Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Hybrid versions join newly redesigned lineup.
The Honda Accord is among the best of a crop of superb midsize cars. Accord comes in four-door sedan and two-door coupe versions and offers a wide variety of engine and transmission choices for different types of buyers and budgets.
For 2014, an all-new Accord Hybrid sedan joins the line boasting an EPA-estimated 50 mpg City rating from a smooth, advanced two-motor gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Completely redesigned and re-engineered for the 2013 model year, the rest of the Accord lineup carries over unchanged.
The 2014 Honda Accord comes standard with a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It's a smooth, enjoyable engine and, on Accord sedans, gets an EPA-estimated 27/36 mpg City/Highway with the CVT continuously variable transmission or 24/34 mpg with the 6-speed manual gearbox. The Accord Sport Sedan and Accord Coupe models get about a mile per gallon less in fuel economy.
A 3.5-liter V6 engine is available that delivers 278 horsepower and an EPA-rated 21/34 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed automatic transmission; V6-powered Accord Coupes rate 21/32 mpg with the automatic. The Accord V6 coupe is also available with a sporty 6-speed manual, which rates 18/28 mpg, much less than the four-cylinder.
Two hybrid gas-electric Accord sedans are available: Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-in Hybrid. Both are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, so you will never be left stranded due to lack of electric charge. Both recharge themselves when driving with the gas-powered engine.
The Accord Hybrid seamlessly blends electric-only drive, gas-engine drive, and a combination of the two. The result is excellent fuel economy and smooth cruising. Accord Hybrid is EPA-rated at 50/45 mpg City/Highway; we got better than 50 mpg while driving normally. The Accord Hybrid cannot be plugged in: Simply fill it with gas like any other car and go about your life.
The Accord Plug-in Hybrid, however, can be plugged in. This feature allows the owner to recharge the car overnight and drive to and from work without using a drop of gasoline, assuming you work within five miles of your home. A fully charged Accord Plug-in Hybrid offers an electric-only range of 13 miles. If you exceed that range the gasoline engine kicks in to prevent you from being stranded. The combined gas-electric range is 570 miles. Under normal driving, the Accord Plug-in Hybrid is EPA-rated at 47/46 mpg City/Highway. Using electric power, it's rated by the federal government at 115 MPGe, whatever that means. There are tax credits and rebates available from the federal government and some state governments, California among them. Also, some states issue stickers allowing electric cars and some hybrids to travel in HOV high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
All Accord models have room for four adults, five in a pinch. Sedans have more backseat room than do the coupes. We find the cabin appealing, comfortable and convenient, and Accord offers the latest in telematics and electronic applications.
On the road, the Accord is quiet and controlled, a blend of isolation from annoyances with responsive road manners. It isn't about being the fastest in a straight line or flattest around the corners but rather being well-rounded and doing everything better than average. Overall, it feels smooth and refined.
The Accord sedan and coupe look good, their styling neither as dramatic as some nor as bland as others.
The midsize segment is a large one with many viable competitors. Among them: Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat. Drivers who want more space, performance or features might also look to a Nissan Maxima or Toyota Avalon. Hyundai Genesis Coupe is an option. The choices in the family sedan segment are bigger and broader than ever and car buyers are the winners.
The 2014 Accord sedan comes standard with a 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard on Accord LX and EX; a CVT continuously variable transmission ($800) is available for LX, Sport, and EX models and comes standard on EX-L. A 278-hp 3.5-liter V6 is available only with higher trim levels and comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Accord Coupe LX-S, EX, and EX-L use the 2.4-liter with 6-speed manual or CVT. Accord Coupe EX-L V6 comes with a choice of 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices and do not include $790 destination charge.)
Accord LX sedan ($21,955) is equipped with the 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox or CVT continuously variable transmission ($22,755). Accord LX comes with cloth upholstery, dual-temperature climate control, power mirrors/windows/locks, rearview camera, Bluetooth hands-free, USB port, split-element driver-side mirror, 8-inch display, Pandora, SMS text messaging, automatic headlamps, cruise control, active noise cancellation, variable intermittent wipers, folding rear seat, AM/FM/CD/aux 160-watt stereo with speed-sensitive volume and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Accord Coupe LX-S ($23,625) is equipped similarly to the LX sedan but adds rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, and shift paddles for the available CVT ($24,475).
