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Family sedans review: Redesigned Honda Accord excels, Subaru Legacy loses ground

Consumer Reports News: December 18, 2012 12:08 AM

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Consumer Reports has completed testing several new or updated family sedans, and the results are a bit mixed.

Honda Accord
The all-new Honda Accord looks very much like last year's model, but the sedan demonstrated a real improvement in our tests. Although Honda has slipped with other models it redesigned in recent years, it nailed this one. The new Accord is roomy, nice to drive, well equipped, and very fuel efficient.

Inside, you are treated to one of the best driving positions available, comfortable seats, and terrific visibility. All Accords have a standard backup camera--rare among family sedans. Uplevel models include advanced safety features seldom found in this category, including forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems, and Honda's new LaneWatch blind-spot camera system.

Honda has also kept the Accord's pricing competitive. Our $23,270 four-cylinder LX and $30,860 V6 EX-L cost the same as or less than many other similarly equipped family sedans.

Subaru Legacy
With a mild update, the Subaru Legacy dropped a couple points in its overall test score, falling a bit short in refinement and performance.

For 2013, Subaru tweaked the steering and suspension, which helped make emergency handling more secure and predictable. But the changes also robbed the car's ride of its plushness; it's still good, but no longer great. We feel the same about the recently tested Outback.

Fuel economy from the redesigned 173-hp, 2.5-liter "flat-four" engine is impressive for an AWD car. Still, most competing four-cylinder sedans are quicker. The Legacy's real Achilles' heel is its continuously variable transmission. It's well behaved during casual driving, but it tends to exacerbate engine noise when you're accelerating or merging on the highway, and its performance is a bit rough around the edges.

Chevrolet Malibu

Our latest Malibu, tested with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, outscores the mild-hybrid Malibu Eco by a fair bit. The Malibu shines with a plush, comfortable ride and a very quiet cabin. It also has simple controls, decent fuel economy, and secure handling. However, the rear seat remains relatively tight, with less space for legs and knees than in most other family sedans.

Even though it is priced below the previously tested Eco, this Malibu is also no great value, costing notably more than higher-rated competitors. Sales incentives seem inevitable.

Bottom line:
The family sedan segment has been significantly freshened this year, with many cars being updated or redesigned. (Consumer Reports' test of the redesigned Ford Fusion comes next month.) Consequently, consumers shopping this segment have many tempting choices to pick from. But it definitely pays to dig in and do the research to see which best suits your needs and budget.

Check out the complete road tests on these models for all the details, as well as reading our sedan buying advice and Ratings.

Jeff Bartlett

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