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PREVIEW: 2013 ACCORD

2013 Honda Accord: evolutionary, not revolutionary Add to ...

First, pricing. Actually, Honda Canada won’t announce final pricing for the 2013 Accord sedan and coupe until later this month, but if past is prologue – if Honda follows in the steps of recent product launches – then you can expect the 2013 Accord sedan to sell for no more than the 2012 (base price $24,890) and the coupe should fall in between $26,000 and $27,000 (2012 base price $26,890).

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As with the arrival of updated versions of the CR-V and Civic, expect Honda to include more equipment for the same or less money, too. That’s a well-established pattern.

Honda Canada vice-president of sales and marketing Dave Gardner also says the 2013 Accord will qualify as a Top Safety Pick by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

This new Accord will be the quietest, the most fuel-efficient, the trunk has 50 litres more space for luggage and the like, and while the overall length is down 9.0 mm, cabin space is roomier in important places. Fuel economy is among best in class: 7.8 litres/100 km city/5.5 highway for the new Earth Dreams direct-injection four-banger (185 horsepower) and 9.7 city/5.7 highway for the V-6 (278 hp).

Accords with the four-cylinder get an all-new continuously variable transmission (CVT), though the base car gets a new six-speed manual. The Accord’s V-6 engine can be had with a new six-speed automatic, says Honda. The V-6 Coupe is also available with a six-speed manual. (Honda will start selling an Accord Plug-in Hybrid next year with a new electric-coupled CVT).

Shoji Matsui, the chief engineer, says his team designed the CVT with an eye to minimizing or perhaps even eliminating the “rubber-banding” that is all too common in CVTs. The idea is to avoid selling an Accord that drives like a lawnmower or a snowmobile. The CVT is worth as much as 5 to 7 per cent in fuel economy gains, too. For the V-6, a more advanced cylinder deactivation system puts the engine into three-cylinder mode as often as possible to improve fuel economy.

The design of the car itself is more evolutionary than revolutionary, though Matsui does emphasize the big windows that make for excellent outward visibility. Aside from the new design, which looks a little like the BMW 7-Series of the early 2000s right down to the big lip at the trunk lid (an aerodynamic feature that also increases trunk space), the chassis itself, the basic unit-body and many safety systems have also been redesigned. The interior is entirely new, as well.

Honda plans to sell a wide range of trim levels, from basic LX to Sport, Touring and Touring V-6 versions. Standard features: Bluetooth smartphone syncing with audio streaming, USB/iPod integration, heated front seats, rear-view camera, an audio/information screen and an Eco Assist driving system. The base upholstery is cloth, with leather an added cost. A rear-view camera is standard on even the most basic car. Of course, you’ll be able to load up on plenty of pricey options, including a satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition.

For years now, the Accord has been an also-ran in a crowded mid-size sedan race. But with new versions of the Ford Fusion and the Chevrolet Malibu joining the just-on-sale Nissan Altima – not to mention stalwarts such as the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat – Honda is throwing all its corporate weight behind this restyled and re-engineered Accord for 2013. If you want to take the measure of Honda, size up the 2013 Accord.

jcato@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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