There are no laurels to rest upon in the midsize sedan segment this year. 2013 will be a cutthroat year of competition with the top four-doors stepping out as new or recently new. The choices include the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and today’s test car, the 2013 Honda Accord
I’ve driven all except the Mazda and the Accord muscles its way to the front of the segment with an invigorating redesign and obsessive attention to detail. It is a well thought-out package of new engines, interior refinement like never before and driver-assist technologies that motorists will value.
The new Accord is a little smaller on the outside – 3.5 inches shorter on a wheelbase that is less than an inch shorter – but roomier inside with more trunk space. The exterior styling isn’t as dramatic as the Ford Fusion, but all angles are good and lean. There’s also more creative design inside. And the interior plastics and fabrics are superior with assembly that will silence nitpickers.
There are five trim levels (all front-wheel drive) with four-cylinder or V-6 engines and three transmissions. (A plug-in hybrid Accord launches in early 2013 followed by a dual-mode hybrid next summer).
Starting prices range from $22,470 with six-speed manual transmission to about $35,000 for the loaded V-6 with six-speed automatic transmission. Prices include the $790 freight charge from Marysville, Ohio.
I tested the midrange EX-L with navigation system, which includes all of the latest technologies for a reasonable $30,785.
This is a curb-to-50 car. It looks good up close and takes just 50 feet of a test drive to know that it isn’t the same old thing.
The electric steering is a standout for its precise touch and highway stability. Credit the stiffer chassis for that, which benefits everything attached to it, particularly the suspension. Ride quality is smooth and tender with mostly graceful transitions but head-toss can be noticeable when fording speed bumps or angled driveways.
The cabin is also quieter than ever before, in part to the solid foundation but also to Active Noise Control and Active Sound Control. Microphones and a processor use the audio speakers to counteract engine noise and sweeten the high-rpm engine sound.
The driver area has been toned down and is less overwhelming with fewer buttons. Sightlines are good over the hood and shoulders, with increased awareness from the standard back-up camera with guidance lines. The back seat area is raised and relaxing with doors that open wide. Trunk space looks enormous (15.5 cubic feet) with a wide opening. The fabric headliner, soft leather and flowing design elements have a tidy, tailored finish.
There is a full suite of standard safety features on the EX – including forward collision warning and lane departure warning – but the slickest awareness trick is the Lane Watch camera in the passenger-side mirror. Looking to the rear, it activates whenever the turn signal is used and gives a broad view of the lane. Cars, motorcycles and bicyclists are no longer in a blind spot. The camera also can be manually switched on for an ongoing rear side view. These cameras are real-world safety features that are better than eyes in the back of the driver’s head.
Fuel economy is also improved with a new direct-injection, 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, and a significantly updated 3.5-liter V-6. The four-cylinder is paired with a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic with a Sport mode. The 2.4 gives lively response and has strong cruising power with mileage ratings of 27 city, 36 highway and 30 combined. The onboard computer claimed I was getting 23 mpg combined using Sport mode. There is also an Eco mode that blunts acceleration – and fun.
The 278-hp V-6 with six-speed automatic (up from a five-speed last year) has fuel economy of 21/34 mpg city/highway and 25 combined.
Midsize sedans are like chocolate-chip cookies. There are no bad ones, but some are better than others. The Accord, which shares some foundational elements with the Acura TL, feels as if it were built to luxury standards. And no matter the vehicle, it’s always better to start with luxury than build up to it.
Louisville Kentucky Honda Dealer
Bob Montgomery Honda