For most of automotive history the midsize sedan has been a relentlessly rational, left-brain transportation appliance. Safe, sensible, practical, comfortable and boring.
For most of its own history, however, the Honda Accord was the exception. Some generations were sportier than others, but, let’s just say that the Accord recently won a Car and Driver 10-Best Cars award … for the 25th year running. The gearhead enthusiast magazine never gives an award to a boring car.
Some other sedans have also upped their game in recent years. Automakers realized that some buyers who stuck with sedans in the age of the SUV did so because they cherished the wieldier driving dynamics made possible by a sedan’s lower mass and lower centre of gravity. So, automakers gave them more of what they wanted.
When the Toyota Camry was last overhauled for 2018, even the base versions emerged with a huge dose of athleticism. The sportier trims went on to greatly grow their share of Camry sales. Meanwhile the Accord, also last redesigned for 2018, not only raised its own game but also remained – at least until 2020 – the only mainstream midsize sedan still offering a manual transmission.
The 2023 redesign hasn’t revived the manual and the former two-litre, 252-horsepower turbo gas engine and 10-speed automatic don’t return for 2023 either. Now, the Accord comes in just three trims, and two of them are fuel-miserly hybrids.
The base EX trim is propelled by a refined but basically carryover 192-horsepower, 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder teamed with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The hybrids, in Sport and Touring Trims, team a CVT with a new, two-litre gas engine and uprated dual-motor electric propulsion, rated at a combined 204 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque.
Torque is up by 15 lb-ft, but, oddly, maximum power appears to be down eight horsepower. Not so, says Honda. Apparently, there’s a new standard for measuring power on hybrids, and by apples-to-apples measurements, the 2023 gains three horsepower over the previous model.
A similar issue of “it depends how you look at it” applies to the fuel consumption. The 2023 Hybrids’ city/highway consumption numbers of 5/5.7 litres per 100 kilometres improve on the 5.3/5.7 of the previous Sport and Touring trims, but not the former smaller-tired base model that rated 5/5.
For our preview drive, the Accord displayed a disappointing final consumption of 7 litres per 100 kilometres. Mind you, the conditions on the day were far from favourable – minus 20 degrees Celsius, and pavement that was mostly wet or snow-crusted.
Even with three trims to choose from, the previous Hybrid accounted for only about 6 per cent of Accord sales. Honda says the new Hybrid’s share of Accord sales is expected to be a whopping 50 per cent. The 2023s are arriving at dealerships this month, at a starting price of $37,000 for the EX, $41,000 for the Sport Hybrid, and $44,500 for the Touring Hybrid.
James Engelsman and Thomas Holland from Throttle House test the 2023 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring, which is better insulated, better on fuel and handles better compared to the previous generation
2023 Honda Accord Hybrid
- Price: $41,000 - $44,500
- Engine: two-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder/dual electric motors
- Transmission/drive: Continuously-variable automatic/front-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 5 city/5.7 highway
- Alternatives: Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Kia K5, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry Hybrid
Honda’s redesign goal was a more mature look, but in losing the previous distinctive trim on the rear quarter-window, and with a generic black mesh grille, it looks somewhat bland.
The cockpit makes more of a statement, with the dashboard’s horizontal motif and the cross-car mesh grille we’ve seen on other new Hondas. The free-standing multi-media screen is Honda’s first 12.3-incher, but although the dashboard retains separate, user-friendly actual controls for climate, the audio tune/scroll knob is gone, ditto for the hard buttons on the side of the screen; the remaining tiny on/off/volume knob may challenge gloved hands. Luddites however should welcome the conventional shift lever that ousts the former buttons, and the standard 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster won’t offend anyone. Sightlines are great, though the range of eight-way-plus-lumbar power seat adjustment tends to favour those who prefer or need to sit low, and the (standard) sunroof steals some headroom up front. Rear-seat space remains as generous as you can expect in a sedan this size.
The Hybrid may have a power boost, but it’s no wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing. Expect acceleration to 100 kilometres per hour in the low 7-second bracket – not slow, but not sport-sedan pace either. On the plus side, the powertrain is a model of civility. Even under pressure the gas engine spins with velvety smoothness and voices a subdued yet sonorous sound track, while the transmission seamlessly mimics the stepped upshifts of a traditional multi-speed transmission (no CVT random-rev-surging effect). And, as best we could tell on winter tires and wet or frozen pavement, the Accord still has a classy chassis. Some might wish the steering was even lighter, but engaged drivers will appreciate the helm’s solid, connected, real feel. As before, lithe handling has not been achieved at the expense of a cushioned and controlled ride, and the brake pedal feels good under-foot.
Honda was an early adopter of standard, comprehensive driver-assistance technologies, so most 2023 advances concern improved performance of existing features. That said, Traffic Jam Assist is a new addition that can provide lane following at speeds less than 72 kilometres per hour, and the Touring trim also gets Low-Speed Braking Control. Both Hybrid trims get the 12.3-inch screen, but Google Automotive Services (including maps/navigation) is exclusive to the Touring. Similarly, two front USB-C ports are standard, but only Touring has one in the rear, plus wireless phone charging, a head-up display, SiriusXM and parking sensors. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have wireless capability on both Hybrid models.
At 473 litres, the trunk remains the largest in its class – albeit somewhat irregular in shape. The seats-folded pass-through is a good size, too.
The Accord redesign nails Honda’s declared goal of a more sophisticated, “black tie” experience. It’s a polished piece, and hopefully most owners will get better fuel economy than we did. Still, we’re going to miss the old 2.0T hot rod.
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