In recent months, many of the most popular mid-sized sedans have received major redesigns or notable freshenings that have altered the landscape in the category, notes Consumer Reports. That includes the three models in its latest report: the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu and Subaru Legacy.
Lost in the flurry of shapely redesigns is the Honda Accord, which looks a lot like its predecessor. With a roomy interior, very efficient and refined drivetrains, a fun-to-drive character and an attractive list of features, it’s convincing evidence that Honda may be back on track after a string of unimpressive introductions. The new four-cylinder Accord tops its class, edging out the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, and the V-6 model is challenging the Camry Hybrid and V-6 Camry for the top spot among pricier family sedans.
• Honda Accord. You may have to look twice before noticing it, but the Accord has had a major redesign for 2013. And though Honda has slipped with other models it redesigned in recent years, it nailed this one. The new Accord is roomy, nice to drive, well equipped and very fuel-efficient.
Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, when matched with the smooth continuously variable transmission, squeezes out an excellent 30 mpg overall and 40 mpg on the highway. That’s as good as a tiny Honda Fit and better than most compact cars. The 3.5-liter V-6 is supersmooth and quite powerful, snapping off a 6.3-second 0-to-60-mph time that is competitive with some sports cars. And its 26 mpg overall is among the best in its class.
Inside, you are treated to one of the best driving positions available, comfortable seats and terrific visibility. All Accords have a standard backup camera, rare among family sedans. Uplevel models include Honda’s new Lane Watch blind spot camera system.
Honda has also kept the Accord’s pricing competitive. The $21,680 four-cylinder LX and $27,995 V-6 EX-L cost the same as or less than many other similarly equipped family sedans. The four-cylinder Accord jumped 10 points in Consumer Reports’ Ratings to take over the top spot among entry-level sedans. And the V-6 is behind only the Toyota Camry Hybrid and V-6 Camry among high-end family sedans, and neither Camry drives as well.
Consumer Reports’ other findings include:
• Chevrolet Malibu. You’ll appreciate the redesigned Malibu if you prize a plush, comfortable ride and a very quiet cabin. That’s where this solid, easygoing sedan excels. It has simple controls, decent fuel economy and sound, secure handling, although the Malibu is clearly no sports sedan. You can expand the large trunk by folding the 60/40-split rear seatbacks.
But the Malibu is no great value. Even the moderately equipped 1LT cost $23,185, notably more than higher-rated competitors.
A reasonably refined and powerful 197-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is matched with a smooth and responsive six-speed automatic transmission. That powertrain helps the Malibu get a reasonable 26 mpg overall.
• Subaru Legacy. If you want an affordable family sedan with all-wheel drive, the Legacy is the only game in town. It’s also a nice, value-packed ride, with a spacious interior and good fuel economy. Where it falls a bit short is in refinement and performance.
For 2013, Subaru tweaked the steering and suspension, which helped make emergency handling more secure and predictable. The trunk is large, and the rear seatback folds 60/40 for more space.
The redesigned 173-hp, 2.5-liter “flat-four” engine delivers slightly quicker acceleration and fuel economy of 26 mpg overall, which is impressive for an AWD car. Still, most competing four-cylinder sedans are quicker.
The Legacy’s real Achilles’ heel is its continuously variable transmission. It’s well behaved during casual driving, but it tends to exacerbate engine noise when you’re accelerating or merging on the highway.