The Short Answer: 2013 Honda Accord
How Close? As close as we expected
Honda Accord Key Advantages: More technologies, more satisfying to drive
Toyota Camry Key Advantages: Softer and quieter highway ride, simpler to operate
Celtics vs. Lakers, Chicago deep dish vs. New York thin crust and Toyota Camry vs. Honda Accord. Stretching back to before the turn of the century, these venerable midsize sedans have been the two best-selling cars in the country, and they continue to battle each other for the hearts and minds of smart shoppers looking for well-rounded and trouble-free transportation.
Kelley Blue Book Value Comparison
Apples-to-Apples Price: Similar
Projected 5-Year Cost To Own: Similar
Projected Resale Value: Similar (But Accord edges Camry slightly and bests all others as Kelley Blue Book's 2013 Best Resale Value Award winner in the midsize sedan category)
The Accord and Camry might be the two most reputable cars on the road. They're also comfortably roomy, fuel-efficient and offer incredible value based on the same outstanding mix of competitive pricing, stellar resale value and renowned reliability.
While both offer a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder power, the most popular configuration of both cars is with a 4-cylinder engine, automatic transmission and cloth interior. Each is now available with a comprehensive infotainment suite - Toyota's Entune and Honda's HondaLink - both of which leverage the driver's smartphone to provide access to everything from movie tickets to sports scores to Facebook updates.
2013 Honda Accord Advantages
While the latest Camry has more driving personality than its predecessor, there's still something more satisfying about driving an Accord. Better steering and pedal feel are part of a collection of near-intangibles that make the Accord more enjoyable to drive even on a routine commute to the office.
New to the Accord driving experience for this generation is a "gearless" continuously variable transmission (CVT) that serves as the automatic transmission option on all 4-cylinder models. Acceleration without shift points can seem strange at first, but it's mostly an aural issue: we're all just used to hearing an engine rev up and down several times as a car accelerates through the gears. After a short adjustment period, buyers typically start singing the praises of CVT smoothness versus even the smoothest conventional transmission. Honda's first CVT arguably isn't quite as good as Nissan's best, and it doesn't deliver the same perfect off-the-line response as the V6 Accord's conventional automatic, but it's good enough that we count it as a small advantage over the Camry.
Another cool new feature for Accord is the available LaneWatch system. Turn on your right turn signal and a video view of the right-side blind spot is presented on the center console display. You get a better look at where you're trying to go without having to move your eyes all the way to the right outside mirror and farther off the road ahead. Watch for other automakers to start offering something similar.
In addition to LaneWatch, the Accord also offers adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning, all of which are more typical of luxury cars and none of which are offered on the Camry.
While the new Accord will be the second of the two cars to offer a hybrid version, it will be first to offer a plug-in hybrid, expected to offer perhaps 20 miles of all-electric range.
In lower- to mid-level trims the Accord is still available with a manual transmission, and for something completely different there's the Accord Coupe. (Two doors, no waiting.)
Finally, while beauty remains firmly entrenched in the eye of the beholder, we think most would call the Accord more stylish than the Camry, both inside and out. Even the Accord's 8-inch display is prettier on two counts: it's larger than the Camry's 6.1- or 7-inch screens, and it's standard equipment even on the base model.
2013 Toyota Camry Advantages
The Toyota Camry is softer, simpler and requires a bit of a lighter touch than the Honda Accord. While car enthusiast-types tend to favor the Accord, more car buyers prefer the Camry and have made it the best-selling car in America for 15 of the past 16 years (Accord took the title in 2001).
The Camry's more basic design is a plus for many buyers. Nowhere is this more evident than in the interior button layout. Here, what you see is what you get. Big, easy-to-read buttons with labels like "Radio," "Map" and "Setup" are the epitome of ease.
An available blind-spot monitoring system also enhances driving ease. This system constantly monitors both sides of the vehicle and gives the driver a visual warning when other cars enter the nefarious zone often not seen from the side mirrors. While the Accord's LaneWatch system offers the advantage of video, it monitors only the right side of the vehicle.
Another feature that's part of the blind-spot monitoring system - and one that's just as valuable - is the Camry's rear cross traffic alert. Instead of just hoping vehicles crossing behind you will stop as you nervously back out of a blind parking space, this safety and convenience feature will alert you to approaching cars before you're able to see them.
The Camry is currently available in a gasoline-electric hybrid format and has been for years. This most fuel-miserly of Camry models is rated at up to 43 city/39 highway mpg.
Like all Toyota vehicles, the Camry includes complimentary maintenance for 2 years/25,000 miles. Also available is the Safety Connect system that includes services such as emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, and automatic collision notification.
"So Which One Should I Buy?"
After all these years, the question of whether to buy a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord still comes down to this: Would you prefer something a little bit softer or a little bit sportier? They're both excellent automobiles, and you'd drive yourself crazy trying to find meaningful differences in quality, value or safety. Drive them both back-to-back and pick the one that speaks to your heart. In this case with two very good cars to pick from, it makes sense to let the car choose you.
More Midsize Sedans
It wasn't so long ago that Accord and Camry were clearly the top two choices in the midsize sedan segment. Today, you're faced with as many as 10 viable alternatives. Here's a look at your 12 midsize sedan options for 2013-14.