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Monday, April 29, 2013

Honda Accord

The Honda Accord has been one of the most popular family sedans over the past three decades. Also offered in three-door hatchback and two-door body styles in many of those years, the Accord has marched steadily upmarket from its roots as an economical small car to its current iteration as a full-size family sedan. Even with its growth and price increases, the Accord remains true to its original mission of providing comfortable and efficient family transportation.

The Accord was just redesigned for 2013, and the current lineup consists of Accord Sedan and Accord Coupe models, with Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid models to come. Rival models include the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry, among others.

In general, no matter which era of Accord you're considering, Accords have always been a little sportier-feeling to drive than the Camry or most other mid-size sedans, even if their engines haven't been any more powerful. Accord interiors have also typically been a highlight for their simplicity yet nice, tactile controls. Even through that late-1990s and through the past decade, Accords with the four-cylinder engine were satisfying and quite refined, unlike some of the base fours in rival models.

As a model, the Accord has been a longtime U.S. best-seller and has been built in Ohio since the early 1980s.

Even though the Accord has been redesigned at regular intervals, its design has clearly evolved. Third-generation (1986 through 1989) Accord models had hidden, flip-up headlamps and a very advanced, sophisticated appearance for their time, and they're likely to be the oldest used Accords typically available. From the 1990 model year on, the Accord broke free from its equivalent model in Japan and became significantly larger in the U.S. to address American expectations. Since then the Accord has been redesigned several more times, with the four-cylinder growing slightly, to 2.4 liters, and a V-6 joining the lineup beginning in 1995—which eventually grew to 3.0 liters.

From 2005 through 2007, a Hybrid version of the Accord was produced. Pairing Honda's 3.0-liter V-6 with a version of Honda's mild hybrid system, the Hybrid could get to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds and performed quite well, though real-world fuel economy was always disappointing—only slightly better than the normal V-6 version.

The Accord grew slightly yet again for 2008, when it was last redesigned, becoming more detailed inside and out at that time and really setting a bold look. It hasn't changed significantly since then. This generation of Accord offers 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines, making 177 or 190 horsepower, or a 3.5-liter V-6 making 271 hp, plus a longer feature list than ever and excellent safety ratings.

Two other body styles are available today. An Accord Coupe gets the same engines and features as the sedan, but with its own distinctive roofline and styling cues, especially in back. Through the mid 1990s a wagon version of the Accord was offered, but it was eventually discontinued due to slow sales.

For 2010, Honda introduced the Crosstour, a five-door tall-hatchback version with a slightly higher seating level than the sedan. It's only offered with a V-6, and we've rated it considerably lower than the sedan due to its heft (up to 650 pounds more than the sedan), low gas mileage, and unimpressive safety ratings. Honda later introduced a four-cylinder version of the Crosstour, which was a slow seller at first, and detached it as a separate model outside of the Accord lineup.

There were few other changes with this previous generation, but for 2012 Honda upgraded the navigation system, with a big eight-inch screen plus Zagat ratings, improved voice recognition, and a rearview camera system, and made a USB port standard across the lineup.

The Accord has been completely redesigned again for model year 2013. While the appearance of the 2013 Honda Accord is evolutionary, Honda has introduced a new 185-hp direct-injection version of its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, plus a new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that's been calibrated to feel more like an automatic transmission yet get improved mileage of up to 36 mpg. V-6 models are still around, and thanks to a new six-speed automatic and other improvements, they're rated up to 34 mpg. Back-seat space and trunk space have both been improved, even though the new Accord is slightly shorter than the previous version, and refinement is improved thanks to active noise cancellation on all models. This generation also gives up its double-wishbone front-suspension layout in favor of struts.

A number of standout features should give the new Accord a lot of appeal in a marketplace that increasingly values connectivity and safety features. LaneWatch provides a wide-angle view from the right side mirror, on the eight-inch display screen, while Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning, as well as adaptive cruise control, are all offered on top trims. Automatic climate control and Bluetooth were newly standard on all models, while LED projector headlamps were introduced on top Touring Sedans. And with an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rating of Top Safety Pick+ (including a top 'good' score even in the new small-overlap frontal test) and an overall five-star federal safety score, the Accord is one of the highest-ranked mid-size sedans in occupant protection.

Beginning in the 2014 model year, the Honda Accord will rejoin the hybrid-sedan battle with a pair of vehicles that will challenge the likes of the Toyota Prius and the Ford Fusion Energi. The Honda Accord Hybrid and the Accord Plug-In Hybrid will sport a 137-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine which runs on the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle, combined with lithium-ion batteries and two electric motors. With a larger battery pack, the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid will be able to go 10 to 15 miles on electric power alone, with a 124-kW electric motor system working together with the four-cylinder engine. Plug-In Hybrid models are already on sale in New York and California, while the Accord Hybrid hits the market in mid-calendar-year 2013. The new Accord Hybrid's final fuel-economy figures won't be released until the vehicle goes on sale in summer.

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