The 2013 Accord represents the ninth generation of the nameplate. The 2013 Honda Accord has a new platform, engine, transmissions, suspension, bodywork, interior, electronics and safety equipment. It is appropriate it to call it a new car.
Reversing a common trend, the 2013 Honda Accord is smaller on the outside and, by total volume, smaller on the inside. However, dimensionally the cabin is bigger in every measure except front-seat hiproom. More important, it feels just as roomy as last year's model, and the trunk is significantly larger than before.
The 2013 Accord is offered in four-door sedan and two-door coupe versions. New iterations for 2013 include a Sport version of the four-cylinder sedan. (A plug-in hybrid PHEV is expected in early 2013 as a 2014 model.) For 2013, there are six trim levels for sedans and four for the coupe. Both coupe and sedan offer a choice of two engines and three transmissions.
A new four-cylinder engine has more usable power and is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission or a 6-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy ratings are very competitive. The V6 engine is mildly revised from 2012 and available with a new 6-speed automatic or, on Coupe only, a 6-speed manual. The 2013 Accord V6 sedan EPA 34 mpg Highway rating matches that of the 2012 Accord four-cylinder, an impressive achievement.
The new 2013 Accord interior is as functional as before but more user friendly, especially on top-line models. It has room for four adults, five in a pinch, a new suite of telematics and electronic applications, and a longer slate of standard equipment. We find the cabin more visually appealing than before and can't imagine anything a mid-size sedan buyer needs that the 2013 Accord doesn't offer at some level.
On the road the 2013 Accord is quiet and controlled, a blend of isolation from annoyances that some drivers prefer with road manners other drivers prefer. It isn't about being the fastest in a straight line or flattest around the corners but rather being well-rounded and doing everything better than average.
We find the new wrapper far more attractive than the last one. It's neither as dramatic as some nor as bland as others, Honda preferring proven middle ground to extreme. The 2013 Accord has advanced in crash safety and, given the performance of the sister-car Acura TL, is expected to get top safety scores.
This ninth-generation Accord will not dominate the market it and the Camry battled over for decades because there are now many more viable competitors. Accord offers a coupe that Camry no longer does. The Ford Fusion may take the design mantle away from the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, but Hyundai has a Genesis Coupe to compete with Accord. The Nissan Altima lineup includes a coupe, and the Altima sedan is new for 2013 and touts excellent EPA ratings, as does the roomy Volkswagen Passat TDI introduced for 2012. The Chevrolet Malibu is new for 2013, and a new Mazda 6 is expected for 2013. Drivers who want more space, performance or features might also look to a Nissan Maxima or Toyota Avalon. The choices in the family sedan segment are bigger and broader than ever and car buyers are the winners.
The 2013 Accord is clearly better looking than the 2012 model, in our opinion. It still blends curves, creases and angles, now in a more cohesive shape; it's also incrementally lower, wider and three inches shorter.
Honda has always favored slender pillars, lots of glass and a low hoodline for good visibility, and amongst the growing trend to make four-door sedans resemble coupes this generous window area is refreshing. Where the window line on many cars extends from the top of the hood to the top of the trunk, the Accord's runs more from the headlight cut-line to the top of the tail lights. This yields not only a credible sedan profile but also adds to the airy cabin spaciousness and proper rear-seat headroom. From overhead the center section is mildly barrel-shaped, the widest point where front and rear doors meet appearing pointed relative the smooth lines of the roof above it.
There's a mild forward tilt to the profile, enhanced by the scalloped front door panels and raked headlight housings. Viewed from behind, the front wheel opening is inset above the sill and shows some tire, an image we associate more with sports cars than family sedans: It adds to appeal though we didn't get to see any potential dirtying effect it will have in rain or snow. Rear doors look like long-wheelbase versions of some sedans, with an almost flat section at the top and opening that runs straight from the door sill to the window kink popularized by BMW and Hofmeister about half a century past.
