2013 Honda Accord first drive
Accord gets back in touch with its inner youth
Santa Barbara, Calif. — It's hard to believe the Honda Accord is entering its ninth generation. Harder still is the realisation that this correspondent was there at the start, when generation one was a brand new nameplate. Freshly hired as road test editor on a major British car magazine, I was assigned a 1977 Accord as my very first long-term test car.
We've both, um, matured a lot since then. But at least, in the process, I haven't grown as much as the Accord has. My first Accord was a cheeky yellow three-door hatchback scarcely larger than today's Honda Fit subcompact. The outgoing gen-eight sedan is a sedate midsizer (on the outside) that's actually roomy enough on the inside to classify as a full-size sedan. And the coupe is barely smaller.
As with most humans, advancing age and size have wrought a corresponding waning of agility and athleticism. It's been a while, hasn't it, since the Accord was the default driver's choice among family sedans?
For the 2013 re-do, Honda hasn't just halted the ageing process — it has reversed it. Like many new cars today the Accord's body is simultaneously lighter and stronger than before, but it's also smaller — and not just by a few millimetres. At the same time, Honda has looked inward and rediscovered its inner athlete: there's still nothing about the new car that will alienate sedate "utility" drivers, yet there's much to please those who salivate at the sight of a sign saying "winding road for 53 km."
Direct injection, huh? What took so long?
Naturally, this being Honda, there are advances in powertrain efficiency, though the new technologies are more a case of "me too," than "follow me." Likewise the increased availability of both infocommunitainment (an eight-inch LCD TFT screen is standard on every trim) and active-safety electronic features (available blind-spot monitoring, plus lane-departure and forward-collision warning). On the passive safety side, Honda is confident Accord will pass the new IIHS small-overlap crash test that has crushed some highly regarded nameplates in recent tests.
In the pipeline are not one but two full-hybrid Accord models — one conventional, the other a plug-in (PHEV). Meanwhile, the lineup launches with an all-new 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine featuring Honda's first use of direct injection, and a carryover-but-revised 3.5-litre V6 that boosts fuel economy by switching more often to three-cylinder (Variable Cylinder Management) operation. Neither engine can claim best-in-class outputs but they're stronger than their predecessors: the 2.4 is fortified from 177 to 185 hp (or 189 on the new Sport trim) and the V6 from 271 to 278 hp.
Real drivers will rejoice that manual transmissions are not only still available, but are now six-speeds; you can pick the stick on all coupes (2.4 or V6) and three out of the four 2.4 sedan versions. A six-speed automatic is standard on the V6 sedan and optional on the V6 coupe. On four-cylinder Accords, the optional autobox is a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Between the revised powertrains and reduced aerodynamic drag (down seven per cent) the new Accord 2.4 and V6 shave their fuel consumption by 11 per cent and eight per cent respectively.
Sayonara, double wishbones
Gearhead purists may decry a switch (regression?) from sophisticated double-wishbone to MacPherson strut front suspension, while the inevitable adoption of electric power steering (EPS) raises doubts about steering feel. But let's reserve judgement 'til we hit the road.
Despite Accord's sizeable 90-mm cut in overall length and a corresponding shrinkage of interior volume, Honda claims best-in-class interior space. How so? Well, recall that the previous model was classified as a large car because its 106-cu.-ft. cabin and 14.7 cu.-ft. trunk totalled 0.7 cubes more than the 120-cube threshold of large-car-ness. The new dimensions, 103.3 and 15.8 respectively, total 119.1 cubes, which does indeed make it the roomiest midsize car.
Most of the shrinkage appears to be in headroom (overall body height drops 11 mm) and front hip room. But shoulder room is up, and legroom has stretched more than an inch. Frankly, most cars in Accord's peer group are so roomy out back that it would take a very tall adult sitting behind an equally lanky driver for any differences to become apparent. My average-length frame could sit "behind myself" (and I do tend to sit well back from the wheel) with ample comfort and about 15 cm of kneeroom to spare. Getting in and out is a breeze, too.