The ninth-generation Honda Accord enters the field facing pummeling competition, including recent redesigns from popular competitors like the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. Family sedans represent a massive chunk of the auto market, and five out of the six best-sellers have been redesigned for 2012 or 2013. If family-car makers were gunslingers, this would be the O.K. Corral.
With the new Accord, Honda brings some heat, but it doesn't knock anybody down.
The redesigned 2013 Honda Accord adds refinement and convenience, but it loses a bit of driving fun.
The Accord comes in sedan and coupe body styles, with a four-cylinder or V-6 engine and a choice of manual or automatic transmissions, depending on trim level. Sedan trims include the LX, Sport, EX, EX-L and Touring; the coupe comes in LX-S, EX and EX-L trims. I drove a mix of trim levels and drivetrains.
In 2013, Honda will introduce an Accord Plug-In Hybrid and, later on, a conventional Accord Hybrid. As of this writing, Honda has provided few details on the latter. Click hereto see our first drive of the plug-in.
Where Ford, Hyundai and Kia turned heads with their redesigned family sedans, Honda went in a more conservative direction, as did Toyota, Nissan and Chevrolet. The new Accord looks a little classier than its slab-sided predecessor, but the change is modest. Familiar thin headlights flow into a two-slat grille, with LED daytime running lights available on uplevel models. The Accord Touring and Accord Plug-In Hybrid get full LED headlights — uncommon among all cars, let alone family sedans — while the sedan's tail sees the biggest shift, with taillights that are far better than the clear-lens ones they replace. Sharp.
The ninth-generation Accord has shrunk, reversing the eighth generation's growth. The sedan's length is down about 3.5 inches, and its wheelbase has lost almost an inch. It's closer to the Accord of two generations ago (2003-2007) — to the delight of any Accord faithful who thought the 2008-2012 car had become too big.
The Accord coupe shrank, too, though not as drastically as the sedan. It downsizes the chunky taillights that enveloped the last Accord coupe's posterior, but vertical reflectors in black housings and a chrome strip now festoon the bumper. It looks busy. I wish Honda had just used the sedan's tail. Accord coupes come with 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels.
Sixteen-inch alloys are standard on the sedan — most competitors have steel wheels in their base models — and 17s and 18s are optional. An affordable new sedan trim level, the Accord Sport, slots between the LX and EX. Honda got the cosmetic changes right on this one; it adds fog lights, dual tailpipes, a rear spoiler and the 18-inch wheels — but not the garish ground effects that characterize some family-car sport packages. (I'm looking at you, Toyota.)
Spotty interior quality marred the last Accord (see the review), but this time Honda has cleaned up its act. Dashboard and door materials are more attractive, with low-gloss wraparound panels. Stitched door panels with generous padding recall the Acura RDX, and chrome door pulls finally replace the last generation's wretched silver plastic. It's not a slam dunk — some dull gray panels still line the center dash, for example — but the improvement is consistent with redesigned competitors. The Toyota Camry may be the loser in the group when it comes to cabin quality; it shoots for the moon in some areas but falls short in others (see the review).
Cloth seats are standard, with leather on the EX-L and up. Honda's characteristically supportive seats are present: After hours behind the wheel and in the passenger seat of various sedans and coupes, I felt little fatigue. A power driver's seat comes on all sedans except the Accord LX, and uplevel trims have a power passenger seat. The Accord coupe gets deeper bolsters.
Despite a slight drop in cabin volume, the sedan backseat dimensions have increased. Headroom is fine, legroom is excellent and the seat sits high enough for adults to have sufficient knee height. The five-seat Accord coupe saw gains in the back, too, with adult-friendly confines for outboard passengers.
You can see from back there, too. Narrow window pillars frame lots of glass, providing decent sight lines for passengers and drivers — particularly over the driver's right shoulder. Compare the Accord's blind spot with that of the Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry in the photos on the right.
The Accord sedan's trunk measures 15.8 cubic feet, up 1.1 cubic feet from 2012. The subwoofer-equipped EX-L and Touring have slightly less — 15.5 cubic feet. That's competitive, but the trunk's opening is a bit more of a squeeze than the other models. The folding backseat remains the biggest disappointment — it folds in a single piece rather than the 60/40 split other cars boast, allowing a passenger to sit in back when carrying longer cargo.
The Accord coupe's trunk totals 13.7 cubic feet, which is up nearly 2 cubic feet and impressive for a coupe.