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Honda Goes for Sporty With New Coupe

Honda kept it simple for its 2013 Accord — a difficult task in its risk-nullifying effort to please everybody.

Consider, for example, the coupe version of the new Accord, which is less economical and less popular than the sibling sedan model.

Honda made the front-wheel-drive coupe because it knows someone is willing to pay more for it — up to $7,000 more. It comes with hipper styling and more power than the sedan. “Hipper” in this case means it looks less “mom and pop,” which is important in today’s youth-oriented market.

For a generation, the Honda Accord has been one of America’s and Europe’s best-selling midsize family sedans. But generations change. Many of today’s young couples, especially those without children, aren’t eager to embrace the “family” label and all they think it means in terms of automotive choices — minivans, crossovers, station wagons and midsize sedans.

They want something sporty with more power, perhaps an Accord coupe with a 3.5-liter V-6 (278 horsepower, 252 foot-pounds of torque) instead of an Accord sedan with a gasoline-direct-injection in-line four-cylinder engine (185 horsepower, 181 foot-pounds of torque).

In choosing the hip coupe over the more practical sedan, they willingly sacrifice easier access to the rear cabin and about nine miles per gallon in better overall economy. All things considered, they aren’t giving up much.

Honda’s KISS (keep it simple, stupid) school of design and engineering renders a coupe with many of the salient virtues of a sedan, along with a sedan (the Accord Sport) that satisfies many of the psychological needs of a coupe. Both have excellent build quality and safety. Even the Accord sedan with the four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission is a zippy, pleasant driver. Both are lighter and tighter than their predecessors — a welcome relief for those of us who worried that the Accord was gaining too much weight and bulk.

Honda’s European designers, routinely concerned about the narrow streets and limited urban parking on their continent, apparently influenced the 2013 design of the Accord. Both the coupe and the sedan fit better in the city. But the coupe looks better for those more interested in style than function. It is sleek, tight. The tapered rear styling is uninterrupted by a second set of doors. The front doors are wide enough to let rear passengers get into their seats without bending too much, bumping heads or mussing hairdos.

But taller passengers with regally high coiffures would prefer not to bend at all. They want rear doors, thank you. Yet, once seated, even they marveled over the quality of materials and ergonomic simplicity of the Accord coupe’s interior, which borders on functional brilliance.

Everything is exactly where you need it to be for optimum sight and touch. Honda’s LaneWatch technology, which activates an eight-inch video screen on the right side of the steering wheel during right turns, is so helpful that my three passengers unanimously voted to petition Honda to find a way to install the same system for left turns. We understand the current problem: It is hard to turn left when looking at a screen positioned on the right.

Possible solution: Reposition the screen, Honda.

The Accord coupe in possession also came with a standard backup camera and optional lane-monitoring technology. I like both. But my passengers and I were happy that the lane-monitoring device, which emits beeps when it senses an errant lane crossing, could be turned off on narrow rural roads with poorly drawn lanes, where it becomes more of an annoyance than a help.

It is fun to have more power than less, especially in an automobile as tightly hewn as the new Accord coupe, even if it means spending more money on gasoline. Luckily, both the coupe and the quite adequate four-cylinder sedan consume regular-grade fuel. It’s just a pity that the coupe, even with a six-speed manual transmission, which you’d think would be more efficient than an automatic, consumes more of the stuff.

But such is the penalty of choice. And Honda offers lots of choices in its new Accord line — all of them well-built, attractively designed, and aimed at meeting your real and imagined needs. There is even an Accord plug-in electric/gasoline model coming in 2014. It is pricey, starting at $39,780. But it delivers the equivalent of 124 miles per gallon in the city and 105 mpg on the highway.

That’s correct. Most gas-electric and plug-in electric cars deliver better mileage in the city than on the highway.