2013 Honda Accord: Efficiency over emotion

2013 Honda Accord coupe front-three quarter viewHonda is rolling out a new version of its best-selling Accord for 2013. The old car delivered everything midsize sedan buyers could want (comfort, fuel economy, reliability), but not excitement. The new car may be easier to look at, but it still isn’t exciting.

As before, the ninth generation Accord will be offered as a sedan and a coupe. Both cars feature styling that is an evolution of the 2012 model’s. The Accord coupe, previewed by a concept at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, has a cleaner shape with headlights and taillights that are more in proportion with the rest of the car.

Possibly to give the coupe a more muscular feel, Honda added bulges in the corners of the front and rear fenders to house ditch lights. These don’t really fit with the rest of the design. Overall, the Accord coupe is nice but not striking, which is a problem since most people don’t buy a two-door car for its practicality.

The Accord sedan’s makeover was more successful, mostly because the 2013 model is less strange-looking than the 2012. The eighth generation Accord had headlights that appeared to bulge out at the sides from certain angles, and a weirdly angled belt line; it always seemed like you were looking at it through a funhouse mirror.

Both problems have been cured, giving the Accord a more upscale look. Also helping with that upscale feel are taillights that look like they were taken from a Hyundai Genesis.

Behind the bland styling are some important engineering tricks. The windshield wipers are flush, and the windshield is nearly flush. This, along with an under-body tray, should make the 2013 Accord more aerodynamic and help save fuel.2013 Honda Accord sedan front-three quarter view

As with any midsize car, the Accord will come with a choice of engines. Base models will get a 2.4-liter inline-four with 188 horsepower, mated to a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. The optional engine will be a 271 hp, 3.5-liter V6, with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Both engines are part of the “Earth Dreams” family, sort of a Honda counterpart to Mazda’s Skyactiv brand.

The new V6 gives the Accord a slight advantage over the Toyota Camry (268 hp), and a big lead over the 2013 Ford Fusion’s EcoBoost inline-four (237 hp). However, Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6 Altima has 270 hp, and the 2.0-liter turbocharged four in the Hyundai Sonata makes 274 hp.

The 2013 Accord will also feature a new plug-in hybrid model. In the past, Honda has focused on making hybrids cheaper and sportier with mixed success; this Accord hybrid should be all about fuel economy. The plug-in will have an electric-only range of 10 to 15 miles, and a battery-powered top speed of 62 mph. The Accord will go head-to-head with the Ford Fusion Energi, which can drive 21 miles on electricity alone.

Midsize cars like the Fusion, Sonata, and Mazda6 emphasize style as much as efficiency. The Accord eschews fancy styling for engineering precision. It may not be the most exciting car to look at, but if the 2013 Accord can deliver on Honda’s efficiency claims, it should be a sales success.

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