MARCH 2013
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Motoring

REVAMPED HONDA ACCORD WILL SHAKE UP FAMILY SEDAN MARKET!

Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE, motoringtampabay@gmail.com

In 2012, Honda sold 331,872 Accords. With a total overhaul this year of the midsize car, we can bet that number will rise sharply by at least 20 to 30 percent. Trim levels offered in the immensely popular ninth-generation sedan are LX, all-new Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L V6 and Touring.

DOWN THE ROAD: The Accord continues to deliver remarkably smooth and quick acceleration, plenty of passing ability while shifting gears effortlessly. As a result, the ride is comfortable and solid with amazing nimbleness, grip and response.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine put out 185 horsepower (up by 8) @ 6400 rpm and 189 hp (down by 1 and only for Sport) @ 6400 rpm than its predecessor. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine develops 278 hp (up by 7) @ 6200 rpm. Torque increases by 20 for both the 4-cylinder but the V-6 is down by 2. And for the first time, the 2.4-liters get a direct-injection system in North America. The i-VTEC V-6 continues with a Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system, which operates in three or four cylinder modes to save fuel.

The previous 5-speed manual has been upgraded to a 6-speed manual (24 city/34 highway/28 combined). Same applies to the 6-speed auto gear box in the V-6 (21/34/25). Also, a Continuous Variable Transmission (27/36/30) replaces the former 5-speed auto. No wonder, the fuel estimates have risen substantially. We earned nearly 23.8 mpg in mostly city driving on our V-6 test-drive car beating EPA estimates.

Ensconced on the unit-body structure (made up of aluminum and steel front subrame) is an all-new MacPherson strut front to replace the double-wishbone suspension. Along with the independent multilink rear, the system works superbly to absorb unpleasant highway bumps and unexpected sharp turns. The direct electric power rack-and-pinion steering offers a confident feel and a tight-turning radius.

LOOK & FEEL: It’s stood the test of time for a long 37 years. The sleek-appearing Accord with multi-reflector projector-beam headlights and the two-bar chrome grille has undergone several structural changes. Its wheelbase is up by 0.9 inches, width by 0.1 inches, cargo volume by 1.1 cubic feet and front/rear track by 0.2 and 0.1 inches respectively. Down goes the front-wheel-drive car in length by 3.5 inches, height by 0.4 inches, curb weight by 24 pounds, fuel capacity by 1.3 gallons and passenger volume by 2.8 cubic feet. Directly in front of the driver are large analog instruments for the tachometer, centered speedometer with a driver information center, and readings for fuel and coolant temp. The 8-inch Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) displays information for audio, navigation, Bluetooth, rearview camera, LaneWatch, fuel economy, texting, compass, clock, etc. A revised center console with two cup holders in front and an open storage bin under the dashboard is not just practical but also looks elegant and rich. An slight boost in trunk capacity to 15.8 cubic feet for luggage will make long-distance travel quite relaxing.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability assist with traction control, front active head restraints, side-impact door beams, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard. LaneWatch, which is included in the EX, EX-L and Touring trims, displays a wide-angle view of the passenger side road on the i-MID. The image appears when the right turn signal is activated.

OUT THE DOOR: The 6-speed manual LX is base-priced at $21,680; CVT Sport is $24,190; CVT EX is $25,405; CVT EX-L is $27,995; and the high-end Touring V-6 is $33,430. As you can see, there are a wide range of options for most buyers.

BY THE NUMBERS (V-6): Tires: 215/55R17; wheelbase: 109.3 inches; length: 191.4 inches; width: 72.8 inches; passenger volume: 100.8 cubic feet; weight: 3,267 pounds; fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons; Web site: www.honda.com

WHY DIG IT: Competition in the packed family sedan segment just heated up, thanks to the easy-to-drive, peppy, roomy, reasonably priced and astoundingly more agile 2013 Honda Accord. Of course, it helps to have the Japanese carmaker’s steadfast reputation for durability and reliability to back up the awesome product.

 

AFFORDABLE KIA OPTIMA NOT YOUR TYPICAL SEDAN!

It is undoubtedly one of the boldest-appearing midsize sedans today. The Kia Optima, which continues as is after a major restyling in 2011, shares its basic design with the Hyundai Sonata.

The base LX (base-priced at $21,350) and volume EX (priced at $23,650) are equipped with a 2.4-liter gasoline-direct injection inline-4 cylinder engine, which puts out 200 horsepower @ 6300 rpm and 186 pounds-feet of torque @ 4250. But more engaging drivers can go for the sporty SX (starting at $26,800 and also our test drive for a week), which gets a 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder engine blasting out 274 hp @ 6000 rpm and 269 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. A 6-speed manual is offered in the LX and EX but the SX is available only with a 6-speed auto. An independent MacPherson front and a multilink rear suspension handles the bumps of irregular surfaces with little sacrifice. The hydraulic power-assist steering is perfectly weighted and provides decent feedback.

