Prepare to be shocked by the 2013 Honda Accord. Not because it's radically styled, surprisingly fast or even electric (at least not yet). No, this all-new Accord is groundbreaking for what it isn't — bigger.
That's right, unlike almost every modern sedan of the last two decades, the redesigned Accord is physically smaller than its predecessor. Not drastically — just 3.5 inches shorter overall with an inch shorter wheelbase — but enough to signal that we've seen the end of the ever-growing American family sedan. Even the Honda Accord coupe is slightly smaller than before, although not to the same extent.
There are plenty of the expected changes, too. More efficient engines, additional safety features and some subtle yet effective styling upgrades. An Accord Hybrid will once again join the lineup as well. In fact, there will be two of them, one that plugs in for additional range. So there's plenty that's new even if you can't see the difference on the outside.
The Biggest of the Small Changes
Unlike some redesigns, almost everything new about the Accord is subtle. The new equipment under the hood is a perfect example. The base model Accord will continue to use a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, but it's an all-new design that uses direct injection to help it deliver 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. That's an 8 hp bump and 20 additional lb-ft of torque. The "Sport" sedan trim gets an additional 4 hp thanks to larger-diameter exhaust tubing and dual outlets.
The larger 3.5-liter V6 gets a slight horsepower increase as well (271 to 278) while torque decreases marginally (254 to 252). Both engines use regular grade gas, so there's no need for premium to get optimum horsepower out of either engine.
There are two new transmissions: a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic for the V6. The additional efficiency of the CVT's variable gearing helps to bump the EPA mileage numbers up considerably for the four-cylinder, as it's now rated at 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, increases of 4 mpg and 2 mpg respectively. The six-speed automatic does nearly as much for the V6, as its mpg numbers are now 21 city (up from 19) and 34 highway (up from 30).
Thank Honda for keeping the manual transmission alive, as the Accord will offer it in both the sedan and the coupe. In fact, it's the default transmission in the LX, Sport and EX sedans. It's the same six-speed gearbox offered in the previous Accord V6 and will continue as an option on the V6 coupe.
A plug-in hybrid version of the Accord sedan will arrive in early 2013. It will couple a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 124 kW electric motor to deliver roughly 10-15 miles of pure electric range along with improved fuel economy in mixed-propulsion driving. A non-plug-in Accord hybrid will follow in the summer of 2013.
An All-New Starting Point
This new 2013 Honda Accord does not ride on a shrunken version of the previous platform. It's a completely new design. Most notable is the fact that it switches to MacPherson struts up front in place of the previous car's double-wishbone layout, while the rear retains a multilink setup. Honda says that the strut setup up front allows for a shorter overhang and less weight. The front subframe also mixes in a little aluminum to get the Accord sedan's weight down to 3,192 pounds, a 24-pound reduction over the previous model.
Like most new cars these days, the Accord now uses electrically assisted power steering instead of a hydraulically assisted setup. This is a hit-or-miss proposition when it comes to road feel, but there are definite efficiency gains, so this change is hardly a surprise.
Other dimensional changes of note are a slight decrease in overall height (58.1 to 57.7 inches) and fractionally wider front and rear tracks that vary according to trim level. Wheel sizes vary from 16 to 18 inches on the sedan and 17 and 18 inches on the coupes. Honda also notes that all Honda Accord wheels are aluminum now for the first time in the car's history.
The Magic of Precise Packaging
Given the Accord's shrunken dimensions, you would expect that the interior space would suffer. It does to some degree, but not in the areas you're likely to notice. For instance, although the overall passenger volume is down nearly 3 cubic feet, rear legroom is actually up by 1.3 inches. Headroom and shoulder room are also up fractionally, while cargo room in the trunk is up by a full cubic foot.
How did Honda get more room out of less car? Well, it's not improved everywhere. There's an inch less hiproom up front, and the gas tank has been reduced to 17.2 gallons from 18.5. You might notice the slightly narrower cabin in front, but the mileage improvements will likely cancel out any reduction in range from the smaller gas tank.
All the Features You Would Expect
Every new generation of Accord gives Honda a revived chance to incorporate its latest technology in new and innovative ways. This time around, Honda simplified the overall interior layout while adding a significant layer of new gadgets.
Consider the fact that while the overall button count is down, all Honda Accords now feature standard dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, Pandora music interface and a rearview camera. Standard satellite steering wheel controls don't reduce the button count, but they are fairly simple-looking, so it seems like a logical change.
And yes, that 8-inch screen on top of the dash is standard equipment as well. It controls the Bluetooth, audio system and trip computer on models without navigation. On models that have navigation, the 8-inch screen gets an enhanced display with additional features like customizable wallpapers and additional warning screens.
New safety systems include LaneWatch, a system that displays the vehicle's right-side blind spot on the center console screen when the turn signal is activated; Forward Collision Warning (FCW), a crash avoidance technology that alerts the driver to an impending collision; and Lane Departure Warning (LDW), yet another system that lets the driver know if he or she is driving in a way that could cause an accident.
If there's one thing that will likely never change with the Honda Accord, it's the trim level breakdown. Sure, there are new trim levels here and there, like this year's "Touring" trim, but Honda continues to package additional features into option-less trim levels that are take-it-or-leave-it propositions.
For 2013, the Accord sedan is broken down into six trim levels: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L V6 and Touring. The Accord coupe will be available in LX-S, EX, EX-L and EX-L V6 trims. The hybrid models will each get their own packages.
Any way you cut it, this 2013 Honda Accord appears to be a vastly improved version of the previous model, one that was still pretty good in our eyes. Its styling breaks no new ground and there's nothing particularly innovative about the drivetrains either. Yet when you look at this Accord on paper, there's little reason to think buyers will be the least bit disappointed with the way it blends efficiency, features and passenger space. It may be smaller, yes, but it's not any less of an Accord.