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2013 Honda Accord (Bob English for The Globe and Mail)
2013 Honda Accord (Bob English for The Globe and Mail)

Road Test Honda Accord

Newest Honda Accord sharper, more svelte Add to ...

Honda’s new 2013 Accord won Best New Family Sedan under $30,000 honours in the recent AJAC Canadian Car of The Year competition for a couple of good reasons.

It’s not only a car the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada voters (narrowly) determined did a better job in areas a modern mid-size family sedan should excel in than its rivals, but seemingly marks a return of the Honda design mojo that helped make it one of the most popular cars in North America.

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With this ninth-generation model, Honda’s Accord design team has responded to market challenges in a way that’s more in the spirit of its ancestors who created the first hatchback versions in the mid-1970s to provide a step-up model from the Civic.

The Accord went on to become a best-selling success that helped change how North Americans thought about family sedans, accomplishing this through design innovation in succeeding generations. But new-millennium Accords seemed to follow our continental drift to becoming fatter in the belly and duller in the mind.

At least some of that previous design edge sharpness and svelteness has reappeared with this new Accord, although don’t worry, Honda didn’t exactly go all wild and crazy on us.

The 2013 Accord is available at a starting price of $23,990, which buys you a model with a four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission with all you really need in terms of equipment and performance.

Grade walks take you steeply up-slope to the $35,290 being asked for the top-of-the-line 3.5-litre, 278-hp, V-6-engined Touring, passing along the way our tester, a four-banger-powered Touring version that lists for $30,390. It came with a $1,200 automatic transmission and, with delivery costs included, the final tally was $33,230.

The styling theme remains reassuringly familiar, but with some additional and welcome flare, and sized to a more toned-up and trimmer scale. It’s 70 mm shorter, as well as narrower, yet despite a 25-mm reduction in wheelbase still offers a cabin that’s roomy in every direction – rear-seat room is particularly impressive. And also a bigger trunk, by a worthwhile 50 litres. Every surface has been tweaked to maximize room, such as sculpting the headliner.

The new look inside is conventional, but nicely executed, with three round instruments neatly framed by the full-function leather-wrapped wheel and a large info screen atop a centre stack with easy to find and operate controls. Soft-touch materials make the doorcaps elbow-friendly, plain brushed black plastic is a bit dull, but brightened by some alloy-look trim and chrome highlights.

The soft-ish, but sporty-looking, leather-clad front buckets are comfortable, noise levels low and, on the Touring model, you also get navigation, push-button start, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, moonroof, power seats, a full suite of infotainment gear and collision warning, lane departure and lane watch systems.

I’m not a big fan of electronic safety aids that blink and bleep at you when they detect something threatening, but the Lane Watch side-view camera system is magic. A side-mirror-mounted camera provides a wide view of what’s alongside and behind presented on the centre stack screen when the right turn signal is activated (it can also be left switched on). A next step might be cameras on each mirror and small screens incorporated into the top of the instrument array or the base of the windshield.

Making the driving experience better for those sensibly choosing the four-cylinder is Honda’s new “Earth Dreams” 2.4-litre, direct-injection engine, which in the Touring edition is rated at 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque and revs to almost 7,000 rpm. In my test car, this was mated to a continuously variable transmission that could almost (but not quite) make me a convert.

Engine and transmission are so comfortable with each other they perform seamlessly, while delivering a much-improved directness of response. And the dirge-like background drone associated with CVTs has been muted. According to AJAC testers, the Accord gets to 100 km/h in 8.7 seconds and accomplishes passing or merging from 80 km/h to 120 km/h in 5.8 seconds.

2013 Honda Accord
 

Fuel usage has also been reduced with ratings of 7.8 litres/100 km city and 5.5 highway, topping the 9.0 city/5.8 highway delivered by the previous generation with conventional automatic. I averaged 7.6 litres/100 km in my highway and rural road week with the Accord and 6.9 litres/100 km at four-lane cruising speed in hilly terrain.

With this new Accord, Honda ditched its long-touted double-wishbone front suspension in favour of more plebeian MacPherson struts, claiming handling and ride improvements, further augmented by an electric power steering system with good feel and a quicker ratio. The Touring alloy wheels are shod with P235/45R18 all-season tires.

It’s been a while since I drove the previous model, but I can say this Accord does ride, handle and steer well on rural roads and delivers stable highway cruising. And an opportunity to thrash it on AJAC’s TestFest test track proved it capable of rapid and safe changes of direction accompanied by predictable understeer at its cornering limits. According to AJAC testing, braking capability is mid-field.

The Accord topped a tough field of new mid-sizers in its Car of The Year class, but not by much. It scored a total of 683 rating points, just one ahead of the Ford Fusion with 682, while Nissan’s Altima rated 667, Chevrolet’s Malibu Eco 655 and the Mitsubishi Lancer AWD 631.

Tech specs

2013 Honda Accord Touring

Type: Mid-size sedan

Base Price: $30,390; as tested, $33,230

Engine: 2.4-litre, DOHC, inline-four

Horsepower/torque: 185 hp/181 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.8 city/5.8 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda Mazda6, Kia Optima

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Globe rating for the 2012 Honda Accord Sedan

Our ratings guide
8.5

Ride

Well-controlled but compliant and comfortable.

8.5

Looks

Styling hasn’t boldly gone where no mid-sizer has gone before, but it does look more interesting.

8.5

Interior

Nothing exotic, but attractive and functional, as well as roomy and quiet.

9

Safety

The side-view Lane Watch system is great, backed by other electronic and conventional safety systems.

8.5

Green

The new engine and transmission have improved fuel economy, meriting some extra green points.

8.5

Overall

(out of 10 / Not an average)

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