2013 Honda Accord Sport first drive: Slightly less = slightly more

2013 Honda Accord Sport

2013 Honda Accord Sport

The debut – last fall – of Honda’s 2013 Accord marked both that model’s ninth generation and thirty years of U.S.- based production. In an era when model proliferation has (seemingly) no end, and midsize Fords are built in Mexico, the consistency of both the Accord and its Ohio manufacture is one this industry observer can appreciate. And while, within those nine generations, there have been some years better than others, few carmakers have maintained a more even sense of a model’s direction and consumer target than Honda with its Accord. It may not be all things to all people, but the Accord’s ability to bridge the gap between enthusiast and consumer is – we think – without parallel in its segment. And the current Accord Sport is no exception.

The 2013 Accord is described by Honda as “more luxurious, more sophisticated, better performing and better equipped” than any previous model in the Accord’s history. Although basic powertrains remain a 2.4 liter inline four (now with direct injection) or 3.5 liter V6, both engines enjoy small bumps in horsepower and – with the 4-cylinder – a fairly substantial increase in torque. The most significant change, however, is behind the engine, where the 2012 Accord’s 5-speed automatic is replaced – in 4-cylinder Accords – with a CVT and the available manual moves from five forward gears to six. Our test vehicle was equipped with the CVT, and while we continue to prefer the more positive feel of a conventional automatic, Honda’s tuning of its CVT is comparable with Nissan’s. And Nissan’s CVT applications are typically better than most.

2013 Honda Accord Sport

The Accord’s dash provides everything you need.

Beyond the hood, the 2013 Accord received some dimensional tweaks, resulting in a slightly shorter wheelbase, significantly shorter overall length and slightly lower profile. (That profile, by the way, does a competent job of recalling the Lexus LS.) Curb weight drops 24 pounds, which is notable in that a great many redesigns add 200+ pounds to an existing platform. And while overall passenger volume is down slightly, trunk volume grows to almost 16 cubic feet.

Subjectively, the new Accord sedan seems visually trimmer and viscerally more athletic. Positioned between the Accord’s base LX and upmarket EX and EX-L, the Sport moniker may imply something Si-like, but that notion is dispelled almost the instant you get behind the wheel. A slight bump in horsepower over the LX (189 vs. 185), a faster steering ratio, slightly larger front discs and 18-inch rims do not a track day special make.  The modest modifications do, however, supply crispness to the platform that, while not uncomfortable, seems to make high-speed work more composed.

The Sport’s cloth-covered buckets provide comfortable support, although the slickness of the covering won’t be confused with that hook-and-loop stuff. And although it may not stick the driver in place under hard cornering, it does anchor any particulate matter – crumbs, dry skin, etc. – in a world-class fashion. If opting for the any-color-as-long-as-its-black Sport interior, we’d bring along either a mini-vac or big roll of packaging tape. And I’d also hope for more adjustability in the power driver’s seat. With a relatively short torso there was a problem in adjusting the seat high enough for optimal control and visibility.