2013 Hyundai Sonata Turbo vs. Honda Accord EX

By Zack Klapman and edited by Christina Selter.

To call a mid-size family sedan the “bread and butter” of the automotive arena is an understatement. They’re more common than that. “Oxygen” is a better fit. Even gear heads who lust for Italian speed or one-off projects have had or will have a mid-sized people mover. Maybe it will be handed down like grandma’s spoon collection (except a car isn’t a complete waste of metal), or you’ll buy one when responsibility is sleeping in crib in the next room. Mark my words, it happens to all of us.

These two reasons (first-ish car or parental accessory) are accepted by the council of driving hooligans; we the people who criticize your totally logical purchase and think of cars more like a best friend than a broom.

2013 Hyundai Sonata

But you know what we condescending gremlins fail to recognize? These cars are as common as H2O for a reason: They make sense. They work, they are quiet, they are efficient, and they can hold people, plural. Evos might hold 5, but the ride gives you PTSD.

Job #1 for a car is to provide transportation and at that task, comfortable sedans decimate. I love all cars fast and loud but no way I’d rather drive 10,000 highway miles per year in something with a yearly fuel resembling a Charlie Sheen weekend than in either of these cars. Not today.

I say “today” because if it was 1997, many sedans offered the personality and fun of a limbless oak tree. But cars have evolved. Now even the cheapest pizza-boy-special is gets serious chassis attention.

2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

Look at the Sonata. The engine has 274HP. In 1998, a Porsche 911 Carrera only had 10 more (285HP), and it didn’t make 270ft-lbs of torque near zero RPM, like this does. 60MPH takes only 5.8 seconds, and that is not slow. MSRP for the turbo is $24,895, and that “T” contains some moxi that kept this judgmental enthusiast smiling.

2013 Hyundai Sonata

I do a lot of long drives and I tend to – how do I put this – shorten the trip with my right foot. If I’m buying a new car I require high-speed stability, long range, and at least acceptable composure in the corners. I drove a 2011 Sonata Turbo about 800 miles in 3 days and my only complaints were about the under-qualified and soft springs, all of which have been addressed. It’s efficient (34MPG hwy.), easily passes loafers, and the suspension is comfy and reassuring.

It also looks good, like a Costco-brand first-gen Mercedes CLS. The trunk is slightly bigger than the Accord’s, and the 2013 Hyundai Sonata continues to make an inexpensive interior look good. This “boring office commuter” knows some Porsche tricks, and it can show them to five people at once. Nothing wrong with that.

2013 Honda Accord EX

If the Sonata is the Porsche, the Accord EX is the Lotus Elise. Lighter by only 11 pounds, but it feels like hundreds. This car really impressed me while dashing through a tight canyon. BMW is “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, right? This car’s grip is only .01g behind a 2011 535i with optional Sport Package. Boo yah. Steering feedback is good and the CVT keeps you in the power-band.

Redesigned for 2013 (though not dramatically), the low beltline and good visibility make it feel small (in a good way), and it has more rear legroom than the Hyundai. Well done.

2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan

The interior is as well equipped as the Hyundai Sonata, but its aluminum and contrasting tones made it feel more expensive. An Acura badge on the steering wheel wouldn’t get questioned. Think metal tube amp to the Hyundai’s black mp3 player.

Note: Tho I never drove an earlier Accord, I was told by other journalists the 2013 seats are a huge improvement over past Accords.

Gas prices, am I right? The 2013 Honda Accord is a frugal drinker: 24/35MPG city/hwy.

I wish it had more punch under the hood, though. The 2.0-liter inline-4 makes 185HP and similar torque, all up high in the power-band. The CVT helps it stay there, but that’s still almost 100 less than the Sonata. 0-60 is almost 2 seconds slower, you have to wring its neck in highway passes. Hills are best handled with momentum. But the thrust is more than livable and this engine will live longer than the human species. We’d like to apologize.

2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan

On behalf of the snarky gremlins dreaming of a V8-swapped Honda Insight, who sacrifice our spines adrenaline, I’d like to apologize. We assumed that guy on the highway in the mid-size is boring, or hates cars, or gave up on life. I’d say-with some exceptions-we used to be right, but not anymore. These cars can keep people like me happy enough. The Honda Accord: a nimble rabbit that will outlive the tortoise. The Sonata: a German train impersonator.

As I write this, I’m flip-flopping. The Accord comes with G-forces, the Sonata with speed. Hopefully when responsibility rears its ugly head, I can have something loud and stupid garage I’ll use for corners. Hm.

You know, I’d rather have more passing power than less. Sonata Turbo, but barely.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Hyundai and Honda.)