It's unusual for a best-selling car to play catch-up, but that's where the Honda Accord found itself last year. Once the undisputed engineering champ among midsize sedans, the Accord lost its way, held back by tepid technology and overgrown dimensions. Meanwhile, most rivals took a big step forward, making the Accord feel a shadow of its former self.

So Honda returned to the drawing board last year to recapture some of that old mojo. An all-new Accord emerged that's smaller, sleeker and packed with the cutting-edge features that used to be Honda's hallmark.

The 2014 Honda Accord sedan is 3.5 inches shorter than the last-generation model, and the coupe has shed 1.8 inches. The new sheet metal is hardly revolutionary. Whereas the outgoing Accord looked bulbous, this one looks crisp and correct. Inside, the Accord essentially remains the same size despite the tidier exterior, and its dashboard is richer than before. What's more, you no longer have to spring for the pricey EX if you want cool features, because even the mainstream LX comes standard with alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and dual-zone automatic climate control.

So is the Accord the midsize sedan to beat? We wouldn't go that far. There's just too much parity in this segment right now, with seemingly every automaker offering a compelling product. But the Accord has certainly caught up to the pack, and it's nice to see Honda's stalwart once again jostling for position at the front.

What's New for 2014?

Following its redesign for 2013, the Accord is unchanged for the 2014 model year.

What We Like

Plentiful standard features; roomy interior with improved materials; quieter ride; above-average continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); capable handling

What We Don't

Base stereo only has four speakers; navigation system is only available on EX-L and above

How Much?

$22,500-$34,000

Fuel Economy

The Accord starts with a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. The Sport sedan squeezes a little more power out of the same engine: 189 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque. Although a 6-speed manual transmission is offered for the first time with this engine, most Accords will have the gearless CVT.

Ordinary Accord sedans with the CVT are EPA-rated at 27 miles per gallon city/36 mpg hwy, while the slightly more aggressive nature of the Sport sedan and the 4-cylinder coupe hauls them down to 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy. Opting for the 6-speed manual extends the downward slide to 24 mpg city/34 mpg hwy.

The optional 3.5-liter V6, offered with a new 6-speed automatic transmission or a coupe-only 6-speed manual, generates 278 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. This is largely a carryover engine from the last Accord, but the 6-speed automatic makes a big difference in acceleration, catapulting the Accord V6 to the head of the class. It also helps return a remarkable 21 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the automatic, though gas mileage with the manual drops to 18 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Accord sedan is offered in six trim levels: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L V6 and Touring. The Accord coupe starts out at LX-S and can't be had in Sport or Touring, but it shares the sedan's other trims.

Honda used to punish entry-level buyers with bare-bones equipment offerings, but, starting this year, that's no longer the case. Even the base LX sedan ($22,500) includes perks such as 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, USB audio connectivity, Pandora Internet radio compatibility, a 4-speaker stereo and the i-MID infotainment system with an 8-in screen.

The Sport sedan ($24,500) adds 18-in alloys, a rear deck lid spoiler, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 10-way power driver seat including adjustable lumbar.

The EX sedan ($25,500), traditionally the luxurious Accord, actually isn't that much more special now, though it does feature 17-in alloys, a sunroof, a 6-speaker stereo and keyless entry with push-button ignition. Instead, it's the EX-L ($29,000) that sets itself apart with LED brake lights, HondaLink, a rearview camera, 2-position memory for the driver seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a touchscreen audio interface and satellite radio.

The EX-L V6 sedan ($31,000) adds the V6 engine, LED daytime running lights and a HomeLink garage door opener. The top-of-the-line Touring sedan features automatic LED headlights and adaptive cruise control.

Note that the optional navigation system with voice-recognition is available only on EX-L, EX-L V6 and Touring. Selecting it greatly increases the resolution of the i-MID screen.

In terms of feature content, the coupe-only LX-S model ($24,500) is roughly an EX sedan without the sunroof and push-button ignition. From there on out, the coupe more or less follows the sedan's equipment formula.

Trunk space in the sedan tops out at 15.8 cu-ft, a solid number for this class. The coupe falls back a bit to a 13.7 cu-ft maximum.

Safety

The Accord comes with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side curtain). Other available safety features include collision warning and lane departure warning systems.

In government crash tests, the latest Accord earned a 5-star overall safety rating. That rating consists of a 5-star side impact rating, a 5-star rollover rating and a 4-star frontal impact rating.

Behind the Wheel

Hardcore Honda fans were up in arms over the company's decision to replace the iconic double wishbone suspension with struts for 2013. Perhaps these good folks haven't actually driven the car. The new Accord undoubtedly handles with more poise and precision than its predecessor -- and anyway, BMW and Porsche use struts, too, so what's the big deal? The brakes remain mediocre, however, as independent testing has shown little if any progress relative to the previous model's lackluster binders. Happily, the ride is smooth and quiet on most surfaces, a marked improvement over previous Accords.

In our interior evaluation, we immediately felt an upscale vibe that was mostly absent from the previous Accord. The materials seem nicer in the current model, and there's no doubt that the standard 8-in i-MID (short for multi-information display) adds a touch of high-tech class. Despite the influx of technology, Honda's ergonomic leadership shines through in the ease of use that characterizes most controls.

The front seats are firm and highly supportive, while rear passengers in the sedan will be at least as comfortable as they were in the outgoing model's palatial back seat; in fact, rear legroom has somehow increased by an inch. The coupe's rear quarters are predictably tighter, but two adults can squeeze back there without issue for short to medium trips.

Other Cars to Consider 

Ford Fusion -- The recently redesigned Ford Fusion is one of the few rivals that can give the new Accord a run for its money technologically. It doesn't hurt that the Fusion is great to drive, too.

Hyundai Sonata -- The current Sonata almost single-handedly started the trend toward good-looking, value-packed family sedans. It's still a formidable foe, especially with the 2.0-liter turbo.

Toyota Camry -- The Camry is genuinely engaging in SE trim, good enough to give the Accord fits. And we're not sure how Toyota does it, but the Camry's optional 3.5-liter V6 is a thing of beauty.

AutoTrader's Advice

The LX is so feature-rich that we're tempted to recommend that one and call it a day. We do consider the LX a strong value, but given all the extra features you get with the EX-L, it could be the pick of the litter if the price is right.

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