The coupe is nicely proportioned and like the sedan uses a higher than average roofline over the back seat for better-than-normal rear seat room. Unlike the sedan the tail lights do not extend into the trunk lid, and the chrome lower molding is much wider. Also unlike the sedan, the rear reflectors are vertically oriented and the tail pipes are semi-inset in a deeper bumper; you actually see fewer mechanical parts from behind the coupe than from behind the sedan.
Up front the dual-bar horizontal grille is all Honda, with a more stylish lower half. A more attractive honeycomb lower grille and chrome strip at the bottom edge are handsome without being edgy. Coupes get a more pronounced center section, honeycomb grilles top and bottom, and round fog lights in squared openings for more attitude; it's the same width as the sedan, just an inch lower. On V6 models the daytime running lights are LED, and the Touring sedan uses LED for low-beam headlights as well.
The PHEV model has unique front styling. The headlight housings and upper grille get blue accents, the hood, bumper and fog light apertures are different, and a black bar bisects the big single grille opening as on many Audis. To our eyes all the black trim is a bit much on anything other than a black car, though only three colors are offered. The wheels are also gloss-black, with forward-climbing metal spokes, a sinister look more rapper than tree-hugger. A very obvious blue-ringed, Hybrid-badged charging port in the left-front fender is at odds with the square fuel door at the back; we prefer the Chevrolet Volt's approach of one discrete opening on each side.
At the rear a chrome strip across the trunk and clear backup/signal lenses separate trunk lid and rear window from the back of the car, the end result reminiscent of a Hyundai Genesis. A small lip spoiler on the Accord PHEV and Sport versions can be added to others. Sport and V6 models get dual exhaust outlets, all have a chrome bottom strip to complement the front, and the rear quarters are reasonably square even if you can't see the edges from the driver's seat. On EX-L and higher trims, the brake- and taillights are LED.
On models with the Lane Watch function, the passenger-side mirror is deeper than the driver's to accommodate a small camera, lending a small imbalance viewed from a distance. (Cars from Mercedes and other manufacturers have done this in the past, also.) We like symmetry on sedans and would prefer the same mirrors.
All Accords have alloy wheels of 16 to 18 inches in diameter. Most handsome are the 18s used on some coupes and the Sport sedan, and just the wheel upgrade, small rear spoiler and dual exhaust outlets make the car much more attractive in our eyes.
Accord's cabin is comfortable, functional, and attractive. It is amongst the quietest mid-size sedans on the road, high-line models are easier to operate than before and it offers plenty of variations in price and features.
Front seats proved comfortable and supportive, not at all flat and spongy; adjustability degrees vary by manual or power, driver or passenger. With a tilt/telescoping steering wheel anyone should find a good driving position. There is plenty of room. Some slender types wished the door wasn't so far away though few will complain about reaching the seat adjusters with the door closed. Footwells are wide and headroom is fine, even with a sunroof. The only complaint came from a tall rider who found thigh support lacking because the cushion wasn't far from the floor and the passenger's footwall seems closer than the driver's.
We put a pair of 6-foot-plus guys in the back seat and there were no complaints, even with a moonroof. There are AC vents in the center console (EX or better), assist handles and a fold-down armrest. With the small floor hump, minimal headrest lift and higher seat cushion the center position is best for child seats. We did not see any rear-seat reading lights or a trunk pass-through, and the seatback folds only as one piece, not split 1/3-2/3 as in some cars.
Assembly quality appears good. We found no sharp edges on plastic moldings around door pockets or seat tracks, no flimsy hardware. High-gloss woodgrain trim has been replaced by matte finishes, gathered leather by tauter perforated upholstery. The upper door panels are soft-touch only on the back half, which visually splits the upper in two and some may construe as cost-cutting. Sport and EX-L cars get a leather-wrapped version of the nicely dimensioned 3-spoke steering wheel, with shift buttons on Sport CVT. Dash trim may be a vertically oriented dark woodgrain, metallic mesh, or a sparkly black, but all have a big chrome ring around the cupholder.
A single-piece dashboard is dominated by a huge speedometer the average patrolman can read from his car. It's flanked by a partial corona that changes color to green the more economically you drive, giving a Christmas-light effect against the red gauge markings on Sport and Coupe. We could not figure out how to turn it off, even if ECON mode was not engaged.
