Fine Accord masters the fine art of blending in …
Honda’s Accord has become the generic family sedan in America, the car everyone’s neighbor owns. It’s a good value, an excellent performer, but it blends in.
So you’ll likely never notice the 2013 model, but you may want to own one.
While Toyota has added a touch of styling flair to its formerly vanilla Camry and Ford has leaped forward with its new Fusion design, Honda stays with its safe, bland look, coupled with mechanical excellence. This deep rooted philosophy at Honda caused the company to deliver a less than stellar Civic for 2012, necessitating that it immediately be remade for 2013.
Luckily Accord isn’t broken, so Honda doesn’t need to fix it. A little sheet metal creativity would be welcomed though. For 2013 the revamped Accord sedan is 3 inches shorter, taking away some of its size and bulkiness that made the last version a full-size car.
It still rides on a pleasant 109.3-inch wheelbase though, and that, coupled with its independent four-wheel suspension that now uses struts up front instead of a control-arm system, delivers a smooth, controlled ride. Traction and stability control also are standard.
Handling remains light and smooth and fairly responsive, in keeping with Honda’s tradition that has made Accord such a strong seller. Many mid-size to larger sedans push the upper 3,000-pound range, while Accord remains a svelte 3,267 pounds.
What impressed most though was the car’s overall smoothness and refinement, brought home by an incredibly quiet, luxury style quiet interior. Honda uses active noise cancelation in Accord. That, along with the strong, quiet operation of its 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a dreamy six-speed manual transmission, aids Accord’s luxury feel. If all manual’s were hot-knife through butter smooth like Honda’s more folks would go for a manual.
Honda’s engine is strong, delivering 185 horses, so zipping up to highway speeds is easy, especially with the 6-speed manual. The overall feel is smooth and capable, not unlike an Acura. A CVT (continuously variable transmission) is available too, but I can’t speak to its efficiency and feel, not having driven one yet.
Traditionally a CVT helps gas mileage though, and the Accord with CVT is rated 27 mpg city and 36 highway by the EPA, while the tested EX mid-level model I had was rated 24 mpg city and 34 highway. I got an impressive 27.4 mpg in about 60% highway and 40% city driving. Regular unleaded is all that’s required too. I used the car’s Eco mode much of the time because it didn’t seem to affect acceleration dramatically. In most cars, restricting the engine’s power makes the vehicle seem pokey. Not here!
The “modern steel” dark gray EX model I tested featured black cloth interior with brushed black plastic trim on the doors and dash and pewter-look trim around the two larger center stack control clusters. The dash boasted a black textured finish and the steering wheel was textured plastic. That felt a bit cheap. I’d prefer a leather-wrapped wheel.
The dash is well laid out though and the interior is roomy, easily carrying four adults. A fifth passenger will fit in back if the other two aren’t wide bodies. Plus the sedan is easy to get in and out of with good head and legroom. I did notice my left knee was a bit close to the steering column, although I never bumped it during my test drive. Further on the practical front, Accord’s trunk is an impressive 16.0 cubic feet.
Standard features also include a tilt/telescope steering wheel with radio, phone and cruise controls on its hub, automatic headlights and push-button start. There’s a video screen mid-dash too for radio, clock and trip computer readouts. But there are big buttons below the screen to control the radio, so no touchy touchscreen system. Only the radio volume control knob is a little smaller than I’d like.
Below all that is the dual climate control system, again with large, easy-to-use buttons.
Seats are well shaped and supportive, especially on the sides, but tend toward the firm side. Moving up to leather seats may help that, but test drive both before you decide which works for you.
Accord’s EX model is one up from the base LX and adds a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, while the passenger’s seat remains manual. EX also adds a sunroof, heated side mirrors with turn signals, speed-sensing radio volume control and a 160-watt audio system with six speakers, vs. four in the LX.
Another plus in the EX is Honda’s Lane Watch system that turns on a camera that shows the right side of the car and objects on that side. Flip on the right turn signal and the video screen shows what’s next to you on that side so you can avoid curbs, cars in your blind spot, etc. The screen also has a back-up camera linked to it, a good safety feature.
The tested EX lists at $24,605, or $25,395 including the destination charge. You can go a lot higher with EX-L models and the top-level Touring that starts at $33,430. To get a 3.5-liter V6 that creates 278 horses, and a 6-speed automatic, runs you $30,070.
A sleeper in the lineup may be the Sport model with 6-speed manual and the same 2.4-liter I4 as tested, but tuned to deliver 189 horses and a bit more torque. It starts at $23,390 and also gives you a leather-wrapped steering wheel, more precise steering and 18-inch alloy wheels. Note that Accord is available as a coupe too.
Final thoughts: Accord remains one of the finest sedans on the roads today and still at a value price in its lower trim levels. It’s dull to look at, but a winner to drive.
FAST Stats: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan EX MT
Hits: Silky smooth manual tranny, good power, ride and handling, plus extremely quiet interior. Good room for 4-5 adults, big trunk and well laid out dash and controls. Good gas mileage (Eco mode) and overall value.
Misses: Bland exterior, still, and seats are on the firm side.
Made in: Marysville, Ohio
Engine: 2.4-liter i-VTEC I4, 185 hp
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 3,267 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Cargo: 16.0 cu.ft.
Base Price: $24,605
Dealer’s Price: $22,517
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $25,395
Sources: Honda, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Honda