Honda answer the critics and then some with fresher styling, increased performance and new features

by: HONDA AMERICA MOTOR CO. - Beauty is more than skin deep with the revised 2013 Honda Accord.The redesigned 2013 Accord is the Hail Mary pass that Honda had to complete. It may not be a touchdown, but it moved the ball far enough down the field for the company to stay in the game against tough competition.

For years the Accord dominated the affordable midsize sedan market. They were reasonably attractive and well built, got decent fuel mileage with a variety of engines, and provided comfortable rides for five adults.

But then two things undermined their appeal, at least in the eyes of automotive writers. First, they grew too large and generic looking. And the competition increased exponentially.

In quick order, a new version of the Chevy Malibu and the all-new Ford Fusion showed American companies could compete effectively against Honda. The redesigned Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata raised the bar for midsize cars with exceptional styling and value. And this year brings a wave of upgraded offerings, including the Malibu, Fusion, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry.

In fact, the affordable midsize family sedan is suddenly the most competitive market niche out there, right as consumers are returning to show rooms in droves. For the Accord, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

So how well did Honda respond? Remarkably well, considering all the previous media criticism. The heavily redesigned Accord is shorter on the outside but bigger on the inside. The ho-hum exterior has been punched up with an aggressive air dam, sharper side creases and a BMW-style trunk lid. The interior is cleaned up and the materials have been upgraded. And power and mileage are both increased in the available 2.4-liter four cylinder and 3.5-liter V6 engines.

On top of that, the 2013 Accord drives much better than last year’s model. It feels lighter and more responsive. The suspension was firmer but not harsh. And the four-wheel disc brakes were much more assertive than before.

Our test model had good acceleration, thanks to its optional 278 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode. But it was also EPA rated at a respectable 21 miles in the city and 34 miles on the highway.

As usual, we tested the top-of-the line model, a Touring edition with leather interior, 17-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof and upgraded stereo. Needless to say, such features ease the strain of daily driving considerably. Although research shows most buyers will settle for models with fewer options, we don’t think they’ll be disappointed. The basic underpininings are solid and the worksmanship, including the interior fit and finish, was first rate.

One option we especially appreciate was the LaneWatch blind spot system, which is standard on EX trim levels and above. When the right turn signal is turned on, the 8-inch display screen in the center of the dash immediately switches to a camera in the right side mirror that shows what’s beside and behind the right side of the car. The view stays on until the signal is switched off. It worked very well and was perfectly designed to show bicyclists that would otherwise be hidden in the right side blind spot.

We also had a Forward Collision Warning system that flashed yellow lights on the dash and lower driver’s side windshield if sensors said we were approaching an object — like the car ahead of us — too fast. The system was intrusive without being alarming, which we appreciated.

So with all the improvements, where did the 2013 Accord let us down? Well, despite the dramatic improvement in looks, it is not as distinctive as the Optima, Sonata or 2013 Fusion, which looks more like a four-door sports car than a family sedan. The suspension thumped a few times over rough pavement, probably an unintended consequence of being firmed up since last year.

And, unlike the Optima, Sonata, Fusion and Camry, Honda did not immediately offer hybrid versions for those who want to maximize their mileage. Honda announced in December that a plug-in hybrid version would be available in California and New York in January, however, with a conventional hybrid version being launched nexxt summer.

But the Accord is available as a good-looking coupe for those who don’t want to completely blend in. And it is offered with a V6 and manual transmission that seriously increases the performance potential.

We don’t know how the four cylinder-equipped versions drive, although with 185 to 189 available horsepower, we suspect they would be easy to live with. Mileage is also slightly better than the V6 versions, of course.

After years of facing mounting questions, Honda has responded with a redesigned 2013 Accord that answers the critics and then some. Welcome back.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2013 Accord Touring.

• Manufacturer: Honda.

• Class: Midsize sedan.

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

• Style: Four-door car.

• Engines: 2.4-liter inline 4 (185 hp, 181 lbs-ft); 2.4-liter inline 4 (189 hp, 182 lbs-ft); 3.5-liter V6 (278 hp, 252 lbs-ft).

• Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic with Sport mode (as tested); Continuously variable transmission (CVT).

• EPA estimated FWD city/highway/mileage: 27/36/30 (2.4/CVT); 24/34/28 (2.4/Manual); 21/34/25 (3.5/Auto); 18/28/22 (3.5/Manual).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $22,000 ($34,220 as tested).

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