The Great American Family Car is, perhaps, not what you might think.
It is the 2013 Honda Accord EX-L sedan.
Forget the crossovers. Forget the midsize cars with varying levels of baroque-creased sheet metal.
It is the Accord, hands down.
The Accord hails from just outside of Columbus, Ohio. Columbus, apparently, is a key city that is used as a test market for a variety of consumer products. It is Middle America at its most.
Honda has just been building vehicles in Marysville, OH, since 1979. The men and women who work for Honda there and in other nearby facilities—everything from R&D to powertrain production—just live in Ohio. They are part and parcel of the community. They are, well, clearly cognizant of what a family car ought to be. And they have substantially contributed to the design, engineering and manufacturing of the Accord.
This is a car that doesn’t simply check the boxes. Sure, they’re checked. But the execution of the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
It is roomy. It is comfortable. It has modern amenities. And it is economical, both as regards its sticker and as regards its performance at the gas station.
The EX-L has seating for five, and you could actually get people in the back seat who aren’t necessarily kids and who would not want to get out of there at the first possible moment. This is a spacious, comfortable car. It rides and handles with authority but not ponderousness.
A friend, who happens to be one of the leading automotive journalists at a publication where going really fast is de rigueur in most instances, agreed with me vis-à-vis the handling and performance of the Accord (though he did point out that when the speedometer starts clocking north of 90, the front end gets a bit too light—and, yes, he agreed that this is something that isn’t likely to be an issue for Accord drivers).
The thing that I find to be most impressive is the fuel efficiently of the car, which is equipped with a 185-hp, 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine mated with a continuously variable transmission. The car is EPA stickered at 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway. My rule of thumb when looking at those numbers is to (1) do an eye-roll then (2) chop off about 25%.
Yet city or highway, I was getting at least 30 mpg. Generally it was 34 mpg combined, which is 4 mpg better than the 30 mpg combined sticker number. Better. Although they’re going to be coming out with a hybrid Accord, it occurs to me that this car—this substantive vehicle—is getting the kind of mileage that is more than respectable and yet it costs under $30K. (The MSRP is $27,995; add $790 for destination and handling.)
There are certainly flashier cars in the category. The Accord is not without style, but it is more of a matter of presence than panache. Again, the quintessential American family car. The adjective “handsome” applies here. It is the kind of car that you can drive anywhere—from soccer practice to the valet line at a restaurant—without feeling out of place. (OK—maybe you don’t want to roll to Lollapalooza in one.)
There is leather. A backup camera. A function that displays what’s beside and behind you on the right when you turn on the right turn signal. A 10-way power driver’s seat. Heated power door mirrors. Etc., etc., etc. The sort of stuff that people in a test market might have said, “If only we had this” and that the people who live in that market and work at Honda delivered on. (OK—there were people in Torrance, California, who worked on it too, and while that SoCal town might not exactly be the sweet spot of middle America, it also happens to be where Toyota Motor Sales USA has its HQ, so there is something to understanding the rest of the country inherent in that locale. And there was plenty of work done in Japan, which is not at all surprising, given the importance of the Accord to the fortunes of Honda Motor Co. overall.)
Some people—at least those who vocationally write and talk about the car industry—sometimes talk about how Honda has “lost its way” or “lost its mojo.” It seems to me that those people haven’t spent time with the 2013 Accord sedan, because this is the kind of car that made Honda the brand it is known for being in the U.S.: one that provides an extraordinary package without an extraordinary sticker price.
Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC, i-VTEC direct-injected four
Material: Aluminum block and head
Horsepower: 185 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 191.4 in.
Width: 72.8 in.
Height: 57.7 in.
Curb weight: 3,358 lb.
Passenger volume: 100.8 cu. ft.
Cargo volume: 15.5 cu. ft.
EPA: 27/36/30 city/highway/combined mpg