Carmakers have been on board for some time now with the bigger-is-better theory. Seems each new generation of a model these days brings boasts of longer, wider, taller, roomier.
Well, Honda has taken a different approach with the completely redesigned 2013 Accord. It's smaller and lighter.
Have they lost their minds, you ask? It appears not. And, if you still believe bigger is better, know that the Accord is roomier inside and has more cubic feet of storage in the trunk.
It's the ninth-generation Accord, and it remains good at what it's nearly always done — being a roomy, comfortable and reliable family hauler. But then it went one better on the exterior styling by smoothing out the lines, sculpting in more curves. The front, including the headlights, and rear also were enhanced.
And Honda added a couple more trims: a Sport version, in an attempt to wake up younger folks to the Accord, and the Touring, for those seeking more extras and more refinement. More on that later.
For you Accord loyalists, know that Honda has retained everything you've loved: a smooth, quiet ride that gets you there rather economically. But driving enthusiasts haven't been left out.
Most will go with the standard 2.4-liter inline-four engine, which is decently improved and generates 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. That's better than last generation and, equipped with the CVT (continuously variable transmission), will get you to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. That ranks well with this class.
The Sport trim, equipped with a dual exhaust, squeezes out 8 more horses and some more torque.
Accord's next engine is the 3.5-liter V6, which also has been upgraded and gets 278 hp and 252 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 improves to a quite impressive 6.1 seconds.
Perhaps more important to the Accord crowd: Mileage with the inline four and CVT is in the low-20s around town, low 30s on the highway. Slightly better with the 6-speed manual. With the V6, linked to a 6-speed automatic, you should get around 20 in town but a sweet 33 on the open road.
Honda has one of the best CVT's on the road; it doesn't whine or strain and feels pretty much like the 6-speed automatics.
Acceleration from a stop or for passing is more than adequate in the 4-cylinder and even better with the six. No problems with handling, as the Accord is well-balanced and offers no significant body roll on corners.
The electric-assist steering is lighter than I prefer, but it's responsive and accurate.
From inside, Honda says improvements should make Accord even quieter — road noise is greatly reduced. And visibility remains excellent in all directions.
Seats are comfortable for long trips and offer decent headroom and legroom. Back-seat riders should have no complaints, either.
A nod of approval goes to the materials inside, with soft-touch surfaces that make this car feel more like a luxury car.
The center stack is chock full of easy-to-access information, and some models offer two screens. Strange but true. The top screen handles navigation and rear views for safer backup; The bottom screen is touch-sensitive and handles audio controls and things like phone operation.
The trunk can handle the golf clubs, though I didn't get to play during my week with the Accord. That's because I was bribed into food shopping with the wife. But there I discovered room to spare for a whole week's worth of groceries.
Among Accord's safety features is the neat LaneWatch blind-spot monitoring system. Whenever you hit the right turn signal, a camera on the right-side mirror provides a view of the right side of the car — right on the 8-inch screen. Easy to use, easy to see, this option makes for safe and confident lane changes.
Other safety features include ABS, traction and stability control, front seat air bags and side-curtain air bags. A lane-departure warning system is optional on higher trims.
So, we are back to trims. After a week in the new-for-2013 Sport version, I can say that I appreciate the few extra horses, 18-inch wheels, rear spoiler and shift paddles on the wheel. But it lacked the crisp feel of a real sport vehicle. It's more sporty in style than performance.
As for the other trims, you may need a score card. There are five trims and there are more variations based on whether you choose the coupe or sedan, and the 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder.
The base 4-cylinder LX is nicely equipped with cruise control and tilt/telescoping wheel, full power to accessories, 8-inch video display and even a rearview camera. The EX-L adds premium 7-speaker sound, leather seats with memory functions and safety extras. The EX-L adds navigation.
The midsize-sedan segment is extremely competitive and one which you should take your time to explore, based on your desires. There's a better-looking entry or two, a couple that offer better mileage, and another that offers all-wheel-drive (you may have guessed the Subaru Legacy).
But for all the things many have come to love about the Honda Accord — comfort, safety, reliability — the ninth gen is not about to let you down.