Accord Sport sedan ($23,715) comes with 6-speed manual transmission or CVT ($24,515). Accord Sport sedan also upgrades to 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust outlets (boosting power to 189 hp), fog lights, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 10-way power driver seat and shift paddles for the CVT.
Accord EX sedan ($24,880) upgrades with moonroof, LaneWatch, power driver seat, keyless entry/pushbutton start, heated side mirrors with signal repeaters and 17-inch alloy wheels. Accord EX sedan is available with the 6-speed manual or the CVT ($25,680). Accord EX coupe is equipped similarly but adds touch-screen audio and fog lights to LX-S coupe. Accord EX coupe offers 6-speed manual ($25,300) or CVT ($26,150).
Accord EX-L sedan ($28,270) comes standard with the CVT and upgrades from EX with leather upholstery, lane departure and forward collision warnings, driver memory system, touch-screen audio, HondaLink/Aha telematics, 360-watt 7-speaker stereo, XM radio, auto-dimming inside mirror, LED tail lights, multi-angle rearview camera and heated front seats. Navigation is available and offered as a separate model ($30,045). Accord EX-L coupe ($28,345) adds LaneWatch plus most EX-L sedan upgrades and comes with the CVT; navigation is available ($30,120)
Accord EX-L V-6 sedan ($30,345) uses the 278-hp V6 engine and 6-speed automatic and adds LED daytime running lights, power passenger seat, HomeLink, and dual exhaust. Navigation is available ($32,120). Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe ($30,625) adds 18-inch alloy wheels, driver seat memory system, LED daytime running lights, HomeLink, and dual exhaust; EX-L V6 Coupe offers a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic for the same price. Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe Navi ($32,400) offers both transmissions as well.
Accord Touring V-6 sedan ($33,480) adds LED headlights, adaptive cruise control and navigation.
Accord Hybrid ($29,155), Hybrid EX-L ($31,905), and Hybrid Touring ($34,905) feature the gasoline-electric two-motor hybrid system.
Accord Plug-in Hybrid ($39,780) is only available in California and New York, comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine, 124-kW two-motor hybrid system and 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It's equipped like a Touring sedan, except the seats are environmentally friendly cloth rather than leather and interior color is gray.
Safety equipment that comes standard on all models includes two-stage front airbags, dual-chamber front side airbags, side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, electronic stability control, antilock brakes, rearview camera, tire pressure monitors, and daytime running lights. LaneWatch, forward collision warning and lane departure warning are optional.
The Honda Accord sedans and coupes look fresh, having been completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. This ninth-generation Accord blends curves, creases and angles, now in a more cohesive shape; it's incrementally lower, wider and three inches shorter than pre-2013 models. There are no changes for 2014.
Honda has always favored slender pillars, lots of glass and a low hoodline for good visibility, and amongst the growing trend to make four-door sedans resemble coupes this generous window area is refreshing. Where the window line on many cars extends from the top of the hood to the top of the trunk, the Accord's runs more from the headlight cut-line to the top of the tail lights. This yields not only a credible sedan profile but also adds to the airy cabin spaciousness and proper rear-seat headroom. From overhead the center section is mildly barrel-shaped, the widest point where front and rear doors meet appearing pointed relative the smooth lines of the roof above it.
There's a mild forward tilt to the profile, enhanced by the scalloped front door panels and raked headlight housings. Viewed from behind, the front wheel opening is inset above the sill and shows some tire, an image we associate more with sports cars than family sedans.
Rear doors on Accord sedans look like long-wheelbase versions of some sedans, with an almost flat section at the top and opening that runs straight from the door sill to the window kink popularized by BMW and Hofmeister half a century ago.
The coupe is nicely proportioned and, like the sedan, uses a higher than average roofline over the back seat for better-than-normal rear-seat room. Unlike the sedan the tail lights do not extend into the trunk lid, and the chrome lower molding is much wider. Also unlike the sedan, the rear reflectors on the coupe are vertically oriented and the tail pipes are semi-inset in a deeper bumper; you actually see fewer mechanical parts from behind the coupe than from behind the sedan.
