2023 Honda Accord First Drive Review: More Refined, Less Fun

Though the Honda Accord has completely lost its sporting edge, it has finally learned to be a quieter, more comfortable, and more efficient commuter.

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2023 Honda Accord First Drive Review: More Refined, Less Fun © 2023 Honda Accord First Drive Review: More Refined, Less Fun

The Honda Accord is America’s sweetheart sedan. We all have an Accord story. It was our first car, dad’s car, the dependable sedan that always had something to it. I remember when I was a budding car enthusiast, I eagerly searched for that coveted V6 badge on the back of Accords in traffic; a surefire signal. That is the fast one. Well, with the 2023 Honda Accord, that fantasy is gone and replaced with serenity approaching luxury. 

I regret to inform you that the shockingly fast 2.0T is gone. Now there are only two powertrain options: an updated 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with a CVT and a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated hybrid. Visually, the new 11th-generation Accord has aged up and calmed down. In a world that wants sedans as much as it wants Ed Hardy jeans, the Accord needed to adapt. It’s definitely calmer. But is that the way to go?

Chris Rosales

2023 Honda Accord Specs

    Chris Rosales

    What’s Changed?

    Working with the bones of the 10th-generation Accord, Honda spent considerable effort pulling the platform in a different direction. This Accord is not “all-new,” but it has updates to the hybrid system, body structure, interior, some rear suspension geometry, and fresh body panels laid over the excellent outgoing Accord. Most importantly, focus has been laser aimed at improving passenger comfort over the previous models. 

    Chris Rosales

    Honda’s new corporate look and feel has also been given to the Accord. The styling has become much more subdued, taking mostly the same route as the Civic. The last generation’s sweeping fastback look has been replaced with a handsome three-box sedan shape with arrow-straight character lines. Inside, Honda has clearly established a new interior vibe with the now standard dashboard spanning mesh grill hiding air vents. There’s a lot less surface work and texturing, but it is simple and effective at feeling nice. Compared to the previous generation, it’s a step up.

    Chris Rosales

    The previous few generations of Accord have suffered from road noise issues, something I’ve experienced in my own testing and ownership of previous models. For other folks who have owned or driven them, it’s a common complaint that never got addressed. Finally, Honda has found a solution and made the Accord quiet. All trim levels get more sound deadening than before, with extra sound muffling material applied to the top-flight Touring. Changes to the suspension are minimal, but the rear suspension receives slightly reconfigured geometry along with a 10% larger rear trailing arm bushing. This means there is more bushing material between the road and the cabin. 

    There have also been significant changes to the structure of the Accord. The firewall between the cabin and the engine compartment has been strategically strengthened with extra structural adhesive, a redesigned stiffening bracket, and a redesigned lower windshield area to distribute forces more efficiently to the front suspension. The radiator support has two new braces to reduce deformation over sharp bumps, improving ride quality. And the critical area behind the rear seats has been strengthened with new metal forms and stronger materials.

    Chris Rosales

    All of these changes contribute to a more rigid platform on which the Accord’s suspension can do its work. Don’t be mistaken: body rigidity doesn’t mean stiffer suspension. It has the exact opposite effect. A more rigid body helps the suspension work more effectively, and can even attenuate different road noise and engine noise frequencies. That, combined with the extra sound deadening has finally made the Accord a true competitor in quietness and comfort.

    Finally, A Quiet Cruiser

    On gorgeous Southern California roads, it is blindingly apparent how much quieter the Accord is. With the improved hybrid drivetrain, including a more powerful electric traction motor, around-town driving is silent for more of the time. With an extra 15 lb-ft of grunt, the electric motor can propel the Accord silently from stops and smoothly blend in the internal combustion engine. It’s actually quite impressive, especially for a traditional hybrid system. It was never phased, no matter how I poked or prodded it into coughing into life. It always had composure and sipped fuel too. If this is the new top trim Accord, it’s sure to appeal to more folks

    Chris Rosales

    With the engine a very distant hum, highway cruising sells this new Accord’s philosophy even more strongly. Finally, the road noise issue is gone. It’s not stunningly quiet, but it is directly on par with its competitors. In Touring trim, it’s a hint quieter than a Toyota Camry Hybrid and is impressively isolated at any speed. Paired with the solid Touring-only Bose stereo, it is honestly a great car for folks who just want to be comfortable and jam out on long road trips. All of the inputs are low-effort and have a nice cushion, allowing a bit of relaxation on highway stints. 

