It might not be flashy or fast, but the Accord stands tall next to the Camry and Sonata.
Feb 07, 2023 at 9:00am ET
Unlike some of its competitors, Honda has no intention of giving up on the sedan market. Its Accord and Civic are today’s most popular vehicles for first-time buyers, Generation Z, and Hispanic customers, and the automaker isn’t about to cede that crown by abandoning the segments that made it a household name in the US.
But tastes and environmental sensibilities demand some evolution, which is why the 2023 Accord is leaning heavily into electrification. Although not a fully electric vehicle (yet), the redesigned sedan is ditching the lusty turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in its top trims, with an efficient hybrid powertrain taking its place. Although the base LX and slightly better-equipped EX trims soldier on with Honda’s adequate 1.5-liter turbo, every other model (Sport, EX-L, Sport-L, and Touring) now comes exclusively with the hybrid powertrain.
I’ll freely admit that Honda’s decision to go heavy on electrification had me a bit skeptical going into my time with the new Accord – after all, that optional turbo engine in the old model was basically a detuned Type R mill. But although I’m sad to see the 2.0T go, the new Accord still gets most of the family-sedan basics right (doubtless to the delight of sedan-loving dealers). It also retains the nimble, fun-to-drive personality that’s characterized most Hondas since, well, ever. And although the styling is a bit anonymous (if also generically handsome), the 2023 Accord is shaping up to be mighty appealing.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Honda Accord Sport-L|
|Motors:||Two Permanent Magnet Motors|
|Output:||204 Horsepower / 247 Pound-Feet|
|Efficnecy:||46 City / 41 Highway / 44 Combined|
Gallery: 2023 Honda Accord First Drive Review
There’s not much to say about the new Accord that isn’t obvious from photos. Like the current Civic, the Accord ditches most of its polarizing design elements – no more shield grille or beveled side window trim. But like its kid sibling, the mid-size sedan is now much more anonymous, with shades of Ford Taurus in the squinting front end and trapezoidal grille. I still appreciate the new Accord’s simple, unadorned bodysides, and the trunk’s crisp contours and ducktail motif get lots of love. Ditto the funky taillights that flank a miniature Honda logo. Those details help liven up what is a mostly inoffensive, but also indistinct, design.
The new Accord is roughly the same size as its predecessor, riding on the same 111.4-inch wheelbase and featuring the same 57.1-inch height as the 2022 model. Overall length is down 0.4 inches, but that’s about the biggest change Honda made between generations, dimensionally speaking.
Inside, the Accord borrows liberally from its Civic kin, with an attractive mesh panel hiding the HVAC vents on the low, wide dash. Materials inside are class-competitive, which means soft-touch plastics where your hands and elbows are most likely to appreciate them, with hard plastic on the rear windowsills and lower center console being the most egregious omissions. If that bothers you, the Touring model adds padding to those particular bits, setting it apart both from other Accords and from most midsize sedans.
The stylish cabin of the 2023 Accord also offers impressive levels of space and comfort for both front and rear passengers. Legroom is near the top of the class, and headroom is excellent for all but the tallest folks. The 16.7-cubic-foot trunk is also the domain of a much larger car, swallowing up all the luggage and video equipment that Video Producer Kyle Freudenberg and I had to offer with abundant room to spare.
|Interior Dimensions:||Headroom, Front/Rear:||Legroom, Front/Rear:||Cargo Volume:|
|Honda Accord||37.5 / 37.2 Inches||42.3 / 40.8 Inches||16.7 Cubic Feet|
|Hyundai Sonata||40.0 / 37.4 Inches||46.1 / 34.8 Inches||16.0 Cubic Feet|
|Nissan Altima||38.0 / 36.7 Inches||43.8 / 35.2 Inches||15.4 Cubic Feet|
|Toyota Camry||37.5 / 37.6 Inches||42.1 / 38.0 Inches||15.1 Cubic Feet|
Freudenberg had a complaint that I agreed with – the passenger seat lacks height or lumbar adjustability, which can cause a tired lower back and thighs on long trips. And it seems as though Honda may have decontented the 2023 Accord a bit, since last year’s four-way lumbar support for the driver is gone on all models, replaced by two-way adjustments. Still, you’ll find the front seats to be well-padded if your physiology fits them, and the cavernous rear seat should draw no complaints except for its lack of HVAC vents and USB chargers – you gotta get the EX-L or the Touring for those.
Sensible (Running) Shoes
The turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four appears in the LX and EX trims with 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The engine links up to a continuously variable transmission that does an effective – if not enthusiastic – job of creating forward progress. The 1.5-liter is a perfectly fine option for most Accord customers, and Honda predicts that 50 percent of them will opt for one of the two trims thus equipped.
Stepping into the Sport model requires a jump from the turbo to a hybridized, Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The engine gets multistage direct fuel injection, resulting in more power and lower emissions relative to the old hybrid’s gasser. Honda enhanced the electric part of the powertrain as well, with two individual electric motors that handle generation and propulsion separately for better response and efficiency.
Total power output for the HEV is 204 hp, which sounds like a downgrade from the old hybrid’s 212, except the old car would be ranked at 202 horses on today’s more accurate measurement standard. Torque sits at 247 lb-ft, up from 232. But no matter how you slice the increases, the new hybrid is undeniably less powerful than the formerly flagship 2.0T motor, which made 252 hp and 273 lb-ft.
Also gone is the old turbo’s crisp 10-speed automatic, but the pseudo-CVT in the 2023 hybrid is unobtrusive. As on the CR-V, the electric motors are the transmission – when the engine is running, it recharges the battery that sends power to the propulsion motor. In occasional part-throttle freeway driving, the engine powers the drive wheels directly, but usually, it’s merely an onboard generator.
At least the Accord’s engine feels better isolated than that of the hybrid CR-V, so its constant restarts don’t upset occupants.
Around town, the hybrid system has more than enough oomph to get the Accord out of its own way, but in my day behind the wheel, the engine fired up more often than I was expecting. Because of the hybrid’s small 1.3-kilowatt-hour battery, the driver-selectable EV mode only lasts a mile or so of very light-throttle driving before the engine has to come online. And press the accelerator more than 20 percent through its travel and you’ll be burning gas, no matter how much juice is in the battery. At least the Accord’s engine feels better isolated than that of the hybrid CR-V, so its constant restarts don’t upset occupants.
The electrified powertrain is more efficient than the one it replaces. Go for an Accord EX-L with smaller 17-inch wheels and you’ll see 51 miles per gallon city, 44 highway, and 48 combined (up from last year’s 48/47/47). The Sport, Sport L, and Touring models have larger wheels that see their numbers drop to 46 city, 41 highway, and 44 combined, still impressive for a family sedan. The thrift helps ease the loss of the 2.0T, but it’s still hard not to yearn for the old mill’s speedy departures and getaways.
Do-It-All Suspension Tuning
Luckily, the new Accord hasn’t lost its playfulness when it comes time to enter a corner. Honda has always managed to make even its most pedestrian automobiles feel entertaining, a trait the mid-size sedan mercifully retains in the cut-and-thrust of your daily commute. Body roll and wheel motions are well contained, and what the compliant suspension may trade in absolute handling capability, it regains in composure and stability. The electric power steering is typically numb but still quick and accurate, with a pleasantly hefty feeling with the car in its sportiest driving mode.
That everyday fun doesn’t come at the expense of comfort either. Broken pavement rarely translates into head toss for passengers, even on my Sport L tester’s 19-inch wheels. And while the contact patch does transmit a fair amount of tire roar into the cabin, wind and engine noise are well controlled to help reduce fatigue on long trips.
The friction brakes themselves are fine enough, but the regenerative system they support is very good. Controlled by the steering wheel paddles, the regen has six different steps ranging from coasting to nearly one-pedal driving, and you can either lock the vehicle into one of those modes or have it revert to the path of least resistance the next time you press accelerator – perfect for some on-demand whoa when descending a hill but then allowing for coasting immediately after you hit flat ground.
For most of the past two decades, Hondas have felt five years behind in terms of in-car technology. That’s no longer the case, as the 2023 Accord offers crisp, high-resolution displays and newly available Google integration. Go for the flagship and you’ll enjoy built-in Google Maps and Assistant, which in my time with the car synced perfectly with my personal Google account to help me navigate to my favorite destinations.
Unfortunately, you have to spring for the Touring trim to get Google connected services, which by the way require a subscription after your free trial has ended. And you can no longer get embedded navigation on an Accord – lesser trims fill in the gaps with standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Luckily, all hybrids get a standard 12.3-inch touchscreen display, replacing a 7.0-inch unit on the LX and EX gassers, while a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster is standard on all models. And the gauges make good use of the pixels by letting the driver see exactly what info they want and how it’s displayed.
Although I wish it had Google integration, the Sport L model I drove had a tech suite that was easy to use after only a few minutes of exploration, and I like that Honda lets CarPlay take over the entirety of the 12.3-inch touchscreen display if desired.
An Accord For Almost Everyone
Starting at $28,390 including a $1,095 destination charge, the Accord LX 1.5T is pricier than its 2022 equivalent. The cheapest way into a hybrid is the Sport model, which starts at $32,990. If you want a full-fat Accord, plan on spending $38,985 for a Touring, which is refreshingly cheaper than last year’s flagship (though that one had the spicy 2.0T powerplant). Those prices are more or less in line with Honda’s competition.
Speaking of, one of my favorite midsize sedans is the Hyundai Sonata, which offers up to 52 mpg combined from its hybrid powertrain. And then there’s the stalwart Toyota Camry, whose hybrid model also gets up to 52 mpg. And for anyone who misses the old Accord 2.0T, the Hyundai Sonata N-Line, Kia K5 GT, and Toyota Camry TRD are happy to fill its shoes – though the niche-level sales of those models probably don’t have Honda too concerned about conquest purchases.
Am I sad the 2.0T is gone, taking some of its overt sportiness with it? Sure. But in spite of my initial skepticism of the hybrid-intensive strategy, I found myself won over by the Accord thanks to its handsome and restrained styling, good cabin electronics, and genuinely enjoyable handling. Honda knows the recipe for surprisingly fun, family-friendly sedans by heart, and even if the 2023 Accord tweaks the ingredients a bit, the mid-size four-door still suits my tastes just fine.
|2023 Honda Accord Sport-L|
|Motor||Two Permanent-Magnet Motors|
|Output||204 Horsepower / 247 Pound-Feet|
|Transmission||Electronic Continuously Variable|
|Drive Type||Front-Wheel Drive|
|Efficiency||46 City / 41 Highway / 44 Combined|
|Cargo Volume||16.7 Cubic Feet|
|Base Price||$27,295 + $1,095 Destination|
|Trim Base Price||$34,970|