash is a large eight-inch interactive display. Navigation equipped models add a separate touchscreen for the audio controls to reduce button clutter. Dual automatic climate controls and rearview camera are now standard on all Accord models. These high tech devices work well for the most part, but the menu is busy and it is not always easy to figure out how to navigate through the system.
While Honda moved the Accord a little up-market, competition has allowed only a slight increase in base price. The sedan starts at $23,990 and the coupe begins at $26,290.
The added dollars bring standard features like a power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, rearview camera, eight-inch LED backlit display, Bluetooth, USB audio interface with text message and email capability, vehicle stability assist with traction control, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
Additional features, available as options or on higher trims, include HondaLink with audio touch screen, satellite navigation with 3D map display, LaneWatch blind spot display, forward collision warning system, lane departure warning system, multi-angle rearview camera, Eco Assist, and keyless entry.
Fuel efficiency ratings for four-cylinder models equipped with a manual transmission are 8.7 litres/100 kilometres city, 5.7 l/100 km highway and 7.4 l/100 km combined. The same engine with the CVT could see 7.8 l/100 km in the city, 5.5 l/100 km on the highway for 6.7 l/100 km combined.
Models with the 3.5-litre V-6 (only available with a six-speed automatic transmission) should experience fuel economy numbers of 9.7 l/100 km city, 5.7 l/100 km highway and 7.9 l/100 km combined.
The Honda Accord remains a great all-around family car. The new version feels upscale and drives like a car that costs twice as much. Thumbs down
Everything comes at a price and the Accord's new upscale appointments make it more expensive than some of its competitors. Not much else, really.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The 2013 Accord will please its loyal customers while creating interests for those who have traditionally looked for more luxury.
COMPETITORS TOYOTA CAMRY
With a base price of $23,700, the Camry and the Accord are very similarly priced. However, those searching for a V-6 can get one cheaper from Toyota, starting at $29,740.
Honda and Toyota will forever be competitors in North America, and there's little separating the Accord and the Camry from the basic driveability perspective. Honda does drive with a sportier character.
The new Fusion enters the market with a strikingly bold look. That's not the only thing going for it as its starting price is also less at $22,499.
The Fusion doesn't offer a V-6 option but AWD may be enough to sway some customers.
Nissan's new Altima has a base price of $23,698. The 2013 Altima also boasts a pretty impressive standard equipment list as well.
Nissan often provides a sportier alternative and the new Altima is no different.
THE Nissan Altima is a sporty offering that boasts an impressive list of features.