Honda has made a fundamental decision about the Accord with its latest iteration.
At the end of 2022, Honda celebrated 40 years of building the Accord in the US. The 2023 model puts us in the 11th generation of the nameplate's lifespan. However, the Honda Accord needs to evolve to remain relevant in a world of crossovers, hybrids, and all-electric vehicle hype. To do so, Honda is leaning heavily into hybrid and infotainment tech on top of the Accord's usual recipe of robust comfort and economic sensibility. Unfortunately, and following on from the loss of the V6 and coupe models, sportiness isn't a large part of the recipe anymore - but this isn't necessarily a bad thing when Honda has that sewn up with the Civic.
A hybrid focus means all models except the lower two rungs on the 2023 Accord's trim ladder feature an electric motor. The non-hybrid models use a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine making 192 horsepower, while the rest use a 2.0-liter gas engine paired with two electric motors to generate 204 horsepower. The new generation is also longer, features new styling inside and out, and big updates to the infotainment system. Following our first drive with the Accord Hybrid, we asked Honda for a Sport-L Hybrid model to review over a few days, as that will likely be the sweet spot for most buyers.
In our first drive review, we mentioned the off-kilter shape. From most angles, the Accord looks like a sleek commuter and family car, but from the side and rear quarter, there's something odd about the back third we still can't put our finger on. It's like an optical illusion where the rear looks both perfectly proportioned and too big at the same time.
Opinion aside, the Accord keeps the same silhouette as before, but it's wider and sleeker with the edges polished out. The hood is longer, and underneath it, there's an active grille shutter that closes up at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics. Overall, it looks edgier and more sporty than the last incarnation, but even on the Sport trim, that's not exactly the case.
Speaking of the Civic, that's where we first saw the mesh dashboard accent across the width of the interior, and it's now a motif across Honda's range. Like the rest of Honda's vehicles, it gives the interior a sophisticated feel, but that may wear off over time with the piano black plastic Honda has insisted on also using. The switchgear is a step up in feel over the previous generation, and it's clear Honda has focused on removing clutter while making the common controls easy to find.
It's a pleasant place to spend a commute in, and rear passengers get loads of legroom. The driver and front passenger get new seats, which we loved on the first drive event over the course of a few hours, and we didn't get tired of them through this full week's use. Annoyingly for those of us that live in hot states, heating and ventilation on the seats are only available on the top trim. Our tester was a Sport-L model, which sits below the top trim. Also a little annoyingly, blind spot monitoring is a $550 option all through the range. This is something we want automakers to make standard.
The bottom gas-powered models get a much smaller seven-inch touchscreen, but all the hybrid models get a 12.3-inch color touchscreen housing Honda's infotainment system. A faster processor makes the system snappy, and the interface is intuitively laid out using bold icons. However, you'll have to go for the top trim to get the excellent Google built-in feature which appears on other cars at the mid-level. The good news, though, is that while the top Touring trim gets a concert-quality Bose Audio system with 12 speakers, the Sport-L trim comes with a 180-Watt eight-speaker system which we think is better to our more-trained-than-average ears.
Honda is pushing hybrid with good reason. All-electric cars are still for early adopters and come with a certain amount of pain. Gas has skyrocketed in price, and petroleum companies are going to milk us all the way to the end of the gravy train, which is now coming into sight. The smartest move for drivers right now is to go hybrid or plug-in hybrid.
Honda told us its goals were to create a fuel-efficient drivetrain that's also refined. The result is 46/41/44 mpg city/highway/combined for the Sport, Sport-L, and Touring hybrids. The EX-L fares even better with a 51/44/48 mpg rating. In all trims, though, it's a smoother and quieter experience than the previous Accord Hybrid model. The 204 horsepower, backed up with 247 lb-ft of torque, is perfectly adequate, but doesn't match the 'Sport' in the trim name in practice.
The Honda Accord is an excellent example of why a crossover isn't necessarily the best option. If you don't need the extra ground clearance, a well-put-together sedan like the Accord is going to give a better driving experience - unless you step into BMW or Mercedes territory and the price tags that come with them. While the Accord Sport -L isn't quick, nor is it one of Honda's better-handling cars, it's the most refined to drive as a normal human being. The suspension does a splendid job of evening out corrugated roads and taking the edge right off of big bumps, the cabin is quiet, which is something Honda has struggled with for a long time with the Accord. To reduce that noise, Honda hasn't just thrown insulation at the problem: Instead, even the wheels designs have noise reduction in mind.
Overall, it feels like an Accord - but better. And not just around town. We put some miles on the freeway, then worked our way through canyon and desert roads, including a portion of Route 66 that isn't maintained. At no point was there any stress. The steering is weighted nicely for the city and freeway, and the CVT transmission is smooth; the fake gear shifts aren't noticeable unless you're looking for it. The ride is just as agreeable, and power is ample for freeway ramps, but there's little excess for having fun.
While the new Honda Accord Hybrid models are the best Accords to date, the accolade pertains to its commuter and family car status. Previous Accord owners will appreciate the lack of road noise coming into the cabin, the updated infotainment, the new front seats, and the fuel economy - which adds up to a nice upgrade over cars a generation or so old. Last-generation owners maybe shouldn't rush to move into a newer generation unless they're all paid off and happy to move on.
Put up against other sedans in the same size range, there's no straight answer. The Accord isn't a clear segment leader, but it's up there. Would we recommend it over a Camry Hybrid? It's too tough of a call unless you want to eke out those extra few MPGs. The bottom line is that the new Accord is an excellent family hauler and commuter sedan, and preference over competitors will be subjective and likely show themselves in back-to-back test drives.
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