Whenever I had the chance to review a new Honda, I invariably questioned the direction the carmaker was headed. I, like many petrolheads who once venerated Soichiro’s namesake machines for their stress on driving fun, was saddened to see the company estranging itself from its splendid past. It’s not that all new Hondas aren’t good. In fact, they’re superbly built, highly reliable cars that sell in their millions the world over. The problem rather was the high expectations Honda enthusiasts had each time a new model was launched. So, not wanting to be disillusioned all over again, it was with a mix of muted enthusiasm and restrained scepticism that I waited for the 2013 Accord saloon last week.
I must admit the new Accord is indeed a good-looking car. Honda has succeeded in making it look remarkably better than before without alienating those who loved the previous generation. The car’s exterior dimensions have shrunk from before, with overall length reduced by 60mm and the wheelbase shortened by 25mm. This and the shortened front and rear overhangs make the design look more compact and streamlined than the eighth-generation car. The styling is aggressive, starting from the bold redesigned grille and headlights that sweep up into the fenders, to the crisply sculpted character line that flows along the sides and the sporty and dynamic rear. This is by far the best looking Accord in many years.
The biggest improvement though is in the interior. Despite the car’s shorter overall length and wheelbase, the Accord’s cabin is surprisingly more spacious than before, with rear legroom increased by 32mm and cargo space up by 22 litres. The dashboard has been completely redesigned and unlike the previous model’s, which was a confusing muddle of buttons and knobs, sports much simplified controls. The best new feature in the Accord is a camera mounted beneath the right wing mirror that activates when you indicate right and gives you a clear image of everything on the right in the 8in central monitor. I found this feature extremely handy as this eliminates blind spots completely and you don’t have to take your eyes off the road while changing lanes. However, a second, smaller screen in the middle of the dashboard seems redundant and even a bit distracting to me.
For those who shuddered at the prospect of seeing your favourite Honda engines mated to annoying CVTs, there’s good news. They haven’t made their way to our market. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder and the 3.5-litre V6 are coupled with five-speed and six-speed automatics respectively. And both these powertrains benefit from Honda’s latest engine technology, which is called, rather ludicrously, Earth Dreams. The 276bhp V6 in my Sport trim test car is undoubtedly one of the smoothest operators in this segment. And it returns impressive fuel economy figures too. My test car returned an average of 9.8 litres-per-100km over five days, which is pretty good for a V6.
Honda has also revamped the Accord’s suspension, with the front double wishbones having been replaced by MacPherson struts. While this has evidently improved the way the car handles, strangely, the ride quality has deteriorated and is not as soft as
what traditional Accord buyers would be used to. But the cabin feels better insulated from noise and vibration than before. And when it comes to safety, the five-star-rated Accord does not compromise at all, with six airbags protecting you from all around. It also benefits from Honda’s ACE body structure, which improves occupant protection in frontal collisions.
With its attractively aggressive styling, better dynamics and bulletproof reliability, the 2013 Accord is overall a much improved car and is one that should be on your shopping list.
Although “Earth Dreams just kicked in yo!” doesn’t exactly have an exciting ring to it, the refreshing change in direction seen in the Accord gives us hope about the future of this brand built by the great Soichiro.
Specs & ratings
Model Accord 3.5 Sport
Engine 3.5-litre V6
Transmission Six-speed auto, FWD
Max power 276bhp @ 6,200rpm
Max torque 339Nm @ 4,900rpm
Top speed NA
Price Dh139,999 (as tested)
Plus Much improved design, better handling, space
Minus Ride quality