Midsize Madness - Day Five

Patrick M Hoey

Our winner is the 2013 Honda Accord. Really, it comes as a surprise to us, too.

As always, it's a matter of a combination of factors, not just any one thing. That is, it's a matter of character. Plenty of people will tell you that choosing a car is just a matter of picking a few key features, then working through a network of options that looks very much like the chart of our tournament here. Cars are all the same, they say. The buying process is the hard part, they claim.

Actually, the opposite is true. If you stick your head out the window and look into the street, you'll instead see that cars are wildly different. Even when you take a segment of vehicles like these midsize sedans, you find remarkable differences among cars, as we learned by driving the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.

And it is the 2013 Honda Accord Sport that prevails.

Character Counts
As much as anything, our choice has been determined by the way that the Honda Accord drives. You wouldn't necessarily describe the Accord as a driver's car, yet it is remarkably easy and natural to drive in a way that anyone will notice.

It begins with the rigorously ergonomic approach that Honda takes to formatting the driving position of its cars. You notice the great visibility from the driver's seat, the thoughtful layout of the light-effort controls, and then the predictable responses of the steering, throttle, and brakes. The Accord is maneuverable in the big parking structure downtown, comfortable on the long freeway ride to work, and energetic enough to make every drive effortless. This is a car that helps almost everybody drive very well, and the result is not just a feeling of safety but also an experience of driving enjoyment.

When you evaluate an Accord on its own, it's easy to take these things for granted, and the car doesn't seem so impressive. Yet once you have a chance to compare the Honda side by side with its competition, you realize just how different this approach to driving really is. And this is why the Accord really suits everybody, tall or short, expert or novice, male or female.

The American Car
From its introduction clear back in 1976, the Accord has combined European styling, American comfort, and Japanese reliability. It might be said that the best thing about the 2013 Accord is the way it embraces this formula with renewed enthusiasm.

The Accord looks good yet does so without being insipid. It drives comfortably yet maintains the high level of stability and poise that is required at the speeds we drive today. And the overall level of quality is high, even though the labor - not to mention 65 percent of the parts and pieces - come from North America, not Japan.

We enjoyed being in this car, and while its interior dimensions aren't much different from those of its competition, it feels especially open and spacious. The soft-touch detailing has added a worthwhile dimension of luxury, and even the cloth seat upholstery seems particularly nice. And just as important, we found it easy to climb in and out, while the ride was quieter than we remember from past Accords as well as more supple and composed on the road.

In the past, the Accord has always seemed like a strong value proposition, yet now this car aspires to something more than big-time practicality. This has become a very nice car, an automobile that projects a premium image and seems like something to which we should aspire. And, ironically enough, there are not so many cars that deliver these things at this price point.

The Changing Midsize Sedan
It is astounding just how good midsize sedans have become. In this group of eight cars, you can find astonishing style, astonishing fuel economy, and astonishing speed.

We can thank the sport-utility vehicle for these improvements. The SUV has largely taken over the role of family vehicle from the midsize sedan, which has enabled four-door cars to be more expressive, more fun to drive, and more enjoyable overall.

The 2014 Mazda 6 is a great example of these trends, as it delivers a package that measures up to the Honda Accord in almost every way and even exceeds it in terms of fuel efficiency. The Mazda 6 came a close second to the Accord in our deliberations, not the least because it's the kind of car that speaks to our personal priorities at Automobile Magazine.

Yet the 2013 Honda Accord prevails with us because we think it's the right car for almost everyone, not just us. This is an unlikely gesture of public-spiritedness on our part, but it's rare that you encounter a car like the Accord that you can unequivocally recommend to everybody. And we mean everybody.

Character Counts
Really, it's been quite a tournament. You can read about the mission we set for ourselves, the driving report for each car, and the smart-ass comments that we made afterward. Here we present the final match between the 2013 Honda Accord and 2014 Mazda 6.

We've learned that this tournament-style format has helped us pick the cars we like best, so we never felt trapped into making unenthusiastic choices based on broad-based mediocrity rather than excellence. We've learned that character is a mix of attributes - style, speed, practicality, and quality. And when real people choose real cars, they take the whole range of attributes into consideration, not just one isolated feature.

You might think midsize sedans are all the same, but we can now reiterate that they are astonishingly different. Each combines attributes in a different way and projects a different character as a result. You could drive these cars blindfolded (which we do not recommend, of course) and still be able to determine the ways that they differ from one another.

The 2013 Honda Accord succeeds with us because we believe it has a character that defines the American-market midsize sedan today, a commanding mix of affordability, practicality, fun, and comfort. If you want to understand the way in which the automobile is being improved to meet the challenges of the times in which we live, you need look no further than the Honda Accord.

