By Zack Klapman.
Domesticated Superiority; so you’ve admitted you need a “family sedan”. It’s ok, no judgment. I like to think my future significant other, will be happy mounting child seats in the trunk of a 2-seat sports car, and that my kids won’t get motion sickness from the sideways sliding cave I’ve placed them in, but that’s insane. But you are not insane. You understand that a comfortable, reliable, spacious car makes sense for transporting humans, because it’s true.
Naturally, the Honda Accord comes to mind. As classic a choice as a sharp knife with steak, they’re as popular as WiFi and as resilient as an Arizona rock is to sun. The new one for 2013 has better seats than previous, is as spacious as an opera house, and has an interior as easy to use and decipher as a telephone. The outside is a freshened version of the look you’ve come to expect, but it takes a detective to notice. Let’s call it “a stealthy re-design.” Bingo.
Moving our 2013 Honda Accord Sport along is a 2.4L inline-4 with a 6-speed manual; I prefer the manual to the CVT, but I doubt buyers will.
Despite 189HP, nearly matching torque, and that “sport” on the back, it feels slow. “Sport” here carries the same weight it does as on a deodorant. The 6-speed is a nice one, but if you don’t stare at the speedometer you’ll wonder when the car will start moving. Maybe I’m spoiled by punchy turbos, but the butt dyno doesn’t match the numbers, even though they’re better than the Jetta’s.
Inside you will find a cabin so spacious, it made my 6’4” friend feel small. The layout is easy, and the large screen is excellent. I love that Honda offers the big screen (phone, Bluetooth, backup camera) without requiring NAV, as nothing competes with a smart phone.
Spacious, a proven model, great gear for the price ($24k), and it runs forever. But it feels a bit like purgatory, and who wants to be there forever?
The 2013 Jetta Hybrid SEL is a timeless warrior of young adults has grown, and feels like a barely-smaller Passat. It’s not as roomy as the Honda Accord but it’s plenty spacious. The exterior is Volkswagen nondescript, but what really surprised me is how fast it feels. Technically it makes less power and torque than the Honda (170HP, 184tq), but it feels faster, and here’s why:
- Torque and power start at 1,000RPM: Thank the electric motor for that.
- It never stops pulling: An electric/turbo marriage is a great thing. One gets you off the line; the other pulls you to the finish. When both systems are at full go this car rushes to the nearest farmer’s market with vigor, and doesn’t stop til 130MPH, at which it is stable and comfortable.
- E-Mode to 44MPH is great: Some hybrids turn off the EV mode if you think about pressing the gas; It’s like it’s meant just for parallel parking. But 44MPH handles most traffic situations. Sitting in traffic wastes millions of gallons of gas per year. Being able to turn the engine off, without being reduced to a snail is great.
Paired to a fast-shifting 7-speed DSG, this is one of my favorite hybrids ever. 48MPG highway, 42 city, 14 better than the rival. The only problem with the system is the regenerative brakes are hard to modulate at slow speeds. They grab like a 16-year old boy near his first bra.
But, the Volkswagen Jetta looks like a car (though not an exciting one), and that’s worth a lot.
The inside is a familiar VW setting, long overdue for a real update, in my opinion, especially the center stack. The design is clean, easy, and upscale-ish, but the NAV looks like it was animated by a child. Comfortable seats in front and folding ones in back make it a versatile pack rat, and the suspension provides a smooth ride.
Our Volkswagen Jetta SEL was $32,000 (with the bad NAV and other goodies) but drop to the Jetta SE and it’s only $26k, still with leatherette, Bluetooth, and the same transmission. That’s a win. It’s more than the Accord, but the engine has more personality, and when both cars are basically capable of doing the same job, a little personality goes a long way.