For years, the Honda Accord was at or near the top of the sales charts in the Canadian mid-size car segment.
But in recent times, the Accord’s popularity has fallen off with newcomers like the Korean-built Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima moving up to challenge the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200 and Nissan Altima.
In fact, at the midway mark of the 2012 calendar year, Accord sales sat at just 4,231 units, compared with 11,708 for the segment-leading Camry.
The mid-size segment is an extremely competitive area of the market that accounts for about 20 per cent of all car sales in Canada. Honda hopes to regain a larger market share in this segment with the release 2013 Accord sedan later in September.
A coupe version of the Accord follows in November.
The Accord is one of the three “pillars” of the Honda lineup along with the Civic and CR-V. Combined, these three vehicles account for 80 per cent of all Honda sales in Canada.
So, success with the 2013 Accord is crucial for Honda, which has been building the Accord uninterrupted for 37 years.
The Accord was the first Japanese car to be built in North America. This ninth generation Accord will also be built in North America and arrive in three forms—sedan, coupe and plug-in hybrid, with the hybrid about a year or so away from going on sale.
Honda says the 2013 Accord has the roomiest cabin in the segment with more rear legroom than ever before, yet it is 90 mm shorter than the outgoing car. Cargo volume jumps to 447 litres, up 50 litres from the 2012 model.
Since the competition has ramped things up styling-wise, Honda had to do likewise with the Accord and the result is a bit sportier look than before.
It doesn’t have the soft lines of the Sonata or Optima, but Honda says this is the most sculpted Accord ever and it lives up to several important design concepts—it has good visibility, exhibits sophistication and refinement and offers good value for the money.
However, the overall design stays true to the Accord roots and will not provide the excitement of some other contenders in the mid-size category.
Fierce competition has forced manufacturers to add content and lower prices in recent years and the Accord is no different.
For 2013, the LX model replaces last year’s SE and it offers $3,500 of added value at a lower price.
Trim levels for the 2013 Accord sedan include LX, EX-L, EX-L V6, Sport, Touring and Touring V6, while the Accord coupe comes in EX, EX-L Navi and EX-L V6 Navi.
The Accord Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) sedan will be launched sometime next year as a 2014 model, followed by a two-motor hybrid based on the same power train architecture.
Power for the base Accord comes from a brand new direct injection 2.4-litre inline i-VTEC engine that features an eight per cent bump in horsepower to 185, up from 177 in the 2012 model. Torque is also up considerably to 181 lb/ft from 161.
The Sport model has the same engine, but features a special exhaust system with larger diameter tubing that helps generate four more horsepower, taking it up to 189.
Meanwhile, the 3.5-litre V6 engine generates 278 hp and 252 lb/ft of torque.
Three transmissions are offered for 2013—a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the four-cylinder models, a six-speed automatic for the V6 engines and a six-speed manual for the four-cylinder.
With these new power trains, the Accord becomes the first vehicle to employ Honda’s new Earth Dreams technology—dedicated to enhancing fuel efficiency and improving performance.
V6 models with automatic transmission get variable cylinder management, which involves switching from six cylinders to three when demand for power is reduced, such as in highway cruising.
Inside, the Accord has been upgraded considerably with much more soft touch materials, better seats and more overall interior space. Drivers and passengers alike will find a quieter cabin with much less wind and road noise evident.
The ride and handling are improved as well, thanks in part to suspension changes.
For example, MacPherson struts replace the previous Accord’s double wishbone setup in the front, reducing weight as well as noise, vibration and harshness within the cabin.
The new Accord is seven per cent more aerodynamic than the outgoing model and that combined with the use of additional lighter weight high-strength steel helps with fuel economy and handling.
I had a chance to drive two versions of the Accord sedan—an EX-L V6 and a Touring model with the four-cylinder engine and CVT transmission.
For obvious reasons, the more powerful V-6 was much more peppy and quieter than the 2.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder. Of course, you pay for that refinement at the gas pumps.
Estimated city/highway/combined (L/100 km) fuel economy for the 2.4-litre with the CVT transmission is 7.8/5.5/6.7, while the V-6 with six-speed automatic transmission is 9.7/5.7/7.9. The six-speed manual rating with the 2.4-litre is estimated at 8.7/5.7/7.4.
Canadian pricing for the 2013 Accord will be released on Sept. 20, however Honda has indicate the Accord LX sedan will start at around $24,000, the Accord Touring sedan at around $32,000 and the V6 Touring sedan at around $35,000.
Coupe prices will be released closer to launch time in November.
Honda Accord 2013
Body Style: four-door, five-passenger mid-size sedan.
Drive Method: front-engine, front-wheel drive.
Engine: 2.4-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder (185 hp, 177 lb/ft of torque) with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or six-speed manual; 3.5-litre V6 (278 hp, 181 lb/ft of torque) with a six-speed automatic.
Cargo Capacity: 447 litres.
Fuel Economy: (Estimated) 2.4-litre (CVT) 7.8/5.5/6.7 L/100 km, (six-speed manual) 8.7/5.7/7.4 L/100 km; 3.5-litre V-6 (six-speed automatic) 9.7/7/5.7/7.9 L/100 km).
Price: Accord LX sedan $24,000 (est.), Accord Touring $32,000 (est.), Accord V6 Touring $35,000 (est.).