    Overall, the effect of the simplified cabin is profound. It’s free of gimmicks, yes, but is simultaneously missing a wow factor. Largely like the new Civic and CR-V with a metal mesh grill vent spanning the dashboard, it’s high quality and definitely close to the top of the class. All Accord trims come with a 10.2-inch LCD gauge cluster, and lower trims like the EX and LX retain the full digital cluster and overall cabin feel, sans leather. 

    Chris Rosales

    The Touring also came with fresh technology in a new 12.3-inch widescreen head unit that is finally up to snuff with modern premium cars. It retains the ever-important volume knob but deletes some buttons to make room for the screen. It’s a good compromise, with a high-quality and responsive display. The Touring also gets Google Maps integrated into the head unit, which works decently but—as we’ve already learned with Polestar’s implementation—is not as polished as using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It’s nice to have, and likely much more useful when used with a personal account.

    Some Bad News

    Those of us in the know know that the Honda Accord has been something of an affordable performance sedan icon since that 3.0-liter V6 six-speed manual seventh-generation model. It’s always had a healthy dusting of speed and a fairly serious dose of backroad corner carving ability. This new Accord, however, has completely ditched any semblance of being an enthusiast product. 

    I took matters into my own hands. The Honda-prescribed drive route took us close to some of the best backroads California has to offer but guided us toward gentler two-lane highways. In search of that magic spark, I dutifully ignored the route and wrung the Accord out on some of the gnarliest, most technical canyons I’ve ever driven. 

    Chris Rosales

    I’m sorry to say that the new Honda Accord does not feel at home there. Not even a little bit.

    Previous Accords handled well. Not amazingly and definitely not as much as they’ve been built up to be, but they were fun and direct. This Accord’s focus on comfort and quietness has compromised the fun. Dead, vague steering limits communication from the road, even though the dampers are fairly well-tuned. It handles well but imparts none of the joy of cornering to the driver. The hybrid drivetrain, which is so wonderful in normal driving, is seriously underpowered and groany when pushed to its limits. And the 1.5-liter turbo-four in the EX isn’t much better.

    Chris Rosales

    Look, it’s a family sedan. And I wouldn’t expect the average family sedan to be fun in a canyon. But the trouble is that this isn’t just any average family sedan. It’s the damn near totemic Honda Accord. It’s strange to be in a world where a Camry is genuinely more engaging to drive on a backroad than an Accord, but that’s where we’ve landed, folks. 

    Like the Accord before it, this new version continues to offer a Sport trim, but that’s become a bit of a misnomer. As the entry-level hybrid model, it has the same 12.3-inch infotainment screen but no Google integration, no wireless charging, no Bose stereo, less sound deadening than the Touring, and different wheels. It’s certainly louder on the highway than the Touring but is still much quieter than the outgoing Accord. It’s also $32,990 compared to the Touring’s $38,985. It’s a great bargain for a lot of the more important features of the car, and the base stereo is still decent enough that it won't offend anybody. To drive, though, it’s anything but sporty. 

    Early Verdict

    The Accord is theoretically better than ever before. It’s quieter, nicer, and still retains its high build quality. It’s more feature-packed and up-to-date. It gets better fuel economy (44 mpg combined with the hybrid, according to the EPA) and has a much more refined hybrid drivetrain. But it is missing the essence of what the Honda Accord has become over the years: the dependable sedan, with the option of gutsy performance for the everyperson. 

    Chris Rosales

    On the flip side, the Accord is finally a car I could recommend to people without any hesitation or warning about the road noise and comfort. It has turned the mass appeal dial up to 11 and become a much better car on paper. But there is a distinct feeling that the Accord has been kneecapped for a greater corporate purpose. My theory is that top-trim Accord sales ate into entry-level Acura TLX numbers, and the handoff is almost exact with the 2024 Accord maxing out at $38,985 and the base TLX starting at $41,045, using a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that was in close proximity to the outgoing Accord’s 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. I mean, why spring for the slightly pricier Acura when there’s a Honda that’s pretty much just as good?

    The improvements in road noise and passenger comfort here are nothing short of excellent. It is a true step change for the Accord. So is the new infotainment, which finally sees Honda making use of widescreen CarPlay and a faster interface. It’s a strong product that will appeal to anybody looking for a quiet, fuel-sipping family sedan. 

    But, as enthusiasts, we want everything in one practical, neat package. The Accord used to come close for folks who had to commute but still wanted to have some fun every day. So yes, the new Accord is an objectively better sedan. But I’m not sure that it’s a better Accord.

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