Up front the dual-bar horizontal grille is all Honda, with a more stylish lower half. A more attractive honeycomb lower grille and chrome strip at the bottom edge are handsome without being edgy. Coupes get a more pronounced center section, honeycomb grilles top and bottom, and round fog lights in square openings for more attitude; it's the same width as the sedan, just an inch lower. On V6 models the daytime running lights are LED, and the Touring sedan uses LED for low-beam headlights as well.
The hybrid models have unique front styling. The headlight housings and upper grille get blue accents, the hood, bumper and fog light apertures are different, and a black bar bisects the big single grille opening as on many Audis. To our eyes all the black trim is a bit much on anything other than a black car, though only three colors are offered. The wheels are also gloss-black, with forward-climbing metal spokes, a sinister look more rapper than tree-hugger. A very obvious blue-ringed, Hybrid-badged charging port in the left-front fender is at odds with the square fuel door at the back; we prefer the Chevrolet Volt's approach of one discrete opening on each side.
At the rear, a chrome strip across the trunk and clear backup/signal lenses separate trunk lid and rear window from the back of the car, the end result reminiscent of a Hyundai Genesis. A small lip spoiler adorns the rear deck of Accord hybrid and Sport versions and can be added to others. Sport and V6 models get dual exhaust outlets. All have a chrome bottom strip to complement the front, and the rear quarters are reasonably square even if you can't see the edges from the driver's seat. On Accord EX-L and higher trims, the brake- and taillights are LED.
On models with the Lane Watch function, the passenger-side mirror is deeper than the driver's to accommodate a small camera, lending a small imbalance viewed from a distance. (Cars from Mercedes and other manufacturers have done this in the past, also.) We like symmetry on sedans and would prefer the same mirrors, but it's a small thing.
All Accords have alloy wheels of 16 to 18 inches in diameter. Most handsome are the 18s used on some coupes and the Sport sedan, and just the wheel upgrade, small rear spoiler and dual exhaust outlets make the car more attractive to our eyes.
The cabin in the Honda Accord is comfortable, functional, and attractive, and the model line offers plenty of variations in price and features.
Front seats proved comfortable and supportive, not at all flat and spongy; adjustability degrees vary by manual or power, driver or passenger. With a tilt/telescoping steering wheel anyone should find a good driving position. There is plenty of room. Some slender types wished the door wasn't so far away though few will complain about reaching the seat adjusters with the door closed. Footwells are wide and headroom is fine, even with a sunroof. The only complaint came from a tall rider who found thigh support lacking because the cushion wasn't far from the floor and the passenger's footwall seems closer than the driver's.
We put a pair of 6-footers in the back seat and there were no complaints, even though with a moonroof, which reduces headroom slightly. There are AC vents in the center console (EX or better), assist handles and a fold-down armrest. With the small floor hump, minimal headrest lift and higher seat cushion, the center position is best for child seats. We did not see any rear-seat reading lights or a trunk pass-through, and the seatback folds only as one piece, not split 1/3-2/3 as in some cars.
Assembly quality appears good. We have seen no sharp edges on plastic moldings around door pockets or seat tracks, no flimsy hardware. High-gloss woodgrain trim has been replaced by matte finishes, gathered leather by tauter perforated upholstery. The upper door panels are soft-touch only on the back half, which visually splits the upper in two and some may construe as cost-cutting. Sport and EX-L cars get a leather-wrapped version of the nicely dimensioned three-spoke steering wheel, with shift buttons on Sport CVT. Dash trim may be a vertically oriented dark woodgrain, metallic mesh, or a sparkly black, but all have a big chrome ring around the cupholder.
A single-piece dashboard is dominated by a speedometer so large that other motorists may be able to read it. The speedometer is flanked by a partial corona that changes color to green the more economically you drive, giving a Christmas-light effect against the red gauge markings on Sport and Coupe. We could not figure out how to turn it off, even if ECON mode was not engaged.
Hybrid versions get a unique instrument panel. Surrounding the corona-ring big speedometer are bar-graph indications for fuel and battery charge level, and the power/recharge scale. The display in the center offers powertrain modes, economy guide that moves a car within a circle for better or worse fuel efficiency, the requisite green leaves, turn-by-turn navigation, active cruise control and so on.
