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road test honda accord coupe

2013 Honda Accord Coupe

Honda's comprehensively redesigned for 2013 Accord is as good a mid-size family sedan as any on offer, but for those who aren't concerned about baby-seat access and whether a stroller will fit in the trunk, the good news is its virtues are also available in stylish coupe form.

And the two-door version not only looks good, but in range-topping, $35,455, EX-L V-6 Navi form, is a fast and flexible flier with a high level of refinement and luxury level appointments and equipment.

Honda's latest Accord Coupe is also available in $26,290, four-cylinder form, with a new 2.4 litre that makes a useful 185 hp and, if matched up with the six-speed manual gearbox, this will satisfy many (the other choice is a decidedly un-sporty, continuously variable transmission). Making use of a good gearbox to get the most out of a small-ish engine with decent power and willingness can often be more entertaining in the long run than just opening the throttle of a big one that delivers an abundance of power.

That said, having more ergs of urge at your disposal is generally better. And the re-engineered, 3.5-litre V-6 in the Accord Coupe makes a lot of them, 278 hp backed up by 252 lb-ft of torque. Rather surprisingly, you can arrange to have them delivered to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox, its ratios stirred by an aluminum-topped shifter with a nice mechanical feel and short, accurate action. A "proper" six-speed automatic with paddle-shifters is optional, and wouldn't be a bad choice.

With its electronic "nannies" switched off, and a suitable place to play available (in this case, last fall's AJAC Car of The Year test venue), you can manipulate throttle, clutch and the traction from the P235/45R18 all-season tires to get the coupe to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds. And I've seen lower numbers than that quoted.

Dropping down to a suitable ratio to maximize acceleration from 80 km/h, you can squirt up to 120 km/h (often a real-world requirement to merge with freeway traffic) in a brief, and safe, 4.1 seconds. Sounds neat too, when singing in its upper ranges.

So Honda's new coupe is decidedly quick, but also, as with most V-6 engined cars, many with horsepower numbers pushing upward towards 300 hp, just as remarkably docile. It likes to rev, but makes enough torque in the mid-range to let you idle around town without overuse of the gear lever. A hill start assist system takes the anxiety out of this sometimes tricky manoeuvre.

Honda hasn't hung an "Earth Dreams" name tag on this engine without cause. The fuel economy numbers it generates are a reasonable 11.5 litres/100 km around town and, thanks to a variable cylinder management system (that deactivates cylinders under light load), 7.1 litres/100 km highway. In a mix of highway, rural and town driving, it averaged a not-bad 9.6 litres/100 km. And it runs on regular gas.

Power is just part of the sporting car equation, and the Accord Coupe, not surprisingly, turns out to be more Accord-like than BMW 3-Series-like in pure driving terms.

All three coupe models – four-banger EX and EX-L Navi, and EX-L V-6 Navi – have the same suspension; independent all round with front and rear anti-roll bars, a front strut-tower brace to stiffen things up, and electric assist steering. But the V-6's springs are firmer to cope with its additional 70 kg of weight, and its ride height is five millimetres lower, likely due to the lower-profile tires.

On the road, the V-6 coupe – all are about 55 mm shorter than the sedan and have a wheelbase trimmed a like amount – feel modestly agile, pleasantly planted and overall very competent. The suspension is well controlled, body roll managed well, and there's enough firmness to help it respond in a rewardingly direct fashion to driver input. Those low-profile tires help sharpen up steering response.

Its power, responsiveness and good brake-feel mean you'll enjoy driving it on a winding back road and be comfortable while doing so. The suspension absorbs road shocks like a good-quality jogging shoe, letting you know what's going on at ground level, but dealing effectively with any jarring impacts.

It isn't a car that will tempt you to tackle a weekend track day or autocross, however. It can be driven to its high limit, and beyond, without exhibiting any waywardness, but doesn't actually encourage this exhibitionist behaviour.

It is a pleasant everyday and touring car though, for those who like its attractive two-door styling, but don't want anything more overtly sporty that might bring with it a hard ride and a higher price.

A downside is that the coupe profile means rear-seat room can't really be considered usable on other than a short-trip basis, although trunk space isn't bad at 379 litres, just 68 litres less than the sedan.

The interior styling is appealing and functional, although the large nav screen (that also serves the clever offside-view camera system) looks awkward. The audio system is fine, and it's quiet enough inside at speed to enjoy it. And there are all the other features usually found in a mid-$30,000 car. The front seats position you correctly behind the just-right-rimmed wheel, and are bolstered for comfort and support.

It's a car that is easy to live with on a daily basis, while offering a look and a performance hit that's more than a bargain at the asking price.

Tech specs

2013 Honda Accord Coupe

Type: Mid-size coupe

Base Price: $35,445; as-tested, $37,085

Engine: 3.5-litre, SOHC, V-6

Horsepower/torque: 278 hp/252 lb-ft

Drive: Front-wheel

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Fuel economy (litres/100km): 11.5 city/7.1 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Nissan Altima Coupe, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Audi A5, BMW 3-Series

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