Let's face it, if you're in the market for a midsized sedan, you'd be nuts not to consider a Honda Accord. It's the grown-up choice, a safe and responsible family car. The Accord has been on the American horizon since 1976, the bicentennial year, with Rocky in the multiplexes and Nadia Comaneci in the Olympics. Back then, your family probably had a Ford, Chevy or a Chrysler in the garage.
Japanese cars were still a novelty in 1976, though they wouldn't remain that way for long.
As early as 1969 I was working for a Dodge dealer that had Toyota as an amusing sideline. But even then I thought the little Corollas had something new to say. Honda wasn't a player yet — the Civic didn't come along until 1973, but it quickly established a reputation for fuel economy: 40 mpg on the highway was a perfect way to cruise through the Arab oil embargo.
American companies countered with halfhearted efforts like the Chevy Vega and Ford Pinto, but Honda and Toyota quickly became major names, virtually synonymous with fuel economy. Honda could do no wrong until it was hit by the double whammy of Japanese tsunamis and negative reviews for the brand-new 2012 Civic.
Consumer Reports, which normally loves Honda products, scored the new Civic too low for a recommendation. "With all of the recent small sedan competition and a redesign that dropped the ball, now there are a lot better choices…," the magazine said. How the mighty had fallen! Other reviewers panned the Civic for excessive "decontenting" — building the car to a price. But the Civic did continue to sell anyway.
And all of this brings us to the all-important 2013 Accord, which will be in showrooms in the fall. It's a very important car, and it has to send a signal that Honda is still building the best cars in the world. Remember, Hyundai and Kia are hot on the trail of Honda's entire product line, and the ever-improving build quality of those Korean cars means Honda can't sit still.
The 2013 Accord isn't a big styling coup — Honda is always conservative in that department. The nose in particular could have used a few less business-as-usual styling cues. But the car has lost weight and gotten more aerodynamic, thanks to a flush windshield and wipers. Available LED lights are a good thing.
It's a highly competitive auto market out there, and just because the Accord has been an American icon for 36 years doesn't mean it will remain one. I'll see one in the metal soon and report back.