Honda Accord — Big step forward

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Honda has done a creditable job with the all-new Accord, a sedan that should keep it at or near the top of the sales charts in the mid-sized segment. The 2013 Accord features a fuel-efficient drivetrain that offers solid performance, better handling traits than its predecessor, stretch-out room — front and back — for full-sized adults, and an overall pleasing driving demeanor.

The ninth-generation Accord feels lighter and more agile and is back on track as a true family sedan that is actually slightly smaller than the ponderous, previous generation sedan. And you’ll find the new Accord with an affordable price starting of $22,470.

After hundreds of miles behind the wheel of a mid-level EX model we decided the Accord's best feature is its new drivetrain. For the first time the Accord gets a continuously variable transmission (CVT) mated to Honda's first-ever direct-injection four-cylinder engine.

If you think a CVT is a step backward, look at it from Honda's perspective. Fuel mileage is everything these days and the engine/transmission combination gives the Accord a solid rating of 27 mpg city, 36 highway and 30 combined, putting it second in the segment, trailing only the 2013 Nissan Altima, which also operates with a CVT.

And the real kicker here is that Honda got it right. We don't think you will be disappointed with the new engine that develops 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque (eight more horsepower and 20 more pound-feet than 2012). It can propel the sedan from 0-to-60 in around 7.5 seconds. And the CVT, which has simulated up shifts, feels enough like an automatic in around-town driving to fool most people. But like all CVTs, when you get on it for merging or passing it winds out seemingly forever until you lift your foot.

For those who desire more performance, Honda continues to offer its 3.5-liter V-6, upgraded for 2013 with 278 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. It starts at $30,860 and offers 0-to-60 time of around 6 seconds. Gas mileage is outstanding considering the top-notch performance — 21 city, 34 highway and 25 combined.

We found the ride and handling of the new Accord on par and then some with the mainstream in the segment with its all-new chassis, a new steel and aluminum front sub-frame and new electric power steering. It definitely fits into the category of an “all-day car," meaning you could spend the day driving and still not be tired.

The instrument panel contains a pair of large, circular dials and the information they display can be easily read from the passenger’s side as well. Among new interior technology is “Intelligent” Multi-Information Display (i-MID), standard Bluetooth HandsFreeLink with audio streaming, touch screen audio, standard dual-zone automatic climate control, standard rearview camera with guidelines, available Adaptive Cruise Control and a pile of other goodies including a right side rearview camera that is activated by turning on your right turn signal. Audiophiles are accommodated by a very good standard system and an even better optional one.

Other appreciated features are the amount of redundant controls that are located on the steering wheel, and an adjustable telescoping wheel with tilt function. There’s a lot of available storage space and it all backs up to a large cargo volume of 15.8 cubic feet.

The Accord's new slimmer styling is definitely a step up from the previous iteration, although it might not reach head-turning status. The grille has the Honda familial appearance that resembles a stylish Honda Pilot. A rear three-quarter rakish side view is the car's most attractive stance. Wheel well flares and sweeping wraparound taillamps enhance the styling.

On the downside, we found the new Accord disappointing in its lack of emotion. Of course there's something to be said about owning a car that is exceptionally reliable, easy to drive and can flawlessly carry out the transportation demands of family life. And we can't fault Honda for not venturing too far from the mainstream with their best-selling vehicle.

As before, the Accord is also available as a sporty coupe. In addition to the two aforementioned engine choices, the Accord will be offered as a hybrid going on sale sometime early in 2013 as a 2014 model.

The Accord comes in six trim levels offering good value at the base LX end and with a host of modern automotive features and at the high end with the muscular V-6 engine. Prices range from $22,470 to $34,220. Our EX test car was very well equipped without options for $26,195 including their trick right hand mirror.

Base price: $22,470; as drive, $26,195
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 185 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque; 181 foot-pounds @ 3,900 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: continuously variable
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 191.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,358 pounds
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 36 highway, 27 city
0-60: 7.5 seconds (Edmund's)
Also consider: Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry

The Good
• Excellent performance from 4-cylinder
• Top fuel economy
• Roomy, attractive interior

The Bad
• Unemotional transportation

The Ugly
• CVT may put some people off