PHEV gets a unique instrument panel. Surrounding the corona-ring big speedometer are bar-graph indications for fuel and battery charge level, and the power/recharge scale. The display in the center offers powertrain modes, economy guide that moves a car within a circle for better or worse fuel efficiency, the requisite green leaves, turn-by-trun navigation, active cruise control and so on.
Engine revs, temperature and fuel level flank the speedo; the digital center gives instant fuel economy, trip odo, exterior temperature, gear and so on. Stalk controls are simple, the interval wiper setting still industry-best, and the steering wheel switches quick to master. A few switches such as the ECON button, traction-off and lane-departure warning are less convenient left of the wheel, and do-it-yourselfers and tire technicians will appreciate the tire-warning reset switch on the dash.
All Accords have a central dash screen and back-up camera. Without navigation the audio and information controls are just below that screen between two. The dual-temperature climate controls are grouped below that. On cars with navigation the area beneath the screen becomes touch-screen audio with a volume knob, while the nav/phone/info controls move below climate control, replacing a storage bin on lesser cars. Although further from the screen those controls are closer to shifter and the whole arrangement is far superior to the overwhelming mishmash on the 2008-2012 model.
A smaller exterior shrank total cabin volume by 3 percent from 2012 but smarter packaging brings more room in almost every aspect and a larger trunk. Only front seat hiproom is down, by one inch, which shouldn't be an issue.
Cabin storage is good, with bins in the console, all doors, and a decent glovebox.
The trunk offers very competitive 15.8 cubic feet of space, a temporary spare tire but room for the flat you take off under the floor, grocery bag hooks in the rear corners and a pull-lever to release the rear seat back: That opening for large, awkward items isn't as large as in many competitors.
All Accords deliver a comfortable ride and a reassuring confidence they can handle any situation. The one to four-mpg bump in fuel economy ratings comes with no loss in performance and they are nicer to drive than the last two generations of Accord. The first sense that proves different on a 2013 from a 2012 is control effort; the steering and pedals take less effort and the cabin controls are much simpler to decipher.
The new four-cylinder engine is the same as the old one in size only. It has direct injection now but without the ticking idle noise many such engines make, and it idles smoother than many big fours. It doesn't encourage winding it to redline as the predecessor did, and you don't need to.
At 185 horsepower, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder has 8 more horsepower than the old LX and 7 less than any of the others, but it makes the power 600 rpm lower in the rev band. More important, torque is up by 20 lb-ft, again lower in the rev band, giving the car more usable power. The Sport model gets 4 hp and 1 lb-ft more torque because of dual tailpipes; you'll hear more difference than you feel. The Sport also adds shift paddles to the steering wheel, like some Coupes, on the CVT version.
Fuel economy ratings: The 2013 Honda Accord 2.4-liter CVT is EPA-rated at 27/36 mpg or 24/34 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual transmission.
Adding an extra gear to the manual transmission and keeping the base model lighter than last year improves acceleration and fuel economy. The shifter and clutch action have Honda's characteristic light, crisp action. Since the mpg is up, a smaller fuel tank saves weight while maintaining cruising range; a theoretical 600-plus miles on the highway.
The CVT that replaces last year's 5-speed automatic provides shorter gearing for acceleration and taller gearing for highway cruising. By using only what engine power is needed to move the car and not climb through gears, the CVT improves the EPA City mileage rating by 4 mpg and makes less noise. If you use the shifter's S position rather than D it revs higher sooner for better motivation, and slows better on long grades or braking for a corner. As there are no separate gears, there are no 1, 2, or OD-off settings.
The V6 engine isn't changed quite as much and power is similar to that of the 2012 version. However, switching to a 6-speed automatic nets the same performance and economy benefits, and the new V6 gets the same 34-mpg highway EPA Highway rating as the 2012 four-cylinder sedan. Fuel economy for the 2013 Accord 3.5-liter V6 is an EPA-estimated 21/34 mpg with 6-speed automatic or 18/28 mpg with 6-speed manual. Regular gasoline is recommended for all models. The Accord V6 Combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 25 mpg matches or betters V6 competitors.
