Numbers get tossed around the auto industry like fish at Pike Place, but after a while you begin to understand which ones are important and worth your attention, and which ones are not. For the 2013 Accord, Honda has a couple of numbers you should be paying attention to: nine and 36. The first refers to the generation of Accord that’s about to roll off the production line. This will be the ninth generation of Honda’s successful sedan. The second, well, that’s how many years the Accord has been around, which is a rather large accomplishment given the amount of models that come and go year in and year out.
But while Honda certainly deserves plaudits for its automotive milestones, the Japanese automaker faces stiffer competition than ever before. Quite frankly, it has seen its position challenged by relative newcomers Kia and Hyundai, as well as American competitors Ford and Chevy, with longtime rival Toyota still leading the group with its top-selling Camry. And with the mid-size segment such a crowded and competitive one these days, Honda is hoping the reinvigorated 2013 Accord will inject just the right mix of style, technology, and comfort in order to propel it to the forefront of the pack.
So how does the 2013 Honda Accord fair? We recently had a chance to test drive all three of the new Accord models coming out, which includes the 2013 Accord Sedan, 2013 Accord Coupe, and even the upcoming 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid. While our time with each model was too brief to provide a full review, first impressions of the latest Accord left a very favorable impression.
Older, but bolder
Easily the most important and significant changes for the 2013 model year Accord center on its new design. Honda has gone to great lengths to bring the styling cues of the ninth generation Accord in line with modern tastes and sensibilities. Here we have an Accord that looks more aggressive and athletic than ever before thanks to the its raked hood, available LED lighting, and sharply shaped front headlights. For added punch, Honda has incorporated some brightwork across the face of all models, with the Sedan featuring a dipping and thicker “U” shaped chrome bar; the Coupe sporting a thinner variety; and the 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid featuring a distinct front fascia all its own. While it still might not be the most visually impressive sedan on the market, the 2013 Honda Accord manages to blend just the right amount of style refinements that will begin to turn heads once again.
Smaller in stature, bigger on comfort
You can’t really tell from the naked eye, but the latest Accord has had its dimensions reduced for the 2013 model year. Both the Sedan and Coupe are shorter in length from last year’s version, but thankfully that doesn’t translate into a cramped cabin. On the contrary, there is a real sense of space both up front and in the rear passenger seats, with the level of comfort remaining superb throughout.
Despite its smaller stature, the 2013 Accord sees certain interior dimensions grow. Rear legroom has increased over an inch, both front and rear shoulder room has also improved, while cargo space has swelled to 15.8 cubic feet, up from last year’s 14.7.
Recently, Honda took heavy criticism for the materials it used in the 2012 Civic, but that blemish on Honda’s otherwise stellar record for build quality has been erased for 2013. The plastics used for the dash and center console never appear cheap, and Honda’s redesigned interior shines with quality. Think of it as a simplified and subdued style, but one that never approaches dull.
That said, a few questionable aesthetic choices do stand out. Most notably, a shiny, speckled finish surrounding the new touchscreen system (standard on all models) reminded us of the psychedelic-looking material used on stools in a 1970s bowling alley, and brings down an otherwise solid cabin. And while both the sedan and coupe versions we drove sported rich leather seats, we’re not sure customers will exactly dig the smart “biofabric” in the PHEV version simply because it isn’t as luxurious, and while we don’t know the price for the 2014 Accord Plug-in hybrid, we imagine it will be in the somewhere in the region where leather is a standard feature. That’s not to say the biofabric feels or looks cheap, just that we see most longing for cowhide instead.
A “smarter” Accord
If you want more than just a sprinkle of technology in your car, the 2013 Accord will bring a smile to your face, both virtual and otherwise, with a wide array of tech features that help to keep you connected and comfortable. Virtually everything you need is here and, more importantly, easy to use. There is a USB audio port for easy iPod connectivity, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink for wireless music streaming services and hands-free calling, a nifty backup camera, and, as we mentioned before, Honda’s new touchscreen interface with built-in Pandora radio interface. Pairing your phone through Bluetooth is easy too and allows for a simple, yet handy, SMS text feature that will read an incoming text out loud and allow you to respond with preset messages.
Sitting atop the new audio touchscreen is a Honda’s new “intelligent” eight-inch Multi-Information Display (i-Mid), which provides a wide array of technical information and comes in two varieties: a standard WQVGA (480 x 320 pixel) screen for trims without navigation, and an upgraded high-resolution WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) display for those that do. Here you can view fuel economy, Bluetooth audio functions, and even upload pictures using a USB thumb drive and change the i-MID’s background display.
Honda has crammed a lot of cool tech features into its new Accord, but it’s not all about keeping you connected. The new 2013 Accord also debuts two safety features new to the storied nameplate. The first is a blindspot monitoring system Honda calls LaneWatch. This new feature comes standard on the EX, EX-L, and new Touring trim Sedan models, and on the EX-L Coupe. It utilizes a small camera placed beneath the passenger side’s exterior mirror and relays that image to the i-MID display whenever you activate the right turn signal. The second is an active Lane Departure Warning system (LDW) that sets off both visual and audible cues if you start drifting out of your lane. Of the two, the LaneWatch system was our favorite and proved the most useful. The LDW system, while helpful, can become somewhat annoying when you even remotely begin to leave your lane, but thankfully you can turn it off.
