– Spacious well-appointed cabin
– Good ride and safe handling
– Good fuel economy
– Pricey with options
– Above-average road noise
– No tiptronic for auto gearbox
The Honda Accord had, for decades, been at the top of its class. That’s not saying much, in a class that was made up of dullards like the Toyota Camry and the Hyundai Sonata. But then those dullards suddenly blossomed into competent cars in their latest iteration. The new-for-2013 Accord has a tougher fight on its hands nowadays, especially since it has somehow become one of the more expensive offerings in a budget-conscious segment.
On the outside, the changes initially seem limited, especially since Honda has obviously used the old model as a base for this one. But on closer inspection, every body panel is different from the roof down, and apparently it now benefits from a stiffer frame and lighter weight as well. With the sharper new headlights with standard LEDs as well as detailed LED tail lamps, the Accord looks a whole lot better than before, and could pass off for a premium car, even if some of the design elements appear derivative of other brands. Our only criticism would be that the rear bumper on the 2.4-litre model looks unfinished with only one exhaust tip, as the dual outlets are reserved for only the V6 model.
The cabin in our top-spec 4-cylinder tester was very nicely done, much cleaner than the cluster-fudge that was the old model. While Honda has snuck in more hard-plastic bits on the door panels, they’ve also bumped up the amount of cushy trim in other areas, with padded leatherette extending all the way up to the window-sills on all doors, nicely-padded armrests, and a soft-touch dash top with slivers of faux wood. Even the steering-wheel wrapping feels “Germanic” while driving.
Cabin space is good enough to fit basketball players, so no issues there. The boot is big as well, with little details like grocery-bag hooks and plastic covers to hide the wiring along the goose-neck hinges. Little details like that set the Accord apart from cheaper sedans, although the rear seat only folds down in one piece rather than split-fold. And they did delete the cover for the front cup-holders, but there are covered cup-holders in the rear, several other covered cubbies up front, and pockets on all the doors.
That big LCD screen on the dash is standard, but the information displayed on it may vary, depending on trim level. On our fully-optioned car, it showed everything from radio stations to navigation. There’s even a little colour touchscreen below the big main screen to control the stereo and phone, which initially seems like an afterthought put in to compete with Ford’s MyTouch, although there is already a rotary-joystick thing lower on the centre console, like BMW’s iDrive. And yet, it’s actually easier to use than either of those aforementioned systems, with its intuitive interface, sensitive touchscreen and big icons, with a keyboard appearing for inputting navigation destinations. Mind you, it can be delayed at times, like taking a second to change or shut-off the music after you press an icon, although the steering-wheel buttons are there to take the slack.
Other features in our EX included all the usual power accessories, front-side-curtain airbags, smart keyless entry and start, cruise control, sunroof, strong dual-zone a/c with rear vents, average CD/MP3 stereo with Bluetooth streaming, phone and USB/AUX ports, rear parking sensors, rear camera with guiding lines, both power-adjustable front seats, electric rear sun-blind and halogen headlights. But you have to move up to the V6 model to get rear-side window shades and, amazingly enough, full LED headlights.
In an unanticipated move, Honda chose to skip their new direct-injection 4-cylinder engine with CVT automatic for the GCC region, in favour of carrying over the previous 2.4-litre inline-4 with a 5-speed automatic. With a few tweaks, it now makes 173 hp at 6300 rpm and 226 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, which is slightly less power and slightly more torque than before. Naturally, it isn’t quick, but it is fairly adequate, as we clocked it doing the 0-100 kph run in 9.2 seconds with a wheelspinning launch during our February test. Leave the ESP on, and it takes longer than 10 seconds.
The gearbox is lacking in speeds compared to the competition and doesn’t even have a proper tiptronic system, but it’s very responsive and we liked the way it changed gears as we’d expect it, instead of acting lazy or economical at inopportune moments. Even then, we managed an indicated 9.3 litres/100 km of fuel consumption in mixed driving, something the Toyota Camry can only manage with a lot of highway cruising.
The ride quality is smooth enough, at least on par with most of the Accord’s Japanese-branded rivals, if not better. It rides softly, with a hint of floatiness, but there are no bouncy rebounds. The cabin is kept reasonably noise-free at highway speeds, although we feel certain American brands do the “quietness” thing better. The Accord lets in more of the road noise than we’d like, and it becomes especially noticeable beyond 120 kph. On the other hand, the Accord comes with active noise cancellation to muffle engine noise, and we can attest that it works wonderfully.
Under the skin, the big news is Honda’s switch to a MacPherson strut front suspension instead of the fancy double-wishbone setup previously, with a multi-link rear. It’s impossible for us to notice the difference though, and Honda was likely counting on that. The Accord’s handling is safely neutral in sharp direction changes, with good body control and no untoward swings of the tail like we found in the Kia Optima. There is a bit of body roll, but there’s decent grip from the 225/50 tyres that wrap the 17-inch alloys on our test car.
What we also liked were the controls. While there was some concern with Honda’s decision to switch to electric power steering for this new model, they’ve done a decent job of giving the wheel a little bit of weight and retaining a bit of feel, better than BMW even. The accelerator is responsive and the brake pedal is linearly weighted, unlike the robotic mess in Volkswagens. The ABS-assisted brakes themselves are good enough for the daily commute and the occasional hard stop.
Compared to its closest rivals, the American-built Honda Accord may appear expensive based on the specs-sheet alone, but getting behind the wheel of one exudes a certain amount of “premium” feel that almost justifies the dealer mark-up. Mind you, it isn’t the best midsize sedan ever, but Honda’s judicious use of quality materials and attention to detail is something that only the keenest of car-buyers will notice when cross-shopping with its main rivals. And that’s enough to satisfy those who took the plunge and bought one, while the rest flock towards other brands in search of a better deal.
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