This was supposed to be a bounce-back year for Honda. After the tumultuous events of 2011 when a catastrophic earthquake and resulting tsunami halted production in Japan and floods later put parts suppliers out of commission, car
That goal has been accomplished. The Civic is back atop the leader-board as the best selling car in the country. The new CR-V is selling well and now the new Accord has been named 2013's Best New Family Car Under $30,000 at AJAC’s annual TestFest.
These three pillars of Honda’s success in North America are now all new and, with factories around the world running at full production, Honda is indeed getting on with business.
Year-to-date sales are up 25% over from 2011, the Civic is on track to be Canada's best-selling for the 16th consecutive year and the CR-V looks good to retain its title as the best-selling compact SUV in the country.
The award-winning new Accord is the most recent update in the family. The nameplate has now been on the Canadian market for 37 years and the new 2013 model is its ninth generation.
It is 90-mm shorter than the outgoing model but offers more room inside and in the trunk. It is also the quietest Accord ever offered and boasts a number of interesting new technical innovations, including forward collision warning, and an innovative lane watch and lane departure warning system.
The Accord continues to be offered with both four and six-cylinder engines but they are coupled to two new transmissions. Both engines are markedly more fuel efficient than those of their immediate predecessors.
Shogi Matsui, the chief engineer, in charge of the team that developed the ninth generation Accord has a long history with the nameplate. He joined Honda 30 years ago and his first project was the fuel cover lid of the 1986 Accord.
He had plenty of incentive to make this latest assignment successful. “The guy sitting next to me back then – the man who showed me what to do – is now the president and CEO of Honda,” Shogi-san said with a smile. "We met recently and once again he told me what to do... “make it the best Accord yet.”
All-new from road to roof
The 2013 Accord comes in sedan, coupe and plug-in hybrid formats. It is based on a new chassis and despite its evolutionary looks, is all new from road to roof.
The decision to offer a coupe seems to fly in the face of the market. Toyota has dropped the Camry Solara and Nissan has not announced plans for a coupe version of its new Altima.
But Honda says the new Accord coupe is meant to showcase the new engines and transmissions. It even focused – successfully – on a unique exhaust system and sportier sound for the coupe.
Following Honda’s “man maximum, machine minimum” packaging philosophy the new Accord rides on a wheelbase that has been extended 25 mm, yet it is 90-mm shorter overall and offers 15-mm more rear seat leg- and shoulder-room and 50 litres of additional trunk capacity.
The coupe, on the other hand, is 44 mm longer with emphasis placed on additional rear seat space. It too offers a larger trunk.
The 2013 Accord sedan is available in LX, EX-L, EX-L V-6 and new Sport, Touring and Touring V-6 trim levels. The Coupe comes in EX, EX-L Navi and EX-L V-6 Navi trim levels. A hybrid sedan will join the line in late spring.
While the design team played it safe with exteriors that are familiar, they broke the interior mold.
The first thing you notice is exceptional visibility in all directions thanks to relatively narrow pillars, a low belt-line and lots of glass. You can see closer to the vehicle in all directions and a rear-view camera is standard equipment.
The 2013 Accord is available with a lane-watch system that employs tiny cameras mounted at the bottom of the side-mirrors. The system shows, in the big full-colour screen on the instrument panel, what is in the lane beside you when the turn signal is activated or a button is pressed on the end of signal lever.
That same touch-screen also shows the rear camera view, the navigation system display if so-equipped and allows you to set your own wallpaper.
The new Accord is available with a forward collision warning system, LED headlights and Honda’s new cloud-based connection system that lets you access media through a smart phone connection.
Major engine revisions
Both the 2.4-litre four and 3.5-litre V-6 engines are revisions of the outgoing models, now employing direct fuel injection.
The block is the only part of the four that is carried over; everything within and atop it is new. Torque has been increased by 10% and fuel consumption decreased by 11%.
While many competitors in the segment have switched from a V-6 to turbocharged fours as their engine upgrade, Honda is staying with the six.
This newest version of its 3.5-litre V-6 gets direct injection and an i-VTEC variable valve-timing system for the first time, but also continues to offer variable cylinder management, which shuts down three cylinders during times of no- or low-load.
Honda says the V-6 Accord now offers best-in-class fuel efficiency, better than the new turbo fours, and is one-half second quicker to 100-km/h than the outgoing V-6.
Much of this increase in performance and fuel efficiency is because of the new transmissions developed for the new Accord.
The four-cylinder engine is paired with a six-speed manual or CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic. The V-6 gets a new six-speed automatic or the six-speed manual.
While it is still a CVT, which is my and most enthusiasts' least-favourite transmission, the one used in the four-cylinder Accord is less offensive than most in terms of motor-boating or holding the engine in a noisy, high-rev speed range while the car catches up.
There is no denying the efficiency of CVTs, however, which is why Honda turned to one for this application.
The new chassis is 40% stiffer than the old and a 7% improvement in aerodynamics, active noise-cancellation and careful application of a range of sound deadening materials has resulted in a very quiet vehicle.
The front suspension has also changed from double wishbones to struts in the pursuit of reducing road noise and vibration.
The new Accord is well-suited to its mission as a mid-sized, mid-priced family sedan, and full value for its AJAC award win. As such, it has earned a place on the must-consider list of anyone shopping for a vehicle in that class.