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While midsize cars still represent a strong segment of vehicles sold in the United States, change has gradually occurred in regards to what people are buying.

No longer is this just a two-horse race between the always reliable Honda Accord and its Toyota counterpart, the Camry. These practical, family-oriented sedans and coupes haven’t slipped in any area. In fact, they continue to improve.

While retaining its defining qualities – value, reliability, performance, passenger accommodations, resale capability – there’s no doubt the competition is inching up on the Accord. Despite the overall performance, some rivals can match it, and also provide similar ride quality. That’s not to besmirch the Accord or Camry; it just illustrates that the two Japanese automotive superpowers are no longer dominant.

The list of legitimate rivals includes the Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, and Mazda 6.

The 2012 Honda Accord looks much the same. The Accord hasn’t had a major redesign since 2008, which is one reason why its rivals keep getting closer. However, next year changes will arrive. Honda has indicated its latest Accord redesign will happen with the 2013 model.

There is still plenty to like regarding the 2012 Accord. The latest version remains a rather king-sized sedan that can boast about a backseat that will match or exceed any of its rivals for roominess. The Accord provides abundant leg and head room even for those taller than 6 feet. The front seat offers both comfort and support, and the large door openings and high ceiling are added pluses.

Yet all is not perfect with the interior. The 14-cubic-foot trunk is on the small side, the cabin has a fair amount of hard plastic, and the design can be described as plain, certainly not a high-tech cabin like some other sedans are now offering. This is a departure for Honda, which in the past was a trend-setter, not a follower.

There are still plenty of choices in the vast Accord lineup. The vehicle comes as either a coupe (LX-S, EX and EX-L) or sedan (LX, LX-P, SE, EX and EX-L).

While the front-wheel drive Accord doesn’t have an overpowering engine, it’s certainly not one to complain about either. Not everyone wants to pay the premium sticker price for the extra power, so Honda offers two engine options – a 2.4-liter, inline-4 with 177 horsepower, or the more appealing 3.5-liter, V6 with 271 horsepower. The V6 equipped EX-L sedan driven here was capable of going 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds, which is plenty quick for this segment.

The Accord provides both a refined ride that gives any driver an added feeling of confidence behind the wheel. The feel is almost sporty and there’s little apprehension when taking a corner a little faster than the speed limit. The braking is solid and the Accord has no noise issues.

There’s certainly plenty of reasons to consider purchasing an Accord when shopping for a midsize family sedan. But smart shoppers should be looking elsewhere as well.

2012 Honda Accord

Performance: 2.4-liter, inline-4 engine, 177 horsepower or 3.5-liter, V6, 271 horsepower
Mileage estimate: 23-34 mpg Price: $21,380 to $29,630

Standard features include: tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; six-speaker sound system, CD player, auxiliary audio jack; iPod/USB audio interface; stability and traction control; rear defogger; daytime running lights; tire pressure monitoring