The 2013 Honda Accord has some tough competition, going up against completely redesigned models such as the Nissan Altima, Volkswagen Passat, and the upcoming Ford Fusion in the midsize sedan segment. Naturally, you'd think the Accord would take a revolutionary leap for the ninth generation like its competitors, but instead of following the pack, Honda opted for a more evolutionary approach, keeping the essence of the Accord while making it more contemporary.
From a design standpoint, the 2013 Accord doesn't stray far from its predecessor and keeps the same shape with its large greenhouse. However, the beltline has been lowered a smidge to improve overall visibility. Tweaks to the sheetmetal lend the Accord a bolder look with sharper lines. Extensive use of high-tensile steel, which makes up 55.8 percent of the unibody, reduces weight and increases structural rigidity.
What's under the hood of the 2013 isn't entirely new either. The most significant change is the departure of the much-maligned five-speed gearboxes in favor of a six-speed manual or CVT for four-cylinder models and a six-speed manual or automatic for V-6 Accords, though the combination of the V-6 and a manual is offered only on the Accord Coupe.
On the engine side, the optional 3.5-liter V-6 is largely carryover, though it receives a power boost to 278 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque and an increase in fuel economy to 21 mpg city and 34 mpg highway in the sedan. Automatic transmission-equipped variants also receive Variable Cylinder Management and an Eco mode. The base engine remains a 2.4-liter I-4, but the one in the 2013 Accord is a significantly re-engineered unit fitted with direct injection. In most flavors, it makes 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque -- increases of 8 and 20, respectively. In the new Accord Sport, output increases slightly to 189 hp and 182 lb-ft. More important, fuel economy is improved on CVT-equipped models by 4 mpg city and 2 mpg highway to 27/36 mpg.
One flavor of the ninth-generation Accord that does receive some new hardware under the hood is the upcoming 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid. Scheduled to go on sale in early 2013, the Accord Hybrid will be powered by a 137-hp, 2.0-liter, Atkinson cycle I-4 in tandem with a 124-kW electric motor with total output peaking at 196 hp. Honda expects it to receive a rating in excess of 100 mpg-e and to be rated an Enhanced AT-PZEV by California, which would allow solo drivers to use HOV lanes.
On the chassis side of things, Honda replaced the old Accord's double wishbone front suspension with a MacPherson strut setup that rides on a new aluminum and steel subframe. Honda claims the new configuration is not only lighter, but also helps improve handling and ride quality by reducing interior noise, vibration, and harshness -- an area in which Honda needed significant improvement.
Inside, the 2013 Accord has been loaded with a number of new and advanced technologies. For example, instead of equipping the Accord with the usual blind-spot monitoring system, Honda stepped it up with its brand-new LaneWatch Blind Spot Display, which uses a small camera housed underneath the right side mirror to provide the driver with a clear view of what's happening on the rear right side of the car via the 8-inch intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) that sits high on the dash. Information such as fuel economy status and the view from the rear backup camera, which comes standard on all Accord models, is also displayed on the screen. Other new safety features include Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning System, while an Expanded View Driver's Mirror first introduced in the new 2012 CR-V helps with visibility.
On the entertainment side of things, the 2013 Accord will boast Honda's new HondaLink cloud-based infotainment system. Co-developed with Aha by Harman, HondaLink is meant to provide all of the benefits of a smartphone without the distractions. Through the use of in-dash and steering wheel-mounted controls and voice commands, drivers have access to a variety of apps, including the ability to have their Facebook and Twitter feeds read aloud. HondaLink will also incorporate Pandora and voice-to-text SMS texting though a new audio touch screen that sits below the i-MID and closer to the driver.
Aside from the new gizmos and gadgets, the 2013 Accord's interior is all about understated luxury. The cabin has been fitted with more comfortable seats and more soft-touch surfaces on the touch points. Although the Accord shrank in size on the outside -- it sits on a 0.9-inch shorter wheelbase and is 3.5 inches shorter in length -- room on the inside has increased, thanks to what Honda officials call "smart packaging." Rear passengers gain 1.3 inches of legroom and cargo volume stretches to accommodate 1.1 cu ft of extra volume.
With these updates, several new flavors for including the new Touring and Sport trims, and the upcoming plug-in hybrid, the 2013 Honda Accord appears ready to retain its predecessor's position as a top seller in the midsize sedan segment, and possibly mount a challenge to the Camry's long-standing domination of the sales charts.