The all-new 2013 Honda Accord is a return to the company’s roots: A roomy car that is easy to live with and will last forever.
By Aaron Gold
The Big Picture
Greetings from VroomGirls’ resident Honda Accord expert, a title I have bestowed upon myself, since I am the only VG employee to own one — in my case, a well-worn 1996 Honda Accord wagon. I own an Accord for one simple reason: I’m cheap. Buying a new car or fixing an old one costs money, and when one owns an Accord, one rarely has to do either.
As a proud member of the Cult of Honda — membership is automatic once your car passes ten years or 100,000 miles — I was a bit dismayed with the latest (2008-2012) Accord. One of the things I value about my Accord is its simplicity; by comparison, the outgoing version is a land yacht with a dashboard that looks like it belongs on the Space Shuttle. This new 2013 Honda Accord — a ground-up redesign — is a sop to us culties, an attempt to get back to the simple, straightforward design that marked Hondas of yore.
An Inside Job
Interiors have always been an Accord sore spot. Old ones like mine were made out of cheap plastic; newer ones have more buttons than there are children in New Zealand. With this new Honda Accord, we have finally reached a fair compromise: While Honda still prefers buttons over dials (which I don’t), the stereo and air conditioning controls are simple to use, and the materials and trim are of a much higher grade. Accords with light-colored interiors get a black dashboard top, which reduces glare in the windshield — a nice touch. A big, bright 8″ color screen doubles as the display for the stereo, backup and blind-spot cameras, and the optional navigation system, and will also display photos copied from a USB drive. Pricer Accords get a touch-screen stereo, and while having two touch screens on one dashboard looks a bit silly, the nod towards simplicity is appreciated.
Honda’s buzz-phrase for the interior is “Man maximum, machine minimum.” (I haven’t asked them where women fit into the equation.) The Accord has shrunk since last year –the sedan is 3 inches shorter, which you’ll appreciate when you have to park it — but the back seat and trunk are even bigger, though not quite best in class. For families, that means plenty of room for kids from cradle to college, with a trunk that will easily handle big strollers, big suitcases, and big science projects.
You can also buy the Honda Accord as a two-door coupe; with a smaller trunk and trickier back seat access, it’s not the best choice for families with kids. Still, as long as your friends are thin enough to squeeze in behind the front seats, they probably won’t complain too much when you’re the designated driver.
The 2013 Honda Accord has six airbags (two in front, two in the front seats, and two side curtain airbags that cover the side windows), a low number at a time when many of its competitors are adding knee airbags and rear-seat side airbags. But the framework of the Accord’s body is specifically designed to survive crashes with larger vehicles, which provides additional protection. The 2013 Honda Accord had not been crash tested at the time of writing, but the previous version had perfect scores in both the Government and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, and there’s no reason to believe the all-new version won’t do just as well. The Accord also comes with a standard rear-view camera, an important safety features for families with small children (and a big help when parallel parking).
Under the 2013 Honda Accord hood is a new 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine. With 185 horsepower — more than V6 engines from a few years ago — it produces plenty of power for passing and merging onto the freeway. Accord buyers can choose from an outstandingly good six-speed manual stick-shift or a new continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). Instead of using five or six fixed gear ratios like a traditional automatic, the CVT allows the engine speed to rise and fall as needed. The result is smooth acceleration (there are no actual gear shifts) and excellent fuel economy estimates: 26 MPG city and 35 MPG highway, short of the Nissan Altima (27/38) but still one of the best on the market. (Manual-transmission Accords are rated at 24/34.) Honda also offers a V6 engine in the upper trim levels; it’s smooth and powerful, but less fuel-efficient.
Honda has done a lot of work to the suspension, transforming the Honda Accord into one of the best handling mid-size cars you can buy. The 2013 Accord is good fun to whip through your favorite curvy road, but there’s a trade-off: The ride quality is nowhere near as good as its competitors. The stiffer suspension that enables such good handling also transmits a lot of movement to the cabin, making smooth roads feel bumpy and bumpy roads feel… well, really bumpy. (Note to self: Buy new thesaurus.) Ironically, the “Sport” model — which is tuned for even sharper handling — has a slightly more comfortable ride.
GIZMOS AND TECH
Honda’s gizmos tend to be sensible rather than showy, and this year Honda introduced one of their best: A blind-spot monitor. Several cars have systems that will warn you when there’s a car in your blind spot, but the 2013 Honda Accord actually has a little camera mounted on the right-side mirror. When you put on your right turn signal, the dashboard monitor displays a wide-angle view of the road next to the car — good enough that you can use it instead of your mirror. Cool stuff! The blind-spot monitor is standard on EX, EX-L and Touring models.
The top-of-the-line display stereo with HondaLink (found on EX-L and Touring trims) features Internet-enabled apps that can be accessed via your smart phone, including Aha Radio, which allows you to listen to music, podcasts, and even audio versions of your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Honda has upgraded its optional navigation system; previously, it was one of the worst in the biz. It’s still not the easiest to use, but it’s a definite improvement. Unfortunately, it’s only available on top-of-the-line models and it’s overpriced at $2,000 — about fifteen times what you’d pay for a portable unit that does the job better.
I'm mostly impressed by the 2013 Honda Accord. I like its simple controls, its well-finished interior, the big back seat, and its sharp handling. And as solid as the new Accord feels, I have no doubt it will uphold Honda's reputation for faultless build quality and reliability. That said, I was really put off by the ride quality -- we have some rough roads where I live, and while I like a car that rocks my world, the Accord might be taking things a bit too far. If you are thinking about buying an Accord, it's important that you test drive it on the roads you drive every day, just to make sure the hard ride won't be a deal-breaker. Would I trade in my 1996 Accord for this new 2013 model? It's tempting, but probably not -- I'm sure my old Accord has at least another 100,000 miles left in her.
Roomy cabin, good fun to drive
Simplified interior, nifty blind-spot camera