By far the biggest, and most hyped, addition to the 2013 Accord is the new HondaLink system. Accessed through your smartphone, HondaLink allows drivers free access to cloud-based services such as various apps, music, and information services. Initially, Honda will be partnering with Harman and its Aha service. Users will be able to curate and organize their favorite Web content including Internet radio services like Slacker. Honda has stressed personalization as a key factor in its new HondaLink system, so while Aha by Harman is the first HondaLink resource to be offered, more services are set to expand the functionality down the road. Sadly, we were only given an out-of-car tech demo, but from what we saw the HondaLink service looks like it will offer an extensive display of features drivers wishing to stay connected will surely appreciate. For social-media types, Aha will even read allow your Twitter and Facebook news feeds, although there are some limitations like not reading aloud sport scores. HondaLink will be available in EX-L and above Accord Sedan and EX and above Coupe models.
Powering the newest generation
For the 2013 Accord Sedan, customers can choose between a new direct-injected 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor, and an Earth Dreams 3.5-liter V6. Transmission choices for the base 2.4-liter engine will consist of a newly developed automatic CVT or six-speed manual, while the 3.5-liter V6 will only be available with a six-speed automatic. For the 2013 Accord Coupe, powertrain options remain the same, but gear-shifters will be happy learn that a six-speed manual makes it way into the lineup.
We’ll start with the new direct-injected 2.4-liter i-VTEC inline four-cylinder found in the base Accord and fitted with Honda’s new CVT. Easily the best thing about the CVT was just how quickly we forgot it was a CVT. Generating 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, the new Accord provided a great deal of power without sacrificing efficiency. In fact, not only were gear changes smooth and consistent, but fuel has economy increased to 27 mpg in the city, 36 highway, and 30 mpg combined with the CVT, which is up from last year’s 23/34/27.
Of course for those that require a greater degree of sportiness in their life there is the 2013 Accord Coupe. Our test drive with the two-door featured Honda’s 3.5-liter V-6 producing 278 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed automatic. Naturally, fuel economy suffers due to the pulse-pounding V6, but numbers remain respectable depending on what transmission you’re rocking. Honda has implemented a new Variable Cylinder Management system (VCM) on V6 models with automatic transmission with fuel economy for these models sitting at 21/32/25, while a six-speed manual without VCM will see those numbers drop to 18/28/22. Without a doubt, at this point it becomes a question of driving pleasure over practicality, which is a shame because our time in the V6 Coupe was all about the former.
Our final test drive saw us clamber into the upcoming 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid, which houses a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and Honda’s two-motor hybrid system. Drivers can choose between three modes of driving: all-electric, gasoline-electric, and direct to drive. All-electric mode yields a range of 10 to 15 miles from the 6.7 kWh lithium-ion battery, which is coupled to a using a 124 kW electric motor. Charge times for the PHEV will be similar to the Prius Plug-in, with Honda saying it will take three hours for a full charge using a standard 120-volt outlet, and less than one hour using a 240-volt charger.
The veteran takes to the road
On the road there is a lot to like about the 2013 Honda Accord. A great deal of effort on Honda’s part has been taken to improve handling dynamics and road manners, and it starts with a retooled and redesigned chassis. Replacing the old double-wishbone system is a lighter, more advanced MacPherson strut up front and multi-link rear suspension, which affords the 2013 Accord with a greater sense of competence on the road. The 2013 Accord also utilizes a new aluminum and steel front subframe that translates to less road noise and vibration harshness. Alloy wheels are now standard on both the Coupe and Sedan, and range in size from 16 inches to 18 inches.
Altogether the 2013 Accord handles smoothly and provides a quiet and competent cabin, which drivers have come to expect and appreciate from Honda. Our only complaint, however, is the move to the new electric power steering system (EPS) from the old hydraulic assists of the previous Accord. While not everyone will agree, the new EPS feels stinted and numb; depriving us of that tactile feedback and precision we have come to appreciate. Still, those that desire less steering effort will likely appreciate the feel and stability the EPS provides.
Without a doubt the 2013 Honda Accord is the best Accord model the Japanese automaker has delivered. The visual overhaul, improved ride dynamics, and new tech features alone make it a strong choice in an increasingly competitive segment. Add to that improved fuel economy and an aggressive base price ($21,680 for the six-speed manual and $22,480 for the CVT) and consumers looking for a new mid-size car will simply have to consider the new Accord.
Honda’s work isn’t done, though. While the good far outweighs the bad in the 2013 Accord, Honda really needs to push the envelope further. There is no arguing that the 2013 Accord looks sharp, but we really want to see more from the Big H. It has added plenty advanced tech features, but that willingness to innovate needs to start translating into its design language, especially if it wants to retain its relevancy in a market that has continued to criticize its stylistic efforts.
Of course, the hard truth remains: The auto industry is changing, and the traditional base of power brands like Toyota and Honda have enjoyed are constantly being challenged. The 2013 Accord is a great start for Honda, but it can’t stop here.
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