Honda revamps its bestselling Accord
Goleta, California—Ever since it hit the North American market in 1976, the Honda Accord has been a game-changer. It was the first compact sedan to sell in decent numbers, and it spawned a generation of similarly conceived models, such as the Toyota Camry, the Mazda 626, and the Nissan Stanza. Right from the beginning, it was a bestseller for Honda and it’s been at or near the top of the pack for at least the past three decades. (Has anyone not owned an Accord?) When rival manufacturers introduce a new compact—or, these days, a midsize sedan—the Accord is usually cited as the one to beat and the benchmark for this market.
But the past few years have been comparatively lacklustre for Honda’s flagship. It’s still a decent seller and a good choice, certainly, but equally competent models from Korean rivals Hyundai and Kia have taken the edge off things, and more recently last year’s catastrophic tsunami hit the company hard in terms of suppliers and logistics.
Time for a change. But any alterations to this mainstream sedan have to be of a cautious nature. This is not the time for a drastic restyling treatment or all-new drive trains. Nothing stays still in the car industry, but the Accord has always been about evolution, not revolution.
“The Accord is one of Honda’s ‘pillar’ models,” explained Dave Gardner, Honda Canada’s vice-president of sales and marketing, at the launch of the 2013 Accord in California. “It’s one of the most important models in our lineup, and this is not so much about just increasing sales—although that would be nice—but about raising the bar.”
Apparently the culmination of three years’ worth of research and development, the new Accord will have two engine choices: a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a 3.5-litre V-6. Power outputs are 185 horsepower and 278 horsepower, respectively, which is up slightly over the 2012 model. Nothing surprising there. Except, perhaps, the name of these engines. Honda is describing them as employing “Earth Dreams” power train technology…whatever that is.
But the big news is that the Accord will now come with an optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic, as well as a manual six-speed and traditional planetary six-speed automatic.
Why the belt-driven CVT? According to chief engineer Shoji Matsui, it’s all about fuel economy. Nissan’s Altima sedan, for example, is easier on gas than the current Accord, and it’s had a CVT for at least a couple of years now. Says Matsui: “We’ve been doing extensive testing to find out why the Altima has better fuel economy, and we think a CVT is part of the solution.” So, like it or not, CVTs are here to stay, and we’ll likely be seeing more of them from other manufacturers.
Elsewhere, the new Accord will feature a slightly larger trunk—some 50 litres of additional capacity—while being about 90 millimetres shorter. Changes to the body style are subtle, and if anything this edition looks even more conservative than the 2012 version. Two configurations will be offered: a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe, with various trim levels for each model.
One of the biggest bugaboos afflicting the current generation of Accord—and some other Honda products too—is excessive noise emanating up through the floorboards and wheel wells. On the highway, in particular, the Accord is a loud automobile compared to many of its competitors. Honda has been taken to task about this more than once. For 2013, the Accord will apparently have better soundproofing than before, with a more rigid body structure and insulation in the roof, floor, and door panels. It will also have a cool little goodie in the form of a noise-cancelling audio feature. In a nutshell, microphones located in the roof liner will pick up excessive ambient noise and send a signal to a processor, which will in turn relay a “reverse phase” signal to an amplifier, which will “tell” the door speakers to cancel out the original noise. This feature will be in play whether the radio is off or on. Slick.
To attract younger buyers, the new Accord will be chock-a-block with electronic extras. Apparently, just driving a car isn’t enough these days; buyers will be able to choose from things like Slacker personal radio, iPhone and Android adaptability, texting presets, and app downloading capability. These are all accessed via Honda’s HondaLink program.
But that’s not all. A plug-in hybrid version of the Accord is just around the corner, and it’ll be a “full” hybrid, meaning it can run on pure electric battery power…for up to 28 kilometres. This model—the PHEV—is expected by summer of next year. It will provide an overall driving range of some 800 kilometres, with one of the highest fuel-economy ratings in the midsize segment, according to Honda.
Honda hasn’t released a pricing structure for the new Accord, but it’s bound to be similar to that of the current version, which ranges from the mid $20,000s to the mid $30,000s.