Honda has done well at keeping its Accord near the top of the ultra-competitive midsize-sedan category year after year. In fact, Honda sold more than 730,000 cars in 2012, and the Accord accounted for about 45 percent of those sales, making it the company’s most important nameplate by a long shot. In its class, the only car to sell more than the Accord last year was the Toyota Camry.
Redesigning the Accord is thus a big deal for Honda, and something that has to be done the right way. This is especially true at a time when the stakes couldn’t be higher thanks to the barrage of new midsize sedans that recently hit the market: the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima and Mazda 6.
Even an office full of enthusiasts could see how important the ninth-generation Accord is for the industry. Plus, it’s full of Honda firsts that we want to experience up close. So adding an Accord to our long-term fleet for a year was an easy decision, allowing us to see if the plethora of changes inside and out is enough to keep the car battling at the top of its class.
The updates begin with a new base 2.4-liter engine that gets direct injection for the first time, making 185 hp and 189 lb-ft of torque. As enticing as the available 278-hp V6 was, we opted to play the part of a typical Accord buyer and went with the volume four-cylinder.
Honda also added a continuously variable transmission, which replaces the outgoing five-speed torque-converter automatic as the optional gearbox on four-cylinder Accords. We’re not huge fans of CVTs for their often rubber band-like operation; how- ever, the Accord’s CVT is programmed with steps meant to mimic a regular gearbox, in hopes of eliminating that feeling. Over the course of the next year, we’ll decide for ourselves if Honda was successful.
Like most carmakers, Honda’s move to direct injection and CVTs is an attempt at upping fuel economy. Our car is rated at 27 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. That stacks up pretty well against other non-hybrids of the class; only the Nissan Altima comes in with a better rating—31 mpg combined compared to 30 for the Accord. Other firsts in an Accord are electric power steering and a MacPherson strut front suspension setup, the latter of which is a switch from double wishbone.
Dimensionally, the new Accord is smaller than the previous generation with a wheelbase 0.9 inch shorter and an overall length cut down by 3.5 inches. But the interior gains 0.5 cubic foot of space, and the trunk grows by 0.8 cubic foot.
Inside, Honda didn’t flop with the interior like it did with the 2012 Civic, which, thankfully, has been redone for 2013. Almost all of the major surfaces are soft-touch materials with a quality look. The styling surely doesn’t jump out at you, but it isn’t ugly.
Honda also addressed an admitted area of weakness—cabin noise. To quiet matters, the Accord employs active noise cancellation in hopes of sealing things up better from road and wind banter.
When choosing our long-termer, we decided on the Accord EX-L trim with navigation, wrapped in what Honda calls Champagne Frost pearl paint. Truth be told, it looked much better on the com-puter screen. Inside, the ivory-colored interior has a leather-trimmed steering wheel and seats. Both front seats are heated and power adjustable, too.
Technology includes Bluetooth, satellite radio, a USB audio interface and an 8-inch touschreen; sound is provided by a seven-speaker, 360-watt system.
One available feature that we certainly couldn’t pass up is Honda’s new Lane Watch system, which vigilantly monitors two lanes of your right-side blind spot and prominently displays a reporting image on the central screen.
These are also included: an in-car interface that works with Android and iPhone devices, forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control.
The exterior of the EX-L trim comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED brake lights, and chrome on the door handles and the exhaust tip—all making for a sportier appearance. The heated side mirrors have integrated turn indicators, and we couldn’t say no to a power moonroof.
Our Honda may not be the flashiest, quickest, most enthusiastic car on the road, but the Accord has a well-earned history of being a practical, efficient and safe choice in its category.
We are looking forward to seeing how it handles road trips, day-to-day life and the inevitable wear and tear of being in our long-term fleet for the next year.
Most importantly, though, we’ll be able to see if Honda’s redesign is enough to keep the Accord ahead of the pack.
2013 HONDA ACCORD EX-L NAVI SEDAN
Pricing & Oprions Base (includes $795 delivery): $30,790 As-tested price: $30,790 Options: None
Dimensions Wheelbase: 109.3 in Track (in): 62.4 front, 62.3 rear Length/width/height (in): 191.4/72.8/57.7 Curb weight/GVWR (lb): 3,365/4,321
Engine Transverse 2.4-liter/144-cid DOHC I4 Power: 185 hp @ 6400 rpm Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm Compression ratio: 11.1:1 Fuel requirement: 87 octane
Drivetrain Front-wheel drive Transmission: Continuously variable transmission Final drive ratio: 3.238:1
Suspension Front: MacPherson strut with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar Rear: Multi-link with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar
Brakes/Wheels/Tires Vented discs front and solid discs rear, ABS with EBD; aluminum 215/55 R17 Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max
Fuel Mileage EPA city/hwy/combined: 27/36/30 mpg
TRACK TEST DATA
Standing-start Acceleration 0-60 mph: 7.6 sec 0-quarter mile: 15.9 @ 92.5 mph
Braking 60-0 mph: 135.8 ft
Handling 490-ft slalom: 42.4 mph Lateral acceleration (200-ft skidpad): 0.76 g
Interior Noise (DBA) Idle: 37.3 Full throttle: 71.3 Steady 60 mph: 61.2