Review: 2013 Honda Accord Sport

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Car journalists are an odd bunch. As a group, we tend to get excited about cars that, to be honest, have a very limited appeal to mainstream car buyers. I confess, I get weak in the knees when I think about the 556hp V-8 powered Cadillac CTS-V station wagon paired with a six-speed manual transmission with sinister black painted alloys hiding bright yellow Brembo brake calipers. As awesome such a car like that may be, I imagine there are few takers. At the opposite end of the spectrum lies the Honda Accord, a pillar of the mid-size car community, and a perennial top-selling car in North America. While it may not stoke the fire of lust that lies within every car nut, the reality is the Honda Accord, by virtue of its long history, tenure, and respect by the people who lay down their hard earned cash, is one of the most important cars built today. And when a new Accord appears, it is a big deal.

With the Accord now entering its ninth generation though, there have been clouds surrounding the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that was Honda. For a company that built its reputation on ingenious engineering, it seemed like the fire had gone out. Fun cars like the Prelude, Del Sol and the frantic S2000 vanished. The Honda faithful held out hope the hybrid CRZ would be a modern reincarnation of the well-loved CRX. It wasn’t. The Insight, Honda’s answer to the almighty Toyota Prius has been a sales disaster. The ungainly looking Accord Crosstour left critics scratching their heads. So yes, the automotive media was already wondering about Honda, and then came the 2012 Civic. Boring to look at, boring to drive, and a completely uninspired cabin added up to a car that made the press go mad, with the ultimate crushing blow of Consumer Reports no longer recommending the Civic. The unthinkable had happened.

So, what to expect of the latest Accord? The good news is the Accord is actually a couple inches shorter of the last generation, which had grown in size to the large Acura Legend sedans of the 1990′s. No polarizing looks to be seen here, as we are reminded the Accord is meant to appeal to the widest variety of car buyers possible. Overall it is a clean, tidy package, much better proportioned than the outgoing model. The aggressively styled headlight clusters and honeycomb lower grill opening at the front end of the Accord lends its most distinctive, sportiest look. Our test car was the Accord Sport, which adds handsome 18″ alloys, a rear spoiler and chrome dual exhaust were all nice touches, but only the most ardent Honda buff would be able to spot the difference.

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Honda is well-known for user-friendly interiors, and the latest Accord maintains that tradition. Like Accords before it, this is a car with a simple, straight forward driver interface, a car you can simply get in, start up and drive away with nary taking a moment to survey the controls. Everything is where one would expect. Large, easy to read gauges and buttons mean you will likely never need to crack open the owner’s manual. Of course, fit and finish are exceptional. The quality of materials are about what you would expect for this class of car. While not uncomfortable, I always felt like I was sitting on the Accord’s seat rather than in it-the ideal driving position seemed to elude me no matter what I tried. Despite its slightly smaller footprint, the Accord still boasts a roomy cabin with a generous back seat, topped off with a good sized trunk.

Accord buyers have a choice of four and six cylinder engines, as before. The new Accord receives a new inline four cylinder engine displacing 2.4 liters, rated at 185hp. With a less-restrictive dual exhaust, our Accord Sport gets a slight power boost to 189hp. With generous power, the Accord is also frugal on gas, with an EPA rating of 26/35 MPG city/highway. A six-speed manual or a Continuously Variable Transmission are available. Most enthusiasts intensely dislike CVTs with their dreaded droning, motorboat behavior that sucks the joy of driving for the sake of one more mile per gallon. Honda engineers have, by some miracle, developed a CVT that makes you forget it is a CVT in most driving situations. While I commend Honda for this, I am struggling with my perception of Honda-an engineering, innovative car company. Yet a competent CVT and a direct injected engine are just coming out now? Honda once led the way, now they are just catching up to what the competition has had available for awhile now.

The good news is the new four cylinder is typical Honda-silky smooth. The dual exhaust on our Accord Sport makes some nice noises on start up, and with 0-60mph coming in the mid-seven second range, this is really all the engine most Accord buyers need. While some of the Accord’s competition has stopped offering six cylinder engines altogether, Honda still offers one in the form of a 3.5L V-6 rated at 278hp, with a six-speed automatic. With 0-60mph times in the low six second range, the Accord V-6 is one seriously quick family sedan. The Accord makes no pretensions about being a sport sedan, and it never has. That said, the latest Accord offers one of the crispest handling of mid-size family sedans out there today, but never at the expense of passenger comfort. It’s a fine balance, and Honda got it just right.

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The 2013 Honda Accord is available in both sedan and coupe body styles. The familiar LX and EX trims are here, but Honda has added Sport and Touring trims as well. The Accord Sport is available only with the four cylinder engine, and is slotted between the LX and EX. In addition to the dual exhaust, 18″ alloys, and rear spoiler, a leather wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, Pandora radio interface, SMS text messaging functionality, dual auto climate control, power driver’s seat and rear view camera all come standard. Including delivery, our Accord Sport totaled $24,980USD. One gets the feeling Honda seeks a slightly younger audience with the Accord Sport, but for the price of entry, I feel like Honda missed the boat. The sound quality from the four-speaker stereo is poor. Scion targets young buyers, and they knew from the start a killer audio system is mandatory. Worse, satellite radio is not available. Nor is navigation. Or a sunroof. If you want these features in your Accord, you have to go less sporty. And while a power driver’s seat is nice if I share the car with multiple drivers, but my passenger and I would certainly appreciate heated seats instead, which are not available on the Accord Sport. In fact, no factory options are available on the Accord Sport.

If this review seems harsh, it was not meant to be. In truth, this is one of the best Accords we have seen in a long time, and shows us Honda has not lost the script. The competition for the Accord is the most intense it has ever been. The usual suspects like the Camry and Altima now square off against established cars like the Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, VW Passat and Ford Fusion. Yet beginning its ninth generation, this Accord holds true to the core values first seen when the very first Accord rolled off the line in 1976-well engineered, thoughtful design, reliable, dependable, economical, and a little more fun and rewarding to drive than the rest. Thirty seven years later, it is a great relief we can honestly say Honda still knows, and respects what made the Accord great then still holds true today.

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