Look up "pressure" in the dictionary and somewhere, a few entries down, you'll see this: "Redesigning the Honda Accord."
Not only is the Accord Honda's best-seller here, it also competes against an avalanche of rather competent family sedans. It doesn't help that recent years have brought charges (including from us) that Honda has lost its mojo with a string of so-so redesigns, culminating in the decidedly lackluster 2012 Honda Civic. So saying that Honda has a lot riding on the redesigned 2013 Accord is an understatement.
The good news: Based on what we've seen so far from our experiences with two Accords borrowed from Honda, the new car is no Civic. The Accord should certainly hold its own in both the marketplace, and barring unforeseen surprises, in our Ratings.
First impressions are that Honda is getting over their electric steering tuning issues that robbed steering feel from other recent Honda and Acura models. Road noise, a persistent Accord complaint, seems better than before. And the new continuously variable transmission (CVT) feels well integrated, lacking some of the annoying traits that sour us on this technology.
Although we only got a brief stint in the not-quite-done-yet Accord Plug-In, it was impressive to drive. Acceleration response is enjoyable via the electric's abundant torque, and the car stays in electric-only propulsion even with a good deal of throttle input. We are surprised, though, that Honda is introducing the plug-in hybrid version long before its conventional hybrid. Honda claims this is because it's easier to develop the heaviest, most complex version first. We wonder if Honda hopes to sell a few more of the more-expensive and more-esoteric plug-in model while riding the inevitable wave of customer interest that comes with a freshly introduced car.
Another improvement: Honda is playing to win when it comes to feature content. All Accords have a USB connection, Bluetooth, and, most impressively, a backup camera. You also only get satellite radio on EX and higher trim levels. There are still some shortcomings to Honda's strict no-options order structure: You can't get a power driver's seat in the LX (it only costs a few hundred dollars in most rivals) and you can't get a sunroof in the Sport.
Honda is also incorporating a lot of electronic safety features into the latest Accord. Uplevel models come standard with forward-collision warning, as well as a unique feature that uses a camera to show what is in your passenger-side blind spot before you change lanes. We're not so sure about this feature; looking over your left shoulder on the driver's side to merge or pass seems to be more risky (and difficult), yet that side is overlooked by this system. And if the camera is left on, the screen is distracting.
This redesigned Accord comes not a minute too soon. Almost every major player in this segment has been redesigned--or soon will be. It will be very interesting to see how all of these sedans stack up. To find out, we'll be buying Accords of our own when they go on sale next week. For now, enjoy our video for other first impressions.