“So, which is the better car, the new Honda Accord or the new Ford Fusion?” By now, anyone known to friends and family as a “car guy” has been asked this question at least a few times. Let’s ask it again.
The exterior designers at Honda and Ford clearly had different goals. Honda wanted to avoid turning potential customers off. Ford sought to turn them on. Mission accomplished in both cases by cribbing from storied European marques. Would you prefer a handsome German or a sexy Brit? Inside, Ford took fewer risks, and Honda fewer still. The Fusion’s interior is finished a little nicer, but the Accord’s is also far better than the oft-lambasted 2012 Civic’s.
From the driver seat you can see out of the Honda more easily, thanks to larger, more upright windows. The Accord also has a standard rearview camera. On the Fusion, one attends the optional MyFord Touch UI. Accords EX and up have a second camera that provides a view of the passenger side blind spot at any speed (via a handy button on the end of the turn signal stalk). When you can actually see what’s back there, there’s no need for the Fusion’s optional blind spot warning system.
On paper, the Ford has a couple more inches of total legroom. But this is because Dearborn cheated the specs. In reality, though I personally find the Fusion’s rear seat more comfortably positioned and shaped, there’s a noticeably more room inside the less swoopy Accord (if still less than inside a VW Passat). Trunk space is about even. Your stuff should fit in either.
Both companies have taken risks with their powertrains in pursuit of better EPA scores. Ford augments a smaller (178-horspower 1.6- vs. 189-horsepower 2.4-liter) four-cylinder engine with direct injection and a turbocharger. Honda pairs its first direct-injected “Earth Dreams” engine with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Many driving enthusiasts will summarily reject a car with a CVT. Well, largely due to this transmission (with an assist from a curb weight that’s about 150 pounds lower) the new Accord easily outperforms the new Ford. The new CVT not only avoids the “rubber banding” typical of the breed, but (much unlike Ford’s conventional six-speed automatic) provides the sort of slop-free connection often only available with a manual transmission. With the “Sport” model, paddles can be used to swiftly shift among seven fixed ratios. The Ford’s transmission can also be manually shifted, but it’s far less responsive or smooth.
The Ford’s smaller four fails to pay fuel economy dividends. It does a bit better than the Accord on the highway, 36 vs. 35 mpg, but considerably worse in the city, 23 vs. 26. (The paddle-free Accord goes a mile farther per gallon in both tests.) The Honda’s engine often feels like its straining considerably less, with an especially plump midrange, so real-world numbers could easily differ more than these test scores do. Overall, the Honda performs so well with the four that few people will feel the need for the available, largely carryover 278-horsepower V6 (finally paired with a six-speed automatic). With the Ford, on the other hand, a case could easily be made for its top mill, a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four.
The tables turn, for some of us at least, when the road curves. The Accord chassis manages well enough, but even in slightly tighter Sport form there’s some float, feel-free steering, plow when hustled (though with a later onset than in the non-Sport), and little fun to be had. The Fusion’s suspension feels much more tightly damped and its steering feels more connected to the front tires’ contact patches. Unlike the Accord it begs to be pushed. At this point you’ll also discover much more effective bolstering in the Ford’s driver seat. (Honda reserves a well-bolstered seat for the Accord Coupe.)
Which car rides best depends on whether you prefer to float (relatively) softly over bumps or dispatch them in a tight, controlled fashion. The new Accord suffers from less road noise than its predecessor, but the Ford is quieter still. Overall the Fusion sounds and feels like a more expensive car.
In a switch from past years the Ford actually is a more expensive car, but not by enough to matter. A Honda Accord Sport lists for $24,980. A Ford Fusion SE with the Appearance Package lists for $25,745. Adjust for remaining feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and the difference is under $500. If you’d prefer a manual, you can deduct $800 from the Honda’s price but nothing from the Ford’s, widening the gap.
Comparison tests generally favor well-rounded cars by summing scores in a wide range of attributes. Doing especially well in one or two areas can’t compensate for middling scores in others. In such tests, the Honda Accord will win. It bests the Ford in most categories. But in the areas that connect emotionally, how a car looks and how it feels, the Ford can be much more satisfying. Which car is better for you? It depends on whether you want a car that makes a lot of sense or one you’ll love to look at and drive.
Curtis Evans of Urse Honda in Bridgeport, WV, provided the Accord. He can be reached at 304-629-4178.
Ford provided the Fusion at a drive event along with a light lunch.
Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.