Mid-size sedans are in a period of rapid change, and fading fast are the days when you typically had to choose between only a tepid but economical four-cylinder engine or a strong but thirsty V-6. But Honda is making getting its higher mileage a different way. Instead of moving to turbocharged four-cylinder engines as a foundation, as we've seen in a number of newer models like the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, and even Chevrolet Malibu, it's sticking to what it does well in the 2013 Honda Accord—with naturally aspirated engines that add pep and driving enjoyment yet are more economical than before.
In four-cylinder versions of the 2013 Accord, Honda achieves ratings as high as 27 mpg city, 36 highway thanks to direct injection for the engine, plus an all-new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that keeps revs down when cruising or accelerating lightly; yet it feels much more responsive and 'natural' due to a special 'G-Design' shift logic that reels in the rubber-band responsiveness and droning engine revs that can make CVTs so unappealing. This combination is instead very refined and responsive, and most of the time it fools you into thinking it's a modern automatic transmission with many gears. Manual versions are offered, too, and we find the Accord Sport with the manual transmission to be an especially sporty but fuel-efficient combination.
V-6 models are, surprisingly, not only still part of the lineup but much-improved for fuel-efficiency, returning a 34-mpg highway rating that's the same as last year's four-cylinder. That's made possible through taller gearing, plus a number of other fuel-saving measures—yet it makes 278 horsepower and rockets to 60 mph in less than six seconds, making it faster than some rear-wheel-drive sport sedans. Overall, both versions drive with a light, nimble feel, with well-weighted electric power steering and a revised suspension (no more front double-wishbones, though), with good ride quality and a refined, quiet ride that's aided by active noise cancellation—an advanced-tech feature included in all 2013 Accord models.
The new Accord's design is a carefully evolved affair; even though Honda says that it's followed an entirely new “man maximum, machine minimum” approach in penning it, the end result bears a strong likeness to its predecessor—albeit with a much appreciated leaner look on the outside (the new car is a few inches shorter). Inside, the 2013 Accord has a cabin that holds true to the new philosophy, with a better seating position, more backseat space, and thinner, stronger pillars that allow a better view out and far less claustrophobia in back compared to most rival models.
Honda is overcoming its reputation for being skimpy on features, or for saving some of the most useful tech features for the highest trims; for 2013, it's offering Bluetooth connectivity standard, across the lineup, and all 2013 Accords include USB and iPod integration plus a rearview camera. A new LaneWatch Blind Spot Display activates when you click the turn signal, displaying an expanded view around the side of the vehicle. It's included with Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning on upper EX-L and Touring models, and the top Touring model now includes Adaptive Cruise Control.
For 2014, Honda will broaden its green-car portfolio by adding new Accord Plug-In Hybrid and Accord Hybrid models.
And for full information, including more on specs, features and interior appointments, see our full review of the 2013 Honda Accord lineup at our companion site, The Car Connection.