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First Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Returns to the Top of the Class (Review)

2013_Honda_Accord_Review
The midsize sedan segment is one of the biggest segments in the U.S. with models like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu all vying for the the sales crown. The competition in 2013 is going to get even hotter with all-new versions of the Accord, Altima, Fusion and Malibu all entering the market. The 2013 Malibu and Altima are already in showrooms, but this month Honda's most important model, the Accord hits the market. How does it compare against the rest of the segment and does it holds it own against new stylish models like the Fusion and Hyundai Sonata? Check out our review to find out...

2013_Honda_Accord_Review

How Does It Look?
In the 1990's and 2000's most of the midsize sedan segment was pretty bland with models like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Taurus dominating the segment. But midsize sedan buyers no longer want a simple three-box design and automakers like Hyundai and Ford have answered this call. The current Hyundai Sonata shocked everyone with its sexy styling when it was released for the 2011 model year. Ford's all-new 2013 Fusion has also taken a huge step forward in the styling department with a face that would look at home on an Aston Martin sedan. So where does that leave the new Accord?

Well for starters, when the first photos of the all-new Accord were released many of the initial comments were that it was bland and the styling of its exterior was far inferior to that of Hyundai and Ford's midsize sedans. Although the new Accord is not nearly as aggressively styled as some other sedans in its lineup, its looks are far more refined than the outgoing Accord. The styling is somewhat of an evolution of the outgoing Accord, but manages to exude a level of classiness that some other sedans fail to offer.

2013_Honda_Accord_Review

If you keep in mind that Honda's styling over the years always tends to be on the more conservative side, then you shouldn't be shocked that Honda decided to not take a page from Hyundai's styling book. One Honda exec also stated that they designed the car to look good for up to 10 years. If you still want something a bit more aggressive, Honda's new plug-in hybrid actually gets the most aggressive styling out of the Accord sedan and coupe models.

2013_Honda_Accord_EX-L_V-6_Sedan int

What's the Interior Like?
On the inside everything is styled as it should be without any aggressive shapes or materials. One big change is that Honda took note when the previous Accord was criticized for having way too many buttons on the center stack. Honda has simplified this for the 2013 model year. On navigation equipped models you also get two center screens on the dash with the top 8-inch screen showing the navigation system, Bluetooth info and Honda's new LaneWatch system. The lower screen is a touchscreen that is used for the audio system, Bluetooth and Honda's new HondaLink system. All Accords also now come standard with dual zone automatic climate control, auto headlights a backup camera and cruise control.

On the outside the new Accord is actually over three inches shorter than the outgoing model, but that doesn't translate into a smaller interior. Rear legroom increases over an inch, both front and rear shoulder room increase, and trunk space is up over a cubic foot. Honda also took note that many reviews of the past Accord said that the interior was too loud. For the new Accord, the dashboard is now made out of one piece to reduce annoying squeaks and more foam was added to keep the outside noise from entering the cabin. An active noise cancellation system also works to cancel out any noise that does enter the cabin. On our drive though Santa Barbara, the interior was definitely more quiet than past Accords. Honda also had a new Altima on hand for us to compare the two back to back. Even though the Altima is new for 2013 as well, its interior was not as comfortable as the Accord's.

In terms of space, there was plenty of it. At one point during the press event for the new Accord, four adults managed to sit comfortably in the Accord while they sipped their wine and chatted it up (yes the car was parked). The only issue we had with the interior is the fact that Honda continues to offer a rear seat back that isn't split. It's either fully down covering all the seats or up. It would be nice if Honda split the rear seat back in the traditional 60/40 format.

2013_Honda_Accord_Review 2013 Honda Accord PHEV

The 2013 Accord is also the first Honda to get Honda's new HondaLink system, which is similar to systems like Ford's MyFordTouch system and Toyota's Entune system. The system connects to a user's smartphone to connect the Accord with music and media resources such as Aha by Harman, internet apps, roadside assistance. The system also features Pandora internet radio and an SMS text messaging feature. You can even connect it to your Twitter and Facebook pages to check updates while you're on the road.

The Accord also gets new safety technology like Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control. The 8-inch screen also connects to a camera underneath the passenger side mirror to give you a clearer view of what is on the side of you. The same screen also connects to the standard backup camera.

2013 Honda Accord EX Sedan_2.4L

What's it Got Under the Hood?
For the 2013 model year Honda is offering two powertrains and three transmissions, while the 2014 model year will see the addition of the plug-in Accord and Accord hybrid models. The Accord four-cylinder is powered by a 2.4L Earth Dreams four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft. of torque. If you choose the Accord Sport you will get an extra 4-horsepower for a total 189 horsepower. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a new CVT transmission. The four-cylinder and CVT combo will get 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

Unlike Hyundai, Ford and Chevy, Honda will continue to offer a V6 in its midsize sedan. The 2013 Accord is powered by a 3.5L V6 with 278 horsepower and 252 lb-ft. of torque. It can be mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Honda estimates that it will get 21 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission.

2013 Honda Accord 3.5 2014 Honda Accord PHEV Engine

After skipping a hybrid version for the outgoing Accord, Honda is going to offer two hybrid powertrains to the new Accord. Unlike the previous Honda Accord Hybrid that used a V6 mated to an electric motor, the new one uses gets a more efficient four-cylinder engine. Early next year the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid will launch with a new 2.0L four-cylinder that is mated to a two motor plug-in hybrid system. The system puts out a total 196 horsepower and can drive up to 15 miles in full electric mode. The Accord plug-in hybrid will also take less than an hour to fully recharge using a 240-volt outlet.

Next summer Honda will release a Accord two-motor hybrid.

2014_Honda_Accord_PHEV

How Does it Drive?
If you are let down by the Accord's somewhat conservative exterior, you shouldn't be disappointed with how it drives. We drove all three of the Accord's powertrains and each one impressed.

Four-Cylinder Accord: As the volume model in the Accord lineup, the 2.4L powered Accord is near the top of the class in terms of power, fuel economy and its overall driving experience. Many of us were worried when Honda decided to use a CVT instead of a traditional automatic transmission, but no need to worry. It's still a little weird to not have the normal shift feeling, but at least the CVT isn't plagued by the elastic feel of earlier CVTs. It's feel is on par with the Nissan Altima.

Six-Cylinder Accord: The Accord V6 was an absolute joy to push hard in the back country roads in Santa Barbara. The suspension can be a bit firm at times, but we prefer it's overall feel over softer riding models like the Camry and Sonata. Its power comes on smooth and the six-speed automatic with its extra cog performed as it should. We had a quick spin in the V6 Accord coupe with its six-speed manual. It was a great drive, but it would be nice if it had a bit more sport injected into the equation.

Accord Plug-In Hybrid: Honda only had a few Accord PHEVs on hand for us to drive, so out of the three different Accords, we spent the least time in the plug-in hybrid. The Accord PHEV's hybrid system switches seamlessly between full EV mode, hybrid and full engine power. We didn't even really notice which mode it was in on our quick drive. Unlike some other hybrids in the segment, the Accord PHEV's power was strong. Thanks to the extra power from the electric motor, the PHEV was a little more fun to drive than the standard four-cylinder Accord.

Would We Buy One?
The 2013 Accord starts $21,680 and with the $790 destination fee, its starting price is just over $22,000. With more standard equipment like Bluetooth and automatic climate control, the Accord is a better value than before. As long as you are ok with the more conservative, yet refined styling, the Accord should be near the top of the midsize sedan segment.


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