First drive: 2013 Honda Accord in the UAE
A new Honda model release is always a cause for anticipation. The brand may have fallen from its peak in terms of regional market-share for a while now, but it is one of the few carmakers that has genuine respect from family men and brand fanboys alike. And with the previous-generation Honda Accord being among the best offerings in its segment, we were keen on trying out the new 2013 model, which builds on the outgoing version rather than completely redoing it.
Externally, it’s obvious that the Honda Accord is still based on the previous model, only with completely-redesigned body panels and styling elements. The only bits hinting at the old model are the shape of the windows and the overall size of the car, and we assume they’ve done enough to appease the general public, considering some other journalists were arguing with us that it is a completely different car.
The new styling is better than before, but very generic. And yet, it makes the sedan appear more upscale anyway. With standard LED lighting elements, it looks like a Lexus up front if seen from a distance, while the rear will have you thinking it’s a Hyundai Genesis from afar. Neither is a bad thing. The higher-trim versions we drove had 17-inch alloys on the EX models and 18-inch alloys on the Sport models. It looked even better with the optional body kit, both the sedan and the perennially-handsome coupe.
Inside the sedan, Honda seems to have shifted around the trim materials, with more hard plastics in certain parts of the door panels, while retaining just enough padded soft-touch areas on those same panels as well as the dash area so that no one will complain, especially when there’s a huge screen now integrated into the dash-top.
The coupe gets the exact same dash, but benefits from better materials on its long door panels, to give it a premium vibe. However, an ergonomic blunder in design meant our elbows could not reach the padded armrests to rest on.
Space in both the sedan and the coupe remain among the best in its class, even in the back and in the boot. Honda even claims they’ve increased space inside somehow, compared to the old model.
That big LCD screen on the dash is standard on all Accord models, but the information displayed on it may vary, depending on trim level. For example, in the fully-optioned cars we drove, it showed everything from radio stations to navigation. On most versions, there’s even a little colour touchscreen below the big main screen to control the stereo and phone, which 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. The nav settings still need to be entered using the rotary-joystick thing though.
The Accord may look similar to the outgoing model, but there are some major changes under the skin. The major ones are that the front double-wishbone suspension has replaced with a MacPherson strut setup, while the conventional power-steering has been replaced with an electric one. Both are bad news for Honda fanatics if going by specs alone, but aside from the fact that BMW uses the exact same setup rather brilliantly, the Accord was never marketed as a sports sedan anyway.
The media trip entailed a rather short five-hour drive from Dubai to the uber-fancy Qasr Al Sarab desert resort in Abu Dhabi, using the scenic route. So we were driving from the late afternoon to well into the evening, for a distance of almost 400 km. The drive back in the next morning was somewhat shorter, as we used the direct route. Either way, most of our driving was limited to straight highways, so we can only comment on its long-distance capabilities.
There were both the inline-4 and V6 models of the 2013 Honda Accord in our convoy, and we drove several variants of each. We even drove the V6 one in coupe form. Both engines got extensive tuning to improve fuel economy.
The 3.5-litre V6 with a 6-speed automatic, basically a carryover drivetrain with a few minor tweaks to make 276 hp and 339 Nm of torque. It comes with cylinder-deactivation at cruising speeds, none of it obvious when driving, and the engine is nicely muffled with the use of active noise-cancellation tech, now standard on all Accord models. With three passengers and luggage in the sedan, it still pulled strongly under full throttle, although by no means will it ever be mistaken for a speedster. The smaller coupe might be a wee bit quicker, but not enough to notice. The optional paddle-shifters were tiny, as if their use is discouraged, but they were useful on the hilly downhill roads for engine-braking.
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 and 226 Nm, which is slightly less power and slightly more torque than before. Naturally, it isn’t quick, but it is fairly adequate, and stands up well against other 4-cylinder midsizers. And it sounds excellent at full throttle, even if you won’t feel the “VTEC” kick in any more, as Honda now favours linear power-delivery.
The ride quality is smooth enough, on par with most of the Accord’s Japanese-branded rivals. The same could be said for cabin noise levels as well, although we feel certain American brands do the “quietness” thing better. The “EX” trim cars we drove all had 17-inch wheels, but the “Sport” models had 18-inch alloys and the latter transmitted a little bit more of the road imperfections.
The electric power-steering is a bit on the light side, but it seems to offer up a little bit of feedback. The brakes are responsive in regular use. And body motions seem to be kept in check just fine in casual cornering and on uneven roads.
Based on our limited experience, the 2013 Honda Accord is certainly a nicer car than the one it replaces. But it does not feel like the class-leader we were expecting it to become by now. Although truth be told, we can’t really say which car is conclusively better than the Accord in this segment, and therefore it remains among the top choices.