Engine revs, temperature and fuel level flank the speedo; the digital center gives instant fuel economy, trip odo, exterior temperature, gear and so on. Stalk controls are simple, the interval wiper industry-best, and the steering wheel switches quick to master. A few switches such as the ECON button, traction-off and lane-departure warning are less convenient left of the wheel, and do-it-yourselfers and tire technicians will appreciate the tire-warning reset switch on the dash.
All Accords have a central dash screen that displays an image from the rearview camera. Without navigation, the audio and information controls are just below that screen between two. The dual-temperature climate controls are grouped below that. On cars with navigation the area beneath the screen becomes touch-screen audio with a volume knob, while the nav/phone/info controls move below climate control, replacing a storage bin on lesser cars. Although further from the screen, those controls are closer to shifter and the whole arrangement is far superior to the mishmash on the previous-generation, 2008-2012 models.
Cabin storage is good, with bins in the console, all doors, and a decent glovebox.
The trunk offers 15.8 cubic feet of space, which is competitive for the class. Under the trunk floor, there is a temporary spare tire but room for the flat you take off. There are grocery bag hooks in the rear corners. A pull-lever in the trunk releases the rear seat back for large, awkward items, but the opening is small by class standards.
All Accords deliver a comfortable ride and a reassuring confidence they can handle any situation. This latest-generation Accord feels more refined than pre-2013 models.
The standard four-cylinder engine was new for 2013, and features direct injection for efficiency and power. The Honda engine idles smoother than many big fours. It doesn't encourage winding it to redline but you don't need to. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers 185 horsepower. Accord Sport gets 4 hp and 1 lb-ft more torque because of dual tailpipes; we could hear more difference than we could feel. The Sport also adds shift paddles to the steering wheel, like some Coupes, on the CVT version. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder with CVT is EPA-rated at 27/36 mpg or 24/34 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual transmission.
The manual gearbox is easy to use, with shifter and clutch action that have Honda's characteristic light, crisp action.
The CVT provide shorter ratios for acceleration and taller ratios for highway cruising. By using only what engine power is needed to move the car and not climb through gears, the CVT improves fuel economy and makes less noise. If you use the shifter's S position rather than D it revs higher sooner for better motivation, and slows better on long grades or braking for a corner. As there are no separate gears, there are no 1, 2, or OD-off settings.
Fuel economy for the 3.5-liter V6 is an EPA-estimated 21/34 mpg with 6-speed automatic or 18/28 mpg with 6-speed manual. Regular gasoline is recommended for all models. The Accord V6 Combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 25 mpg matches or betters V6 competitors.
The 6-speed automatic has only Drive and Sport positions for forward motion. Drive works as normal; Sport upshifts later and downshifts for grades or braking, but it takes a while to learn exactly when it will downshift without surprising you.
A V6 6-speed manual is offered only on the Coupe, and mileage doesn't match the sedan because that engine does not use Variable Cylinder Management. VCM switches off the front half of the V6 engine when little power is needed, the V6 sedan often cruising level ground with economy like a 1.75-liter three-cylinder but without the vibration or roughness. Manual-gearbox V6s are a favorite of Accord speed-freaks but their rarity caused the last generation to occasionally garner a premium price at dealers who had them.
The sleek profile of the Accord Coupe means a bit less rear-seat room and less-convenient access.
Meanwhile, active noise cancellation works like your noise canceling headphones to minimize annoying mechanical racket and it is standard on all Accords. Also contributing to reduced noise and vibration is electric-assist steering. This has light effort but doesn't feel artificially light nor elastic or floaty as some on long sweeping bends. Response to the helm is quick, and it's not rubbery just off center when you begin to turn or make minor corrections.
The Accord Sport model features firmer shock, spring and antiroll bar rates but these are subtle changes and not big whacks. Steering effort is higher than with the other models, a combination of the fatter 235/45R18 tires and tuning of the power assist, and it needs another 1.5 feet of space for a U-turn. There's no detriment in ride comfort. We're not sure we would opt for the Sport, though we admit the other Honda in our garage would be an S2000 sports car rather than a Pilot or Odyssey. In fact, while the V6 manual coupe is clearly the fastest Accord, an Accord Sport sedan's lighter front end and slightly better balance might be our choice for a 70-mph world.
