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2013 Honda Accord coupe. (Honda/Honda)
2013 Honda Accord coupe. (Honda/Honda)

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Honda takes wraps off new Accord Add to ...

The first official photos of the production versions of the Honda Accord sedan and coupe were recently revealed by the company, showing a curvier but still conservative bent to the all-new 2013 Accords coming to dealers this fall.

As expected, the Honda Accord two-door looks virtually identical to the Accord Coupe Concept version shown at the Detroit and Toronto auto shows early this year, minus the chromier front fog light treatment, and rims an inch or so down from the 20-inchers on the concept.

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Honda hasn’t released any specifications on the new Accords yet, but says the Accord sedan will offer more room inside from a vehicle that’s smaller on the outside for better manoeuvrability and parking. It will also be lighter, says Honda, which will help both fuel efficiency and presumably handling.

Earlier this year, Honda had said the upcoming Accords would be the first models to receive its new Earth Dreams lineup of powertrains. This will mean new engine and transmission choices in the Accord: a new 2.4-litre, direct-injected, four-cylinder paired with a not-always-popular continuously variable transmission (CVT), a revised 3.5-litre V-6 with new automatic six-speed transmission that will come with cylinder deactivation (or a six-speed manual without it), or a 2.0-litre, plug-in hybrid, four-cylinder setup in the sedan that will offer up to 25 kilometres of gasoline-free driving on a full charge.

The new Accord will also debut the Japanese brand’s new HondaLink advanced “smart” stereo, which can link to Bluetooth-enabled smartphones to access music and texts from your phone directly through voice, steering wheel or dash commands. This will include voice-to-text message capabilities, as well as offer some pre-programmed responses, similar to Ford’s Microsoft-developed Sync system. By using your phone’s online connection, Honda says users will be able to listen to Facebook and Twitter audio newsfeeds, podcasts and internet music services, though it hasn’t specified which features would be available on which smartphones.

The Accord Plug-in Hybrid will arrive this winter, Honda Canada said earlier this year, so it will likely be early 2013 before it starts competing with the upcoming plug-in versions of the Ford Fusion and the Toyota Prius, which is set to finally arrive in Canadian dealers this month, as will the similarly delayed Ford Focus EV.

Since the Accord PHV’s six-kilowatt lithium-ion battery is larger than the 4.4-kW unit in the Prius PHV, it should be eligible for the same $5,000 or so provincial rebate in Ontario and Quebec ($2,500 in British Columbia), or slightly higher. That’s assuming that the provincial programs’ eligibility and payouts don’t change; the Ontario government has already said a reduction to its overall EV program is coming as part of province-wide budget tightening.

Hopefully, that will only mean a rebate cutoff or reduction to buyers of expensive six-figure luxury cars. It’s tough even for the hardiest EV proponent to argue that $110,000-plus cars like the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, which gulps premium fuel at a healthy 11.8 litres/100 km EPA-rated clip once its minimal electric-only range runs out, deserves a full $8,500 environmental rebate from the province, based on the size of its large battery.

The argument may become even more difficult once a new crop of upcoming plug-in exotic cars likely to eclipse the $200,000 mark arrive (Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell, Audi R8 E-Tron, BMW i8), if they’re offered in Canada.

Consumers Reports lists cars to avoid

The September issue of Consumer Reports lists five vehicles to avoid – three of which are built in Canada.

In its “Five popular cars to avoid” feature, CR lists vehicles that sell well, but are not recommended by the consumer group. The Honda Civic, Dodge Grand Caravan and Ford Edge V-6 are all called out for various reasons, as is the Toyota Prius C and the much less surprising Jeep Liberty.

The group conceded that even the newly redesigned Honda Civic is very fuel-efficient and would likely keep its place amongst the most reliable of its class. But the Alliston, Ont.-produced compact was also slagged for its choppy ride, noisy cabin, vague steering and mediocre interior materials.

The Windsor, Ont.-built Dodge Grand Caravan was the opposite, the popular minivan providing a comfortable ride and great value proposition, but losing out on overall reliability and fuel economy that were at the bottom of the minivan pack, according to the magazine.

The Ford Edge V-6 was also hurt by worse-than-average reliability, but it also rated poorly in usability thanks to its MyFord Touch infotainment system, which Consumer Reports called “complicated and unintuitive.”

Both the Honda Civic and Ford Edge received the magazine’s Recommended ratings in 2011, the Civic for a long time before that, so these two in particular may catch many folks by surprise.

The Prius C was knocked for its cheap-ish interior, stiff ride, noisy cabin and, yes, slow acceleration. The Jeep Liberty was praised for its off-road prowess and looks, but panned for its cramped interior, appetite for fuel, unrefined interior and clumsy handling overall.

Even the rich like value

Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate automotive value, U.S. pricing site TrueCar.com concluded, after a study it commissioned found that even in the richest areas in the United States, half of the 10 most popular cars sold are affordable mainstream models.

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class was found to be the most common vehicle sold in the country’s wealthiest zip codes, and the top four spots featured the BMW 328i, Mercedes C-Class and Lexus RX crossover. But the next five spots were all reasonably priced vehicles from mainstream brands: Toyota Prius in fifth, Volkswagen Jetta, Honda CR-V and Accord, then the Toyota Camry, with the BMW X5 coming in 10th.

Other than the X5 and E-Class, the rest of the models all cost less than $50,000 (U.S.), the authors noted.

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