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car review

2013 Honda Accord Sport

When ALG (the former Automotive Lease Guide) announced the winners of its 2013 Residual Value Awards, there was Honda on top among mainstream brands, while Honda's luxury arm, Acura, led all the luxury ones. If you buy a Honda today, four years from now, it should be worth 42.8 per cent of what you paid. An Acura should be worth 46.1 per cent of the original sticker in three years' time. And the Accord won its class, besting Subaru's Legacy and Toyota's Camry.

Then Consumer Reports did a complete about-face on Honda in general and the Accord, CR-V and Odyssey in particular. All three won their classes in the magazine's annual Top Picks list. This came on the heels of J.D. Power and Associates ranking Honda above average in its latest long-range Vehicle Dependability Study.

"This year's list has received an overhaul led by Honda's return. After several years marked by some so-so products, its comeback is led by the Accord's redesign and the well-rounded performance and reliability of the CR-V and Odyssey," said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports' automotive editor.

Meanwhile, the updated Accord sedan was one of two mid-size sedans to earn an overall Good rating in the tough new small overlap frontal crash test conducted by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The new Accord sedan and coupe both earned the highest possible safety rating from the IIHS: Top Safety Pick+.

So no one should be surprised to learn that Accord sales at the end of 2012 surged 179 per cent in December. The reinvented 2013 Accord had only been in dealerships for a couple of months, yet sales on the year were up 27 per cent. Buyers who had walked away from the Accord for years started to walk back into Honda's game.

I am on board with CR here. This is an excellent mid-size car. The cabin has lots of space, the road manners are responsive without being harsh and Honda's new Earth Dreams engines are as modern as anything already in the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. As CR notes, the four-cylinder Accord gets fuel economy "as good as the tiny Honda Fit."

Fuel efficient as it is, the Accord Sport I just tested, with the four-banger mated to a pretty decent continuously variable transmission ($26,690), is no dog of a performer. The engine is rated at 185 horsepower and it's smooth.

Still, for all Honda Canada's claims of the ninth-generation Accord delivering "up to $3,500 in enhanced value on all 2013 Accord models," many rivals cost less for about the same in equipment and performance – and some, such as the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, arguably look better.

I did a price comparison of the Accord versus four key rivals, and across the board the Honda came out more expensive by between $336 and $1,686 when all the cars – Fusion, Toyota Camry, Optima and Sonata – were uniformly equipped. And that's not including discounts that can run to several thousand dollars on some key rivals. The Accord holds its value, but it's not the least-expensive car in this class.

If I could offer Honda one piece of advice – unsolicited and most likely unwelcome – it would be to keep plugging away at the design of all its cars, and all its Acuras, too. This latest Accord is not unattractive, but it doesn't grab your eyeballs or your heart. It's just there – a nice-looking four-door sedan and that's to be expected. Honda is a conservative company delivering an evolutionary remake of a hugely successful automobile for the masses.

The big windows do make for excellent outward visibility and lots of greenhouse is usually a good thing stylistically, too. And the creases and curves in the sheetmetal add some flair. This new design 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). That's not necessarily a good thing.

The interior, however, is first-rate – an example of how to make complexity appear simple. Yes, it's roomy, but the controls to operate standard features such as Bluetooth smart phone syncing with audio streaming and USB/iPod integration are dead-easy to operate. Also, even the base model has heated front seats, rear-view camera, an audio/information screen and an Eco Assist driving system.

The point is, you buy an Accord and you get a safe car with a good quality history, one that holds its price and delivers both performance and simplicity of operation. Honda is going to sell lots of them, even with the competition offering lower prices.

Tech specs

2013 Honda Accord Sport

Type: Mid-size sedan

Base price: $26,690 (freight $1,640); as tested, $28,886

Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder

Horsepower/torque: 189 hp/182 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.7 city/5.7 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Mazda6

After stumbling around in the wilderness for too many years, after watching seemingly helpless as sales of the Accord plummeted by 65 per cent from 2008-2011, Honda is back.