Sitting on the steel-unibody based car is the familiar tabbed grille surrounded by projector headlights, sweeping chrome arc from front to rear, chrome/body color door handles and body-color side molding. The cabin offers such helpful amenities as a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 fold rear seat, active eco system, air-conditioning, cooled glove box, tilt/telescopic steering column, power door locks and windows and remote keyless entry.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control systems, hill assist control, front and rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

EPA estimates on the LX and EX are 24 city/34 mpg highway. Our SX, which is rated at 22 city/34 highway, came in around 24 mpg and peaked past 35 on highway.

The easy-on-the-pocket Optima is not your typical sedan. A lively, fun-to-drive attitude, coupled with a muscular stance and gas-sipping abilities, make this Kia a true best buy in our eyes.

OPTIMA (SX)

Tires: P215/55R17 front; 255/45R18 rear

Wheelbase: 110 inches

Length: 190.7 inches

Weight: 3,385 pounds

Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons

Web site: www.kiausa.com


MAZDASPEED3 IS A POCKET ROCKET!

Infiniti M Zoom-Zoom. Indeed. The famed Mazda ‘emotion of motion’ phrase is more than appropriate in its application to the 2013 Mazdaspeed3 hatchback. This pocket rockets is a blast to drive, moving quickly and gently down the road, and braking just as swiftly and with poise.

The front-wheel-drive car gets a sole power train: a 2.3-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine that doles out 263 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 280 pounds-feet of torque at 3000 rpm. It is coupled to a lone, standard and sprightly 6-speed manual gear box.

The aggressively styled Mazdaspeed3 sports a conspicuous hood scoop meeting up with the familiar five-point metallic black grille. The rear boasts a roof-mounted wing spoiler and larger dual exhausts with bright tips. The race-car inspired LED turbo boost between the round instrument cluster meters will delight lead-foot drivers. The red stitches on the black steering wheel, seats, door trim, shifter lever boot and center armrest convey stylishness. Also standard are dual-zone automatic climate control, 255-watt Bose sound system, center console with sliding armrest, driver information center, three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and brake assist, Dynamic Stability Control, traction control, active front headrests, collapsible steering column, five-passenger three-point safety belts, anti-theft engine immobilizer and tire pressure monitoring system.

We eked out a little over 23 mpg in mixed city/highway driving, handsomely beating EPA estimates of 21 mpg. Base-priced at a reasonable $24,200, the Mazdaspeed3 is sporty, nimble, tossable, elegant, practical and tidy. The enthusiast driver will take to this pocket rocket in a flash!

MAZDASPEED3

Tires: P225/40R18

Wheelbase: 103.9 inches

Length: 177.6 inches

Suspension: MacPherson strut front; E-type multilink rear

Steering: electro-hydraulic power-assist

Weight: 3,281 pounds

Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons

City: 18 mpg

Highway: 25 mpg

Web site: www.mazdausa.com


ACURA TSX SPORT WAGON IS AGILE, PRACTICAL

CHRYSLER 200 If you are looking to buy a compact SUV, a variant of the Acura TSX sedan might very well fit the bill. Introduced as a 2011 model, under the hood is a 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine that makes a healthy 201 horsepower @ 7000 rpm and 170 pounds-feet of torque @ 4300 rpm. The steel unit-body vehicle is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capabilities. A double wishbone front and a multilink rear suspension works well to absorb bows of potholes and broken pavement. The direct and communicative Electric Power Steering makes the wagon easy to place in corners.

The eye-catching Sport Wagon with its xenon headlights surrounding the distinct Acura grille is as attractive inside. The base model ($31,860) comes with standard dual-zone auto climate control, leather seats, heated eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seat, tilt/telescopic column, power sun roof, xenon headlights, 60/40 rear seat and roof rails. Other hands-on conveniences are a multi-configurable rear cargo area with several hidden storage areas and low lift over height for effortless loading. The Technology Package ($34,810) adds navigation system with voice recognition, rearview camera, upgraded audio system and automatic climate controls, music hard drive, and power lift gate.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, active front head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. Also standard is the commendable 4-year/50,000-mile basic and 6-year/70,000-mile drivetrain, and 5-year corrosion/unlimited warranties.

The TSX Sport Wagon displays remarkable nimbleness and response, notable handling and a robust steering feel. An accommodating cabin along with the ride’s utilitarian capabilities are a deal clincher.

TSX WAGON (TECH PACKAGE)

Tires: P225/50R17

Wheelbase: 106.4 inches

Length: 189.2 inches

Weight: 3,599 pounds

City: 22 mpg

Highway: 33 mpg

Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons

Web site: www.acura.com

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