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While the Chevrolet Malibu and Toyota Camry have both lost some sense of direction; and the Nissan Altima, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata have all gained ground with new design and useful new features, it's the 2013 Honda Accord that's effectively cleaved the current group of mid-sizers in two.
With its most excellent base model, and exceptionally smooth V-6 edition, the Accord wows in the same ways it always has, and the latest edition introduced this model year is a return to form in many respects. But it's also less adventurous and somewhat less outgoing about its changes than some of the most successful offerings from Ford, Kia, Hyundai, even Volkswagen.
The Accord's major redesign this year has transformed it, in nearly every metric and dimension, for the better. Unlike many of those competitors, it's kept the V-6 on the table, while improving mileage and refinement across the board. It's also focused on interior space, and in a turnaround from the brand's recent features philosophy, now offers connectivity and safety-tech features on some of the volume models, not just the top-of-the-line trims.
Honda clearly walked that line between repeat-buyer expectations and finding its mojo with the current market when setting the 2013 Accord’s design and styling. The new look isn’t stunning or head-turning, but at the same time, it maximizes the greenhouse and looks especially interesting in side shots and closeups—and it isn’t at all slab-sided. Inside, Honda aims to make it luxurious and modern, and a rather low instrument panel—pushed as far forward, and out at the corners, to maximize space—but with important controls placed quite high within it. Coupes have essentially the same interior as sedans from the seats forward, but with a tail that has a little more of a lift at the back, for a wedgier, more dynamic stance. You give up some practicality, you gain a performance look.
All 2013 Accord models remain front-wheel drive, and in order to boost fuel economy, Honda is introducing a couple of all-new powertrains this year. First, Honda brings direct-injection engine technology to North America for the first time in models with the four-cylinder engine. You can choose from a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Honda claims, with its unique G-Design shift logic, “a more immediate acceleration response than conventional automatics or other CVT designs,” and that's true. Most four-cylinder Accords make 185 horsepower, while an Accord Sport model makes 189 hp. Otherwise, the V-6 model is definitely still alive in the Accord lineup. For 2013 it makes 278 hp and couples to a six-speed automatic transmission or (in Coupes only) a six-speed manual gearbox. All models include an Econ button that engages a set of fuel-saving measures like more conservative use of accessories and softened throttle response. Both engines run on regular unleaded gasoline and have impressive fuel economy ratings: 27 mpg city, 36 highway with the four-cylinder engine and CVT, and up to 21/34 with the V-6. That's not quite up to the base Nissan Altima, but almost.
Otherwise, the party loyal might find it a little unsettling that Honda has at last given up its worshipped double-wishbone setup in the Accord, instead opting for more tunable (and cheaper) MacPherson struts that it claims will improve ride and handling while cutting cabin noise and harshness. Honda also reduced weight and keeps away harshness with a new aluminum-and-steel front subframe and some careful underbody aerodynamic work. The Accord drives with much of the verve of previous editions, and the new electric power steering is particularly good.
While Honda has shortened the Accord just a bit, it's packaged better. Rear legroom increases about an inch, while shoulder room in front and in back is improved, and trunk space is not only larger but the cargo floor is now flat. And a couple of design traits that Honda draws attention to—the near-level beltline and ample window glass, with thinner-than typical front and rear pillars—should not only keep your rear passengers from needing Dramamine but also helps you stay safe with a better view outward. Our only letdowns regarding the interior is that the rear seat folds forward in one clunky piece, and the dual-screen layout you get in some trims comes with a confusing control set.
All 2013 Accord models come with four-wheel disc brakes, including Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, plus stability control, and hill start assist. And in addition to all the expected airbags, the Accord features a new SmartVent technology for its side airbags that eliminates the need for fussy occupant-position detection systems. Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Adaptive Cruise Control systems are all available on the Accord, and a cool new LaneWatch Blind Spot Display provides a wide view of the passenger side of the vehicle on the Multi-Information Display (i-MID) screen—a feature that should be very useful in avoiding mishaps when changing lanes with a full vehicle or distractions. Crash-test results have been nearly perfect as well, with the new IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, as well as a five-star overall score from the federal government.
Honda has been criticized for being skimpy on features, but this is no longer the case with the 2013 Accord. Bluetooth connectivity is included throughout the lineup, not just in top trims, and all Accords include USB and iPod integration plus a rearview camera and an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror. The 2013 Honda Accord Sedan will be offered in LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, V6, and Touring trims, with the Coupe available in LX-S, EX, EX-L, and EX-L V6 models. Adaptive Cruise Control is exclusive to the Touring Sedan, which also includes Honda’s first LED projector headlamps, while LED brake lights are included in EX-L and Touring models. All V6 models include daytime LED running lamps.