Thumbs Up: Reasonable power and ride quality
Thumbs Down: Sport in name only with CVT
Buy This Car If: You want Honda reliability in a relatively entertaining midsize sedan
When Honda redesigned the Accord for the 2013 model year, it also made a serious attempt to broaden the product line and appeal to an even wider array of customers. One such model is the new-for-2013 Accord Sport, which lies one step up from the bottom of the range and is meant to appeal to younger buyers looking for some entertainment value with their family sedan.
As the name implies, the Sport delivers a bit more horsepower (189 hp, versus 185 hp on other four-cylinder Accord models), 18-inch wheels, a rear trunk spoiler, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and paddle shifters for the CVT transmission (though, thankfully, the car is also available with a six-speed manual transmission). It inherits the good looks and roomy interior of other new Accord models, as well as the nicely restyled dash and instrument display.
The 2013 Accord restyle gives all models a fresh and contemporary look without deviating too far from its sensible roots. Don’t look for style gimmicks here, since Honda doesn’t need a “tiger nose” grille to get buyers into showrooms. Though the Japanese automaker may have erred in releasing the 2012 Civic before it was completely ready, it hasn’t made the same mistake with the new Accord. While the midsize segment is more competitive than ever thanks to new (or relatively new) offerings from Chevy, Ford, Nissan and Toyota, all 2013 Accord models we’ve driven are more than capable of taking on competitors in terms of style, content and pricing.
Outside, the proportions of the new Accord seem just right to us, likely helped by the 2013 Accord’s smaller overall size. There’s a short front overhang, enough wheelbase to ensure rear-seat passenger comfort, and a trunk that’s larger than the rear overhang would seem to indicate. If we’d throw a flag on Honda for any exterior styling trend, it would be “excessive use of chrome,” as thick slabs of brightwork are used extensively to adorn the front and rear fascias, as well as the daylight opening. We’re not opposed to a bright accent or two, but the Honda is dangerously close to sporting Liberace levels of adornment. Please, Honda, taper this back in your next design revision.
Inside, the Accord’s new dash design is a big step forward. Even non-infotainment-equipped models get an oversized dash-top display, though this looks a bit odd showing just a clock or audio settings. We’re fans of the dash’s stepped design, which is wrapped in a finely-grained soft touch vinyl. Even the patterned trim is nicer to look at than fake wood or piano black, making us wonder why more manufacturers don’t go this route. Honda excels in delivering a high quality feel to the Accord’s interior, which is a step above what you’d expect to get for the price.
Instruments mirror those in the Accord Coupe we reviewed last month, and our opinion hasn’t changed. The speedometer incorporates a driver information display, and is flanked by a tachometer and combination fuel and temperature gauge. All instruments are easy to acquire and the LCD information display is brightly lit for daytime visibility. Though no one buys a car based on its instrumentation alone, we’d declare the Accord’s to be among our favorite.
Front seats are wrapped in an attractive black fabric, and the driver’s seat is power-adjustable. It’s got an inflatable lumbar support, too, but both front seats lack the kind of bolstering needed for “Sport” driving. That doesn’t detract from their comfort, however, and the first row delivers plenty of head and leg room. Missing, perhaps, are seat heaters, but then again the Sport is just one level above the basement trim.
There’s plenty of head room and leg room in the second row as well, which serves up ample space to fit two adults or three children in comfort. Three adults will fit in a pinch, too, but there isn’t much head room in the center seat, so occupants will need to plan accordingly. Like the front seats, the rears are wrapped in a textured black cloth, which we much prefer to the proliferation of cow-from-a-test-tube offerings beginning to populate the industry.
Under the hood, Sport models get the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine used throughout the Accord range, but it makes (slightly) more power. While the standard 2.4-liter makes 185 horsepower and 181 pound feet of torque, the Sport’s dual exhaust increases output to 189 horsepower and 182 pound feet of torque. Will you feel a difference? No, but on paper, the Sport is faster; expect a 0-60 mph run in about the same 7.5 seconds it will take other Accord models equipped with the CVT to get there. The EPA says to expect 29 mpg combined (26 city, 35 highway), but our own numbers are closer to 32 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined.
On the road, the Accord Sport delivers a somewhat entertaining driving experience. The steering has a decent feel and is nicely weighted, and the same can be said of the brakes’ pedal feel. The chassis seems willing to take on any winding road you have in mind, and the sedan transitions from left to right like a much smaller car. The bad news is the CVT; if we’re honest, it delivers a lot more sound than fury. Honda doesn’t have the development time with CVTs that Nissan does, and it shows; in Sport mode, the engine drones on unpleasantly as it seeks to deliver maximum power. The simulated paddle shifts are quick enough (and Honda does give customers seven fake “gears” to play with), but even they fail to deliver anything approaching a sporting experience. With the available six-speed manual transmission (which we sampled in the Accord Coupe), the Accord Sport would deliver a much more engaging driving experience.
Our complaints about the Accord Sport are minor in light of our praise for the car, and Honda deserves credit for giving buyers a bit of entertainment value in the lower end of the family sedan price bracket. If we needed a commuter car with room for four, we’d seriously consider putting the Accord Sport on our own shopping list, since it delivers what we need (and want) without saddling us with faux luxury or excessive gadgetry. We’d opt for the six-speed manual, though, as it really would transform the car.
Honda supplied the 2013 Accord Sport for the purpose of our evaluation. Sticker price on our press fleet tester was $24,980, including a $790 destination charge, and there were no dealer-installed options listed.
For comparison, a similarly-equipped Nissan Altima 2.5 SV would sticker for $25,645, while a comparable Toyota Camry SE would price at $24,794.