2013 Honda Accord EX

At low points in the past few years, we’ve doubted Honda, but the big H is back. The new Accord is a convincing reminder of the company’s core values and, considering all that Honda has been through with an earthquake that smashed its Tochigi R&D center and floods in Thailand that crimped production, a triumphant return to form.

Once again, Honda conducts a master class in packaging. Against its porcine predecessor, the ninth generation shrinks on the outside, yet the cabin dimensions vary hardly at all. The Accord still feels like the biggest car in the test, with two roomy and extra-comfortable front buckets and a back bench where you and two friends can stretch out. Moreover, the capacious trunk is one cubic foot larger than before.

The Accord also drives as if it’s constructed out of old-fashioned Honda Lightweightium. In fact, it’s not the lightest car here—partly because the spiffier EX trim includes a power sunroof—but it feels as if it is. The steering, brakes, and suspension work in harmonious balance to make the Accord seem agile and springy. Yes, instead of control arms it now has struts in the nose, but so does a Porsche Cayman. The Accord hustles through turns with fog-free steering, no complaint from the tires, and it never seems to be working very hard.

The 2.4-liter four likes to rev and boasts the most horsepower in this group, but not by much. It’s the CVT’s tuning that makes the Accord feel fleet. Honda has minimized the typical rubber-band delay, and the throttle responds curtly when you ask for acceleration (though sometimes with a bit of audible transmission whine at high revs). In mountain snakers as well as on city streets, the CVT works so efficiently that it all but disappears, and you never notice the lack of manual control. Of course, we’d prefer the six-speed stick, but finally, a belt-and-pulley transmission we can live with!

The dash is done to Honda’s familiar template of large, maxi-print gauges and many, many small buttons. Lacking navigation and the associated extra panel of controls, our EX had a deep what-not drawer hidden behind a clumsy plastic door. Lessons have been learned from the distressed Civic, though, and that door is the only off note in an interior that has been upgraded with softer materials and better sound insulation.

With a flat roof and a highly conservative rake to its glass, the Accord remains unapologetically a mid-size family car. You can complain about the design’s lack of sizzle, but not its practicality. The door openings are wide, the step-over sills are narrow, and the beltline is kept unfashionably low to create huge glass portals. If people don’t look at you because your vehicle is plain, at least you will see them.

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