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2012 Honda Accord EX-L V6: The new American standard

As competent and comfortable as the cars it helped replace
by: Honda Motor Company The 2012 Honda Accord gets the job done with attracting undue attention.

Driving the 2012 Honda Accord, it is hard to remember that Honda first made a name for itself in American in the early 1970s with its original Civic, an economy car that is smaller than some of today's subcompacts. And when it was first introduced in 1976, the Accord was only a slightly larger three-door compact.

In comparison, the new Accord feels bigger than many of the gas-guzzling American cars it initially competed against in the years following the Arab Oil Embargo. Now classified as a full-sized car by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, it offers more interior room than all but the largest land yachts from 35 years ago. Although considerably shorter than those cars, it even looks pretty long and wide today.

Equipped with the 3.5-liter V6 that came in our test model, the 2012 Accord seems almost as fast as the V8-powered cars of those gone by days, too. But, at an EPA estimated average 25 miles per gallon, it is at least twice as economic as they were - a result of its advanced technology and considerably lighter weight.

A perennial best seller, the Accord is now facing the kind of challenges it once offered, however. Although refreshed just last year, newer mid-size and full-size cars from other companies now offer many of the same advantages but seem more innovative. The Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima are especially styled to steal the spotlight in the crowded family car category, and offer more engine choices than the Accord, too. Toyota is promising to reclaim its Number One status with an all-new Camry, too.

Fortunately for Honda, the Accord still has all the attributes that built such a large fan base for the company, including quality construction and attention to detail. During a week of mixed driving, everything worked well in our Accord, even though nothing called attention to itself. The cabin was quiet, the seats were comfortable, the ride was smooth, the stereo was soothing and the V6 provided punch when needed. Although the transmission had only five instead of the now-customary six speeds, it was still responsive enough for all circumstances. Only the brakes seemed a little weak, but not alarmingly so.

More than anything, the Accord seems to have the assumed the identity of the older American cars it helped vanquish. It goes about its business with the steadiness of the family cars that plied the highways and byways of those times when nobody thought too much about driving - they just got into their car and went. Five passengers and enough luggage for the weekend is not too much for the Accord. The trunk is more than enough for a family getaway.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Accord is the exterior styling. It is generic enough to be confused with the Ford Taurus and the Chevy Impala, which was slightly restyled for 2012. On the other hand, the interior is cleanly laid out and well put together, with only a few pieces of hard plastic suggesting its economy car origins. Out test model benefited from leather seats and door inserts, but even less-expensive models with cloth interiors should not be too tiring at the end of the day.

Despite the increasing competition, buyers looking for a competent family car they don't have to worry about should still consider the Accord. It may not be the most exciting-looking car on the market, but it knows how to get the job done.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model: 2012 Accord EX-L V6.

• Manufacturer: Honda.

• Class: Midsize sedan.

• Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive.

• Style: Four-door car.

• Engines: 2.4-liter inline 4 (177 hp. 161 ft-lbs); 3.5-liter V6 (271 hp, 245 ft-lbs - as tested).

• Transmission: Five-speed manual; five-speed automatic.

• EPA estimated city/highway mileage: 23/34; 20/30 (as tested).

• Price: Beginning at around $21,380 base model ($29,630 as tested).