Comparison Review: 2013 Honda Accord Sport Vs. 2013 Ford Fusion SE

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh
comparison review 2013 honda accord sport vs 2013 ford fusion se

“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, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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5 of 162 comments
  • Wmba Wmba on May 04, 2013

    A different take on the 2013 Honda Accord. Long. I'm looking at replacing my 2008 Subaru Legacy GT 5EAT. Being the car nut that I am it's been a frustrating few years looking at the steadily more beige vehicles everybody is turning out at the reasonable price level, so no BMWs or Audis for me. The LGT is not worn out, just 90k km. There's nothing wrong with it, everything works. But the concern I have is that I can find nothing decent to replace it, so I'm on a constant lookout to try to find a decent replacement for when the time comes to chuck it away. I love cars in general, and that adds to the problem, because I find something interesting in any car I drive. Nevertheless, cars are not as "quirky" as they used to be, and they seem to be blending towards a norm of bland and less interest to me. What have I driven so far? Fiat 500 Abarth, an absolute blast to drive, but quirky instrument panel and small size relegates it to the role of 2nd car. I don't want a second car. Subaru BRZ. Now driven 3 different ones. Have to stand back and be objective here. All three Subies I've owned have felt like more expensive cars "tinned" up a bit to allow cheap production. I owned 5 Audis over a 20 year period before the Subarus, that's my reference, and they were all unreliable. The BRZ is different. It feels like a cheap car, designed as a cheap car. It's main attributes to me are what feels like an incredibly strong chassis and good handling. The rest is just plain cheap, with the auto being nicer to drive than the manual, another Subie trait. The engine is very noisy and raspy. Long term potential love quotient - low. Ford Focus is nice in manual trans form. If I had to get a car to tide me over for a while in my dither, this would be it. Maybe. It is a Ford, and cynically assembled. Read on. Have driven Elantra, Elantra GT and Sonata. Nope. Something about Hyundai just doesn't gell for me, and it's the handling/ride, and poor structure of the Elantra. No Genesis coupe to try, imagine that (as potential customers have to, apparently). VW Golf TDI wagon, not bad for grandpa, but it's a VW. I owned 5 unreliable Audis so, no Vdubs. A new Subaru? The Legacy is novocain with a cheap, cheap interior. How did they turn my car into into a giant bubble? The Subie manual is truck like, the CVT just awful. The Impreza and Crosstrek, ugh, even worse. And they sell well. My fellow drivers, you're ..... I don't know, groan. The new Fusion looks like a small bus to me, as do the new Accord and Mazda6. Too big compared to sedans a decade ago, but nobody makes a right sized car at a reasonable price these days, or I'd try a Cadillac ATS. Nissan Altima? Cannot stand to even look at it. The ultimate drone. Chev Malibu, new Impala? How does dropping a vinyl carcass on the dash appeal to anyone with taste? The Camry interior is so cynically bad that like the Chevs, I'm not interested in even asking for a test drive. So it's Accord, Mazda6 and Fusion to test. And maybe, horrors, a Verano turbo. They finally had an Accord Sport 6MT for me to sample yesterday. While the salesman droned on through his 10 minute canned speech, I poked and prodded under hood, inside and trunk. It is very well made, no question. The interior materials are, however, one notch lower than the 08 LGT, but assembled more precisely. I liked the driver's seat, got myself settled very quickly with tilt/telesope wheel, mirror adjustment, etc. No strangeness, a welcome trait. You are at home immediately, but this thing is big. I've had automatics for 15 years. The Accord 6MT is a doddle to drive, easy and pleasureable. At low revs the car picks up speed readily. However, rev it up a bit, and the engine is an aural assault. It's been decades since I heard such 4 cylinder thrum. Startled me, quite frankly. NOT EVEN CLOSE to the quietness of the LGT's flat four turbo. Ten times as loud, probably 7 or 8 db. A bit of a downer. The salesman said I shouldn't rev it like that. What? 5K rpm in the "Sport" model? Right. Sure, with a 6800 rpm redline? Plenty of oomph, though, without being startling. Then there's the ride. Made me feel like Mr. Bobblehead even on what I regard as good pavement. A constant unsettled bobbing motion, reminiscent of the 1985 Accord I drove a lot for work back then, which used to make me happy to hop back in my Audi Coupe at the end of the day. Anyway, I told the salesperson the ride was unsettled compared to my car. It didn't worsen much on bad roads, though. Is this the float reviewers comment on? It makes the car seem like a cork bobbing on waves, all the time. Strange. Bend it into a side street at elevated speed. Front end runs a bit wide on 18 inch wheels. Oh, now I remember understeer. Went back afterwards in the LGT, no probs, and it's still on snow tires, plus it's always prodding you to ahem, do something illegal, sly grin. The saving grace of the Accord for me was the incredibly slick manual, and the quickly at ease controllability. It seems to shrink in size on the move, which is good. Afterwards, went over to a pal with a 2009 Civic SR 5 speed he's just got. He let me drive it. MUCH quieter engine, better ride, great shifter, and no guts at all. Hmmm. Well, if I had to get a car to tide me over, I'd now get this Accord over the Focus. Same price, for goodness sake for an LX. No contest. But an automatic Accord? No way, I'd be joining the beige, blob mass of anodyne drivers in anodyne cars, just bobbing along listenin' to tunes, mind out of gear driving home to eat thawed out frozen pre-cooked meals. Mazda6 and Fusion next, but they do cost more. My old LGT just flays the Accord in ride and handling and quietness, and when you boot it, plain gets rolling quickly right now. The search continues.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on May 07, 2013

