2013 Honda Accord EX review: New Accord runs on 21st-century tech (at last)

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MSRP: $22,480.00
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

5 stars 1 user review

The Good The 2013 Honda Accord EX benefits from a new, economical direct-injection engine and continuously variable transmission. Pandora integrates seamlessly with the stereo, and a new blind-spot monitoring system shows a camera view out the side of the car.

The Bad Neither navigation nor the new HondaLink connected car feature is available at the EX trim level. The cabin tech interface lacks intuitive controls.

The Bottom Line The 2013 Honda Accord EX employs well-engineered drivetrain technology, but Honda reserves most of the electronic gadgetry for the Accord's higher trim levels.

Please visit Honda for additional models.

6.6 Overall
  • Cabin tech 5.0
  • Design 7.0
  • Performance tech 8.0

Past generations of the Honda Accord may have become lost in the competitive shuffle, but the 2013 model faces off well with the likes of the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata. The 2013 Accord comes out as the ninth generation of a nameplate in existence since 1976.

More than just an update, the 2013 Accord represents a very necessary leap ahead for Honda, a company previously locked in a technology pit stop while other automakers raced ahead.

I could not help but think of the 2013 Honda Accord EX as another boring midsize sedan when I saw its name written on our schedule. My preconceptions began to fall apart when I saw it gleaming in the sun during our photo shoot.

The roofline gracefully stretches to the back of the car in that recently popular fastback style. The sides look unadorned, but bear subtle contours; the greenhouse, meaning the windows around the cabin, lets in a lot of light. There is a liquidity to the styling that falls short of the extreme sculpting of the Sonata.

Standing outside the car, the clatter of direct injection from under the hood was obvious. Our example was powered by a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a new mill proudly displaying an Earth Dreams plaque, Honda's name for its recently launched driveline efficiency initiative.

That engine churns out 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, not very impressive-sounding numbers by themselves, but somehow more than they seem when driving the car. The engine accompanies a new continuously variable transmission from Honda, which adds to the good overall driving performance of the Accord.

Having previously driven the V-6 version of this new Accord, I would opt for the four-cylinder, especially considering the EPA fuel economy of 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.

Navigation not included
As noisy as the direct-injection engine is from outside the car, the clatter fades to nothing in the cabin. An active noise-canceling system, which proved effective in many driving instances, seems largely responsible for these sounds of silence. Other standard niceties of the EX-trim Accord include a smart key and an 8-inch LCD in the dashboard, which Honda calls an Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID).

However, the LCD only shows audio, trip, and phone information, not navigation data. Honda only makes navigation available in the EX-L and Touring trims, not the EX or LX. The navigation system stores its maps on a hard drive, and looks much better than past systems from Honda.

With the navigation system, Honda adds a secondary touch screen, which makes the interface a little confusing. Without it, I could control the phone and stereo functions on the 8-inch LCD through the use of a dial and buttons, but Honda still manages to make this interface bizarre.

To see my phone's contact list, I pushed the Phone button on the dashboard. All fine and good, but when I wanted to select some music, pushing the Aux button merely toggled through Bluetooth streaming, iPod, USB, and Pandora, without changing the screen content. To see the music screens, I had to push a button labeled Disp.

2013 Honda Accord
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With a little reprogramming, these buttons could work a lot more intuitively. Josh Miller/CNET

Furthering these odd interface choices, a button on the steering wheel makes the center LCD toggle through audio, trip, and clock screens, but does not include the phone screen. I figured out which button does what in a couple of days, but the interface could be more intuitive.

The extensive audio sources available in the Accord made me very happy. After pairing my iPhone with the car's Bluetooth hands-free phone system, I was able to stream music to the stereo. And the Accord's screen showed full track information, along with Pause and Play controls.

Unlike in other Honda models, where the USB port is a pigtail hanging loose in the console, Honda actually mounted the USB port in the new Accord, right at the front of the console. This position is about as convenient as it gets.

That port handles iOS devices and USB drives. With the former, the audio interface in the car shows music categorized by album, artist, genre, and track. The system is not quite as smart with USB drives, merely showing folders and files, instead of parsing the music based on ID3 tags from the files.

2013 Honda Accord
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The Pandora integration works seamlessly from an iOS or Android device. Josh Miller/CNET

Pandora worked very well in the Accord. Whether I had my iPhone connected via cable or just Bluetooth, choosing Pandora as an audio source caused the app to launch and begin playback. I know Android phones already offer this seamless functionality, but it was nice to see the iPhone work as well. The Accord's Pandora interface gave me everything I could want, from my personal station list to thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons for the currently playing track.

This Accord lacked satellite radio, another feature only available at trim levels above the EX. Likewise, the new HondaLink smartphone-based connected car system comes in in the EX-L trim and above. The HondaLink system integrates Aha's Internet-based podcasts, news, music, and location services.

The six-speaker audio system in the Accord EX comes off as pretty average, and there is no upgrade available. Listening to the Beastie Boys' "Ill Communication," the system showed off some good stereo separation and good treble response. However, the bass and vocals sounded muddy. Turning the volume up to the three-quarter mark led to distortion.

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