The 6-speed automatic has only Drive and Sport positions for forward motion. Drive works as normal; Sport upshifts later and downshifts for grades or braking, but it takes a while to learn exactly when it will downshift without surprising you.
A V6 6-speed manual is offered only on the Coupe, and mileage doesn't match the sedan because that engine does not use Variable Cylinder Management. VCM switches off the front half of the V6 engine when little power is needed, the V6 sedan often cruising level ground with economy like a 1.75-liter three-cylinder but without the vibration or roughness.
For its sleeker profile the Coupe gives up rear seat room, access, and the trunk is about the same size that of the 2012 Accord sedan. Manual-gearbox V6s are a favorite of Accord speed-freaks but their rarity caused the last generation to occasionally garner a premium price at dealers who had them.
Meanwhile, active noise cancellation works like your noise canceling headphones to minimize annoying mechanical racket and it is standard on all Accords. Also contributing to reduced noise and vibration is electric-assist steering. This has light effort but doesn't feel artificially light nor elastic or floaty as some on long sweeping bends. Response to the helm is quick, and it's not rubbery just off center when you begin to turn or make minor corrections.
The Accord Sport model features firmer shock, spring and antiroll bar rates but these are subtle changes and not big whacks. Steering effort is higher than with the other models, a combination of the fatter 235/45R18 tires and tuning of the power assist, and it needs another 1.5 feet of space for a U-turn. There's no detriment in ride comfort. We're not sure we would opt for the Sport, though we admit the other Honda in our garage would be an S2000 sports car rather than a Pilot or Odyssey. In fact, while the V6 manual coupe is clearly the fastest Accord, an Accord Sport sedan's lighter front end and slightly better balance might be our choice for a 70-mph world.
In back-to-back drives in Accord, Camry, Sonata and Altima four-cylinder models, the Accord felt the most refined. It didn't feel as light and lively as the Altima but rode better, especially on rough roads. A Camry V6 felt just as quick as an EX-L V6 but didn't have some of the Honda's feature set.
Brief drives in the PHEV plug-in Hybrid delivered 105 mpg (according to the trip computer) over an 11-mile loop, with no attempt at hyper-miling and got going effortlessly. The PHEV will operate as a pure electric, as a gas-electric hybrid, or with the gas engine connected directly to the drive wheels. Honda's early estimate put electric-only range at 10-15 miles, with another 8 miles available after 30 minutes on a 240-volt charger. The transitions between alternate propulsion modes were quite smooth, especially given the car is still in development, and brake feel allows smooth stops.
Outward visibility is very good. Slim pillars at the windshield and between the doors block little of the view; they do not hide an entire car adjacent or oncoming like some GM sedans. The articulated rearview mirror mount and tall windshield means no ducking to see overhead lights or working around the mirror for uphill right turns like interstate on-ramps. Only Subaru and VW come to mind as equally easy to see out of. On higher-trim Accords the rearview camera becomes multi-angle and all left-side mirrors have a wide-angle element.
The LaneWatch feature shows a camera image of the lanes to the right in the center dash. It can be set to on, off, or on with the right signal. With the signal is most sensible (if you use them) but note if the control beep is enabled it beeps each time the signal/image goes on and off, and sitting at a traffic light with the signal on ties the screen up at a good time to be fiddling with things while you're not moving.
Road noise is well controlled, and we tried both 17- and 18-inch wheels on some poor road surfaces. Engine noise is muted until you go to maximum acceleration, wherein a pleasing mechanical growl enters the cabin. We did notice wind noise at highway speeds, primarily around the pillar between front and rear doors.
What we like about the 2013 Accord is the subtle execution. It doesn't reset the bar with edgy styling at the cost of rear-seat room. Fuel economy was a priority yet performance is more than adequate and better than that of the previous versions. The new Accord takes up less space outside but has a more comfortable cabin and larger trunk. There are more options in entertainment and telematics and the man-machine interface is much easier to use. Tradeoffs and compromises are hard to find where they exist at all, so the Accord will remain a favorite in family sedans.
G.R. Whale filed this report after his test drive of the Accord models in Southern California.