      You might want to work on your grammar and word usage in your review, before attempting to impress with copious adjectives used to little effect. It took two pages for you to say you don't want a boring car. We get it. Your unstartling startling sound of the Accord's engine drone was too anodyne for a frozen thawed-out frozen meal.

  • Charliej Charliej on May 04, 2013

    wmba, you were just born too late. In the late fifties and early sixties, you could find plenty of cars with "character". "Character" mainly meant that the car having it was highly flawed. But, you could get everything from a two cylinder two stroke powered car, up to a huge US V8 poswered car. What they almost all had in common, was poor brakes and suspension, having to be worked on at least once a year, and tires that would not last ten thousand miles. Some might consider cars that just run, with minimal maintenance, for hundreds of thousands of miles, boring. Not me, I remember cars that were completely worn out at fifty thousand miles. I remember what a blow out feels like. I have helped a friend patch his gas tank after the exhaust pipe fell onto the pavement and punctured the tank. I like character as much as anyone, but for a car that I have to depend on for daily transport, give me boring.

    • See 1 previous
    • Charliej Charliej on May 05, 2013

      wmba, you are just a couple of years junior to me. My grandfather taught me to drive in a 49 Chevrolet pickup. I had a lot of those cars with character. First a 59 Borgward Isabella sedan. Then a 57 Chevrolet. The first car that I got to pick out was a Mini. Everyone loves Minis, they were proof that you did not need horsepower to have fun. Then a 55 Chevrolet, then a Mini Cooper. More horsepower made for more fun in that car. For the first ten years of married life, I went through more cars than I can remember. All well used, of course. As for the question of why I am on this site, I like cars. Cars that are boring to some, are not boring to me. If I want performance, I will ride a motorcycle. The lack of cars with character in the US is bad. Where I live, there are Renaults, Peugeots, Seats, Citroens, Fiat vans, Ford Transit vans, Renault Espace vans. At the local Walmart, I see Mercedes A and B class cars parked. There are no Kias here, and if you want a Hyundai, you have to buy it from the Dodge dealer. There are also Volkswagen Beetles everywhere here. Also, ten million Chinese scooters and motorcycles. Mexico is a car watchers paradise. When I need another car, which may be a long time as I only drive an average of five miles a day, I will be looking at something with "character".

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