Gotta say I've driven a 2010 Honda Accord extensively... Its slow as a dog (automatic refuses to downshift), loud, and the ride can be a little rough. It is also elegantly simple and ergonomically a masterpiece. The Accord is very relaxed and kind of goes through the motions during everyday driving; its not very dramatic at all. But when you push it pretty hard everything comes together. As described by Automobile mag, the handling is very predictable and the steering and suspension match beautifully in that the suspension is taught and the steering is actually fairly heavy and quick. It really feels very natural as well as easy to drive fast and inspires confidence. I have an '04 mazda 6 and I actually like the accords steering better (the 6's is too light).That said... Mine is much older and I'd probably rather have the new 6. 
Alejandro M. Almanzar
Check it out David Ortiz-Melo
I have driven both cars and I would without hesitation  have chosen the Mazda 6 over the Accord and for me it isn't even close.  You must have driven a different car because the Mazda easily outhandled the so called Honda Sport which I found very little "sport" at all in its driving dynamics.  Hands down the Mazda was more fun to drive than the Accord which drove like many of the other boring, midzize sedans.  The Accord's styling is dated, utterly uninspired  and boring.  I also found the Accord's suspension to be noisy and not particularly composted over rough pavement.   Whereas the Mazda 6 is a finalist for World Car design of the year.  Your review also failed to mentioned  a major design failure on the part of Honda, it equipped the Accord with a one piece folding rear seat and even when you do fold down the seat, the opening space is small and narrow and it tapers to an even smaller opening on the top as the top corners are rounded (the Accord also has exposed trunk hinges which could damage cargo when you close the trunk ( by comparison the Mazda which thoughtfully designed housings which the hinges slide into).  The Mazda has the superior 60/40 split folding seat and when you do fold down the seat the rectangular opening is larger than Accords and does not narrow at the top like the poorly designed Accord.  
Tundra Dweller
"To each his own" certainly applies. I tested the Mazda 6, Accord EL & Sport and then the Mazda 6 again. It wasn't even close.[IMG]http://i199.photobucket.com/albums/aa266/tundratom/IMAG1295_zps310d229f.jpg[/IMG]
If all the people who praised the Mazda actually buy one maybe Mazda can survive. I hope so, so Mazda can keep making the Miata. 
Andrew Gross
Relly? Did Honda buy more advertising space again???
Bald Guy
Honda Accord is the most exciting thrill ride of any sedan, said no one ever......
Peter Perreira
I did. Don't like it it's for old people's. Sorry
Norm Wick
We don't have to buy the "winner".  I'm going with the Mazda 6!
Underpowered, overpriced, and very drab looks, as in tired, old, bored looks. Either you guys really like classic looks and nothing fresh and exciting, or Honda payed you the most for this long played out ad. I see way to many trends in your magazine as of late. You seem to pick the same type of winners in all these tests. And as evidenced by reading the other posts, you need less biased people looking at these cars, and not just a small panel of 3. Find 5 normal people from various walks of life and repeat this test.
Dammy Onafowokan
Really? Really? Mazda got robbed!
James E Griffin Jr
Honda Accord is at the top of the mountain right now.. they did a complete restyle that says winning all the way.. I love the Optima and Mazda but I Automobile Mag got this one right.. if you don't believe it then go test drive them all for yourself like I have..
The Honda should certainly win any Appliance Comparison...but the elimination rounds in this 8 way match-up were questionable. If you asked THREE car enthusiasts which one THEY would like to drive, the Honda would have been left in the parking lot - while The Fusion, VW and Mazda 6 sailed over the horizon.
As a employee of a large rental car company I have driven all the cars here but the Honda, and I can honestly say the Mazda shouldn't of won.
Van K
I'm glad there are choices. For some a "nice" car with a CVT is a better choice than superior handling vehicles with even a hint of style. Seems like a weird position for "Automobile" to take, but hey whatever floats your boat. I'll ALWAYS take the car that provides an all around experience, but emphasizes driving enjoyment. 
Radical idea.
Gavin Varitech
I am a Mazda driver who's previous three vehicles were Honda (Acura's actually) and I very much like the new Accord. But the center stack is hideous! I could not buy that can under any circumstances knowing I would have to see that monstrosity every time I got into it.

