Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring. Click image to enlarge
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Manufacturer’s Website
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring

When I first saw the Accord Coupe ‘Concept’ make the rounds at auto shows this past year, my initial reaction was “Huh? Is this the new car, or a body kit?”

When we published our First Drive of the 2013 Honda Accord, I combed through the pictures and wondered, “Umm, so what’s new?”

Well, I’m not wondering anymore. While I haven’t spent extensive amounts of time behind the wheels of previous Accords, I have driven examples of the past few generations at various times, but they were never as charming as the fourth-generation manual-transmission ’92 Accord DX my friend had that saw college-kid levels of abuse (from several college-age owners), many at my own hands, in my university days. In fact, the last one I drove, a brief trip across town in the 2012 Accord EX-L reviewed by Mike Schlee earlier this year seemed downright characterless.

There’s nothing like intense competition to bring out the best in some people and companies. The 2013 Honda Accord may not be a BRZ or a GTI, but the magic is back.

And I’m not talking about a Coupe V6 manual as we drove at AJAC’s TestFest, but a run-of-the-mill four-cylinder automatic Sedan. Okay, ‘automatic’ is a stretch, as the transmission in this sedan wasn’t one of Honda’s brilliant manual transmissions, nor was it their ubiquitous five-speed automatic but rather a vilified CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). We were discussing CVTs when returning cars the other day, and the prevalence of owners who really don’t care what connects the engine to the wheels so long as it doesn’t break. For most of them, any CVT will do.

Now, to completely simplify the technical side of CVTs, imagine them as heavy duty rubber bands wrapped around a pair of cones and the band rides up and down the cone instead of engaging larger and smaller gears. The advantage is that the gear ratios are theoretically infinite within the range and you can tune the transmission to run at its most efficient speed more often, but the effect is that the engine speeds tend to leap on throttle application, and the bands and cones make a brand of noise that few people appreciate.

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring. Click image to enlarge

I’m a proponent of CVTs done right and the advantages they offer, and feel that Nissan is on the right track with their Pathfinder/JX and Murano (Rogue and Versa, not so much), but this CVT goes beyond that. Honda’s CVT does the best impression of a typical automatic transmission that I have yet to drive. Actually, perhaps I am selling it short when I say “typical”, because this CVT imitates good automatic transmissions and leaves me wanting CVT. Acceleration is smooth, engine rpm changes are not too sudden but smooth and quick, there is no droning buzz or whine at (high) highway speeds, and the CVT balances peak efficiency and acceleration with natural engine response. According to Honda’s press materials: “The CVT features a G-Design Shift logic that is designed to offer more acceleration response than conventional automatics or other CVT designs, while offering a sporty driving experience exceeding all other CVTs.” I find it hard to argue with any of that.

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring. Click image to enlarge

So the CVT is good, now let’s move on to the engine. Aside from the hokey “Earth Dreams” appellation, Honda’s 2.4L direct-injection is as smooth a four-cylinder as any on the market. With a healthy dose of sound insulation and its natural refinement, the engine purrs along, turning as little as 1,750 rpm at 100 km/h, and just a hair over 2,000 at 120 km/h, though those rpms rise or fall if you are on an incline or climbing a hill—one of those nuances of CVTs. To go along with the quiet engine, cabin noise is hushed except for a touch of tire drone.

The combined efficiency of the 2.4L four-cylinder and CVT resulted in 9.3 L/100 km on my congestion-filled commute and during our testing. Unfortunately, this also included a period of idling and repeated parking adjustments that mean this is likely beyond the upper range of what you should realistically expect. The early part of our week showed a consistent 8.8, more in line with official Canadian estimates of 7.8 city and 5.5 highway (or 8.7/6.5 as per US EPA).

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring. Click image to enlarge

In Touring trim as tested, the 2.4L I4 makes 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque (I4 Sport models get a bump to 189 hp, 182 lb-ft), and it suits this 1,538-kg (3,390 lb.) sedan well, allowing easy acceleration to highway speeds. With power put down exclusively to the front wheels (measuring 235/45R18 on 18-inch alloys), getting up to speed is never quite brisk, but it is reasonable and won’t leave any but admitted speed demons wanting for more power. However, having sampled the more engaging character of the V6 at TestFest, I can vouch for its 278 hp and 252 lb-ft being more than enough for authoritative power, especially in a front-wheel-drive family car. We’ll cover the V6 in its own dedicated review at a later date.

Although the Accord is now as mainstream as reality dance shows, the most appealing reinvention of this generation is its handling. While not as outright sporty as the new Ford Fusion, the Accord still feels natural and planted yet light on its feet until pushed well beyond the limits of normal driving. The steering is light, but communicative, and it is simply a joy to drive. It’s not a sports car or a more aggressive premium sports sedan, but as family sedans go, there’s little more fun to be had out there, and the six-speed manual transmission is available on all I4 Sedan trims except EX-L, but as stated exhaustively, this CVT is up to the task of maintaining a positive driving experience even without a third pedal.

While driving dynamics are impressive and notable, that’s not really the focus of this segment. Somehow, the 2013 Accord manages to deliver a comfortable ride, excellent interior space, and simple yet useful technology to make it a class leader. Despite handling that allows it to keep pace with the Fusion, the ride is a touch firmer than but almost as comfortable as a Camry—the standard for easy riding sedans—quite the coup to match segment leaders at both ends of the spectrum.

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring. Click image to enlarge

As for the interior, the first thing that comes to mind is spaciousness. This car is downright large, even if this continues to be considered the mid-size class. Front seat thrones are spacious and your passenger is almost an arm’s length away. The back seat is almost disorienting in its cavernous, lounge-like, stretch-out-and-cross-your-legs spaciousness, with headroom all the way across. While the trunk seems to narrow towards the cabin, it can still swallow my hockey bag right up to the back of the seats, leaving the equivalent of a whole other trunk behind it.

The interior is also thoughtfully designed, imparts a sense of quality, and all the controls are easy to decipher and take little to no time to get used to. The look itself is very conservative, but so well executed that it fades into neutral background so quickly that you’re not likely to get turned off by it.

The amenities show that Honda is finally catching up in the gizmo race, with my $31,590 Touring Sedan (tack on $1,640 for freight and then add taxes to your total) serving up HondaLink (audio touchscreen), HandsFreeLink bilingual Bluetooth service, proximity keyless entry and push-button start, 8.0-inch multi-info display and smaller secondary audio display (though we had a recent exchange with a couple colleagues on Twitter decrying Honda’s use of screen space—lots of wasted space, but not even displaying the full band name), satellite-linked navigation system with 3-D map display. Honda is even getting in on the driving aids, with back-up camera, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, but the best of them was the LaneWatch blind spot display.

LaneWatch, standard on EX-L trims and above, features a camera mounted under the passenger-side mirror that displays an image of your passenger-side blind spot on the large, dash-mounted display whenever you engage the right turn signal. Simple, yet frankly, we found it brilliant. Instead of all the flashing lights, pulsing steering wheels and seats, and audible chimes served up by other brands, you get a direct view of the blind spot—effectively cutting out the computer-analysis middleman. Not only that, but it will also show cyclists or pedestrians approaching on that side as you prepare for a right turn. And while not in its listed benefits, my sister-in-law found it made parallel parking a cinch because she could see the curb and wheels directly on screen rather than estimating—if I had the car for longer, I would use it for that, too—I’m terrible at parallel parking, but too impatient to use the self-parking functions on cars like the Ford Fusion and Escape, Toyota Prius, various BMWs and others.

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda Test Drive: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring car test drives honda
2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring. Click image to enlarge

The 2013 Honda Accord sets a new standard for understated redesign, and it already blends into the sea of anonymous, conformist sedans on the roads. But that being said, I can’t think of many objections to the handsome if plain sedan—owners will likely appreciate the finer details like squared-off HID headlight projectors and classic sedan profile without all the fussy creases, angles, and compromised visibility. Honda is no doubt willing to give up on the audience looking for flashy designs first, in favour of a solid content proposition and an essential goodness and balance of efficiency and performance, space and content, and the old Honda driving magic.

Pricing: 2013 Honda Accord Sedan Touring
Base Price: $30,390
Options: $1,200 (CVT)
Freight and PDI: $1,640
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $33,330

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