In back-to-back drives in Accord, Camry, Sonata and Altima four-cylinder models, the Accord felt the most refined. It didn't feel as light and lively as the Altima but rode better, especially on rough roads. A Camry V6 felt just as quick as an EX-L V6 but didn't have some of the Honda's feature set.
Hybrid models offer a range of 673 miles. Extended driving in several Accord Hybrid sedans revealed them to be smooth, quiet and sophisticated. The suspension is relatively taut, firm enough to slosh a cappuccino and make handwriting difficult. It is perhaps too firm for some but right for others. The payoff is crisp handling, which it delivers. The gasoline engine and the electric motors kick in and out so seamlessly that it's difficult for the driver to detect and passengers will be oblivious. They will just think it's a smooth sedan. We were told that when starting the Accord Hybrid it can be helpful to rev the engine a few times to charge the battery a bit, which results in better fuel economy. Using the B-mode one the shifter changes the driving character a bit, handy on winding roads because it engages the regenerative braking more and slows the car on downhills when you take your foot off the accelerator. Regenerative braking is a strategy that uses braking energy to charge the battery. Because the Hybrid sounds different from a gas-powered car, acceleration performance feels slower than it actually is. Overall, the Accord Hybrid is a very enjoyable car to drive and would be easy to live with.
Brief drives in the PHEV plug-in Hybrid delivered 105 mpg (according to the trip computer) over an 11-mile loop, with no attempt at hyper-miling and got going effortlessly. The PHEV will operate as a pure electric, as a gas-electric hybrid, or with the gas engine connected directly to the drive wheels. Honda's early estimate put electric-only range at 10-15 miles, with another 8 miles available after 30 minutes on a 240-volt charger. The transitions between alternate propulsion modes were quite smooth, especially given the car is still in development, and brake feel allows smooth stops.
Outward visibility is very good. Slim pillars at the windshield and between the doors block little of the view; they do not hide an entire car adjacent or oncoming like some GM sedans. The articulated rearview mirror mount and tall windshield means no ducking to see overhead lights or working around the mirror for uphill right turns like interstate on-ramps. Only Subaru and VW come to mind as equally easy to see out of. On higher-trim Accords the rearview camera becomes multi-angle and all left-side mirrors have a wide-angle element.
The LaneWatch feature shows a camera image of the lanes to the right in the center dash. It can be set to on, off, or on with the right signal. With the signal is most sensible (if you use them) but note if the control beep is enabled it beeps each time the signal/image goes on and off, and sitting at a traffic light with the signal on ties the screen up at a good time to be fiddling with things while you're not moving.
Road noise is well controlled, and we tried both 17- and 18-inch wheels on some poor road surfaces. Engine noise is muted until you go to maximum acceleration, wherein a pleasing mechanical growl enters the cabin. We did notice wind noise at highway speeds, primarily around the pillar between front and rear doors.
The Honda Accord is smooth, easy to operate and enjoyable to drive. All get excellent fuel economy, some better than others yet performance is responsive. We found all powertrain combinations enjoyable, so choosing among them is a matter of preference and priorities. The cabin is comfortable and the trunk is capacious. Options for entertainment and telematics, trim and interior mean there is an Accord for everyone. The coupe is nice, but the sedan is what makes the Accord great. The Accord is arguably the best midsize car available.
G.R. Whale filed this report after his test drive of the Accord models in Southern California; with NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reporting on the Accord Hybrid from San Antonio.
Honda Accord LX sedan ($21,955); LX-S coupe ($23,625); Sport sedan ($23,715); EX sedan ($24,880); EX coupe ($25,300); EX-L sedan ($28,270); EX-L nav sedan ($30,045; EX-L V6 sedan ($30,345); EX-L nav V6 sedan ($32,120); Touring V-6 sedan ($33,480); EX-L V6 coupe ($30,625); EX-L V6 coupe Navi ($32,400); Hybrid sedan ($29,155), Hybrid EX-L ($31,905), Hybrid Touring ($34,905); Plug-in Hybrid PHEV Sedan ($39,780).
Marysville, Ohio; Sayama, Japan.
Options As Tested
Honda Accord sedan EX CVT ($25,680).
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