Thank goodness there is at least one Japanese company (Mazda) that realizes it is not only OK but preferable to go with the less is more/Audi approach with their dash/center stack/interior.
John Hand
"Best"... At putting you to sleep behind the wheel.
Tundra Dweller
Bravo to the Editors for a refreshingly un-biased comparison that focuses on John/Jane Q public that, in the end, are the buyers, owners and drivers.I found the comments concise with just the right amount of (honest) humor.After test driving most of these and performing the due diligence before signing on the dotted line I chose the soul red Mazda 6 sport AT. Driving has now become engaging, something a rabid motorcyclist thought he would never admit to.
Kushal Singh Tanwar
which car is this
Marius Razafimahatratra
Raymond Doherty
I bet this is the only time the Mazda does not win this comparison, it has won every other one so far.
Leonard Hanson
Wow I thought for sure Mazda was going to win
Sigrid Coulthurst
I'm glad. I don't really want to see millions in the same car I'm in. I like having an awesome cat that stands out from the masses. I love my Mazda.
Lee Klein
BORING. You guys made the wrong choice, and the people are speaking.
Raymond Doherty
It;s a good car the Honda but I would have picked the Mazda, just look at them side by side, the Mazda almost looks like a Quattroporte and the Honda kinda looks like a Kenmore
Robert Freeman
no its not. honda stepped up their game with this car and finally came into the modern age. hondas and acuras just feel right
Gilles Thibault
I drive an Accord (2008 EX-L Coupe 5MT) and my wife, a 2012 Mazda 5GT 6MT - yes it's available in Canada. I find that the Mazda lacks the refinement of Honda (I am comparing to the Civic and CR-V here). Plus it seems to require much more frequent and more expensive maintenance than our Hondas (She used to drive a 2003 CR-V). After only a year and a half, it already feels like a much older vehicle, older even than my 5-year old Accord... I am now a skeptic when it comes to Mazda...
Carlos Valdés
Mazda 6 was robbed... It is hands down better than the boring Honda
Alienx Trm
two thumbs down. don't recommend. *unlike*
Peter Perreira
Money talks b******* walks.. in Europe and elsewhere Mazda 6 comes out on top..
Kevin Edgren
I know people who will buy a new Honda without even looking at anything else. I think they have lost their edge with the Accord and especially the Civic. Drive the competition before you buy. You might be surprised.
Barry Petrie
Jeffrey Madden
I have a 2008 Accord V6EX-L. This is my 5th Honda and it may be my last. I have fouled out my spark plugs 3 times. Yes I have gotten the PCM firmware upgrade and cylinder 3 still fails about every 60,000 miles. I paid $2,000 for the navigation package and they want $180 for map updates. I can go buy a $149 Garmin with free map updates. In the 5 years I have had my Honda Accord EX-L they have never had an update for the voice recognition software? I can speak and my android phone picks up what I am saying perfectly and my Honda can be clueless. Just thought that I would throw my 2 cents in.
Faulkner Mazda
:( Mazda6 was robbed!
Fatih Elmorabit
honda accord
Kanav Gupta
I agree here. The Accord is the best midsize sedan by far.
Arman Sj
Jim Bur
Disappointing...would still never own one as I dont ever want to drive boredom (ala Honda or Toyota mid-size)
Chris Busbee
There is much to be said for the Honda, and in their recommendations, they tell it like it is.  It IS a great car for the masses, eg...sheep.  For people who actually enjoy driving, and like slightly better fuel economy, fantastic styling, and a useful back seat, pick the Mazda6.  For all their talk of ergonomics, one area the Honda ROYALLY screwed up on, is the one piece fold down back seat.  Really?!!  So don't take the kids to make that larger purchase, because they're not going to have anywhere to sit! 
@Doc Get over it but hurt Mazda fan boy.  They said the 6 was a very close second any way
@RickELake The VW?  Seriously??? Talk about being an appliance!  You'd have to ramp up your defensive driving to avoid other drivers who saw your Passat.  And I love its terrific engine... every time a Passat is sold with its base engine, a farm tractor is put out of commission.
@Tundra Dweller It's nice that this rag tried to consider what the public wants, but maybe they should have considered that maybe they don't know what the public wants (yourself as an example) and just gone with what they would want and recommend.
@Sigrid Coulthurst An awesome selling point, Sigrid!!
@Gilles Thibault I've done some research on the 5, it seems that they carried over too many parts from the 3 that were underspec'd for the increase in size and weight of the 5, making parts wear out quicker than they should.  Sad, because I think the 5 would be a great car for my mother.
Gavin Varitech
@Gilles Thibault Just so you know, according to KBB Mazda has the lowest 5 year cost to own of all brands sold in America. Not sure where the "frequent and expensive maintenance" comment comes from
@Peter Perreira True. Interestingly, Accord isn't even available there. It is replaced by TSX (I think). Shows us what shape our driving market is in.
@Chris Busbee I wouldn't call it a royal screw-up.  My '08 TL back seat doesn't fold down at all.  A one-piece folding seat doesn't sound too shabby to me.  :-)
Jack Yao
@Chris Busbee what's wrong with putting kids in the trunk?
@makasayX Actually, I never said anything about the Mazda, which I think is old and dated in it's own way. I just think that Honda needs to really refresh the line since it looks like a bunch of dated tuner cars. I am sure by your avatar that you must drive a Honda? Now who is the real fanboy here?
@sydtron @Tundra Dweller I agree, a reviewer should state what they would choose and recommend, if not then why do this comparison test, just look at the sales figures and then pick the  best seller, which would mean of course based upon Automobile magazine's criteria of "what the public wants" would be the Camry.   Of course, if Automobile magazine did what they were suppose to do and picked the car that they liked the most--it looks like they would picked the Mazda 6.
@brady33 @Chris Busbee Except for the fact that almost every other competitor offers 60/40 seats and there really is no question that this feature will allow you to carry a passenger in the back seat along with cargo.  There absolutely is no good reason for Honda not to offer this feature.
@Jack Yao They should go in a trailer, separate from the car itself :)

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles