2023 Honda Accord First Look Review: The Best Is Back, But…

It’s hard out there for traditional sedans. Ford has completely abandoned low-slung four-doors, Chevrolet has only the exceedingly average Malibu, and Hyundai and Kia have announced the Sonata and K5 are following Volkswagen’s Passat out the door. Yet the Japanese remain committed to the format; Toyota’s Camry isn’t going anywhere nor is Nissan’s Altima—and as Honda makes clear with its newest Accord, things needn’t be so sour for the sedan.

Honda’s fully redesigned 11th-generation Accord builds on the previous model, which was our favorite in the midsize sedan segment by far, and despite a few notable missteps, it could be better than ever. But while we know Honda holds fast to its sedans (the latest Civic is at the top of its game, too), are its efforts enough to keep four-doors feeling modern for years to come and keep folks considering a sedan over a crossover?

What’s New and What’s Leftover

Like the redesigned Civic, the new Accord rides on the same underpinnings as its predecessor, but styling is all new. Honda’s chrome unibrow look is gone, replaced by slim LED headlights and a crosshatched grille. The new car shares its 111.4-inch wheelbase with the 10th-gen car yet is longer overall, a dimension emphasized by a sharp continuous crease along its profile running from each headlight to each taillight.

Around back, the Accord has new LED taillight arrays, each housed under a single curved surface. This isn’t a full-width rear light, but rather, narrow strips of glowing red that frame a dainty Honda badge at the center of the Accord’s rear end. Speaking of, Honda sculpts a convincing take on the four-door coupe trend onto the bones of the old Accord, punctuated by a cute duckbill spoiler integrated with the trunklid.

There’s a hint of the original Audi A7 and the elegant California-only, hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered Toyota Mirai from the rear three-quarter view. This isn’t an exceptionally beautiful car, but the design and detailing communicates a mature elegance lacking from some others in the segment and from the previous Accord’s excited surfacing.

As for what’s beneath the bodywork, the gas-only Accord LX and EX get a carryover 1.5-liter turbocharged I-4 mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive—there’s no AWD to compete with the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Subaru Legacy. In this application the 1.5-liter makes 192 hp and should be capable of at least 30 mpg combined.

We’ve experienced versions of the same setup in the Civic, CR-V, and Acura Integra; it’s an efficient, inoffensive powertrain strong enough for most buyers. Unfortunately, the 10th-gen car’s 252-hp turbo-four and 10-speed automatic are no longer available; Honda also ditched the Accord’s available manual transmission a few years ago, and it remains gone this time. Although it’s not solely responsible for the Accord’s critical acclaim, the big engine and stick shift options helped float the midsize Honda’s reputation for being a secretly sporty, satisfying-to-drive option in an otherwise boring field.

Honda has given more attention to the Accord Hybrid, which it estimates will account for around half of all sales. The 2023 model employs Honda’s new two-motor hybrid system that made its debut in the CR-V Hybrid. It delivers slightly less power but more torque than before—252 lb-ft—so it should be plenty quick. We’re hoping it matches the outgoing model’s 43-47 mpg combined.

Honda is pushing the hybrid system as its premium powertrain; you can’t get leather upholstery with the 1.5T setup, and range-topping trims are hybrid-only. Not to mention, among gas Accords, neither trim offers the midsized Honda’s most impressive feature.

Honda’s Biggest and Smartest Screen Yet

The 2023 Accord is available with a bigger screen than any other Honda product. In the case of the Accord Sport and all three hybrid trims, buyers will see an all-new 12.3-inch touchscreen at the center of the cabin. Over-the-air update capability is an appreciated modern touch. Entry-level LX and EX trims get a 7.0-inch display, which is actually smaller than what was standard in the previous-gen Accord.

Both systems run new software, and based on our experience poking around with the larger screen, these are faster, higher-resolution, more responsive infotainment experiences than we’ve seen in other modern Hondas. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless with the big screen, but the smaller display requires a wired connection. All 2023 Accords feature a handsome 10.2-inch configurable digital instrument cluster display.

Elsewhere in the cabin, the rear seat still has loads of legroom (40.8 inches!), and up front there’s a new take on the Civic/HR-V/Integra’s honeycomb climate control vents. In the Accord, the vent trim that spans most of the dash replicates the crosshatch pattern in the grille. The vent directors, HVAC adjustments, and volume knob all feel tight and premium. We also noted plush seats and well-padded armrests.

The new Accord’s most useful feature is limited to the top-o’-the-line Touring trim. In that car, the infotainment system includes full Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Play Store integration. We’ve seen such integration before in Volvos, Polestars, and Cadillacs, but Honda is among the first non-premium manufacturers to offer Google’s in-car tech.

The result is a familiar navigation system with the same points of interest and recent destinations you’d see on your phone, assuming you log in to your Google account. This is a rare example of in-car nav worth using, especially considering the map can be shown in the digital instrument cluster. Likewise, the Google Assistant is quick, accurate, and capable of commanding vehicle functions like climate control or heated and cooled seats. We only wish it was available on more trims.

Safety Sweetness

For 2023’s iteration of the midsize sedan, Honda has developed a safer Accord than ever. It was engineered with a NHTSA five-star overall safety rating in mind, and Honda is targeting a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, aiming to ace the institute’s tricky new side impact test.

The 11th-gen Accord has 10 airbags, including knee and rear side-impact airbags that are an Accord first. Honda has also equipped the Accord with the “catcher’s mitt” front airbag that was introduced in the 2021 Acura TLX and tweaked the driver’s central bag with reinforced side stitching.

The standard Honda Sensing collection of driver assists sees improvement, too. Both the radar and camera sensors can now view at wider angles. The blind-spot sensor can sense vehicles from farther away, and Honda has retuned its adaptive cruise control and lane centering systems to deliver more natural responses. If these setups work anything like they do in the new Civic, they’ll be at or near the top of the class.

Not Perfect, Should Be Great

We wish Honda found a way to keep the powerful 2.0-liter engine around, and by recycling the old car’s platform, the sedan remains front-drive only. There are other regressions, too—smaller wheels were implemented to save costs, and base models have that smaller infotainment screen. But let’s focus on the good here: This is a sleek, efficient four-door for those of us who prefer sedans over modern crossovers. The Google integration is excellent and we love seeing this tech made affordable to non-luxury buyers. Whether the 11th-generation Accord is perfect or not, we look forward to an experience behind the wheel and seeing whether it remains at the top of its shrinking class.

 

2023 Honda Accord Specifications
BASE PRICE$28,000-$41,000 (MT est)
LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 1.5L/190-hp/179-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L/143-hp/129-lb-ft (est) Atkinson-cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus two electric motors, 204 hp/247 lb-ft (comb)
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto; 1-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT3,200-3,600 lb (MT est)
WHEELBASE111.4 in
L x W x H195.7 x 73.3 x 57.1 in
0-60 MPH6.7-7.2 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON29-48/35-47/32-47 mpg (MT est)
EPA RANGE, COMB475-600 miles (MT est)
ON SALEJanuary 2023

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