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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Review By Steve Purdy

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

We reviewed the ninth generation Honda Accord some months ago and were surprised at the level of luxury and sophistication delivered by what we think of as a mainstream mid-size sedan. This week’s Accord Hybrid test car adds to that with a super-efficient hybrid powertrain that delivers amazing fuel economy without a huge cost differential.

Our test car is the Hybrid EX-L model showing a base price of $31,905. We have no options on the car, nor do we really need any since it comes so well equipped. We have leather-trimmed heated seats, steering wheel controls, comprehensive audio system, multi-function display with rear view camera, dual-zone climate control, vents for the rear seat, power moonroof, automatic headlights, keyless entry, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lots of airbags and plenty more.

The hybrid powertrain comprises something over $3,000 of the cost of the car. If you run the numbers compared to the standard 4-cylinder Accord you’ll discover a payoff period a bit beyond the time most people will keep the car. I calculate it to be around six years. That can vary considerably depending on your driving environment. Of course, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing your part to save the polar bears.

We can barely distinguish the Hybrid Accord from the regular version of the car. A close look will reveal blue accents in the grille, badging and taillights, special 17-inch alloy wheels shod with low-rolling-resistance tires, some subtle aerodynamic details and, of course, a high-tech, multi-info instrument cluster inside. It is a thoroughly modern and attractive car inside and out reflecting the swoopy trend in modern car design, but it does not draw attention to itself as a hybrid.

Honda’s hybrid system is a bit different than the others in that it has two electric motors to augment the 2.0-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine, one powers the front wheels and the other just makes electrons. It can run on just electricity, just the gasoline engine or a combination of the two. With all systems engaged we have just about 200 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque, which is good for a 0-to-60 time of a decent 7.3 seconds. What they call an e-CVT (electronic continuously variable transmission) is an integral part of making all the parts work efficiently, but it’s not a transmission at all. In fact, there is no transmission in the car, at least in the conventional sense. Rather, e-CVT refers to the integration of the electric motors into the powertrain with the motors acting like a transmission.

The Accord Hybrid earns an EPA fuel economy rating of 50 mpg in the city, 45 on the highway and 47 mpg combined. Journalists attending the launch mostly beat those numbers with careful and skilled driving techniques. We, on the other hand, saw much less than that with about 42 mpg. Our week of driving featured conditions that could hardly have been worse, with bitter cold temps, ice and drifting snow. The car regularly informed me on starting out in the morning that it was too cold to run on just batteries.

The driving experience is similar to other gas/electric hybrids like the Fusion, Camry, PriusV. It has plenty of acceleration, is smooth and quiet and, unless you are particularly attuned to the nuances of driving dynamics, you’ll hardly know it’s a hybrid. The most obvious giveaway in this case is the feel of the regenerative braking as you decelerate and stop. In the Accord’s case we also vividly notice the distinctive whirr of engine related to the CVT-like power transfer.

The other way you know for sure you’re driving a hybrid is the vast variety of information displays in the instrument cluster. You can choose enough digital information to keep you entertained, intrigued and informed about how you and the car are doing together.

The Accord feels roomier inside than many of its mid-size sedan competitors though the actual measurements are not much different. Both front cabin and rear seating area are generous with easy ingress and egress. Like most other hybrids the battery pack soaks up a good share of the trunk space, so we’re left with just 12.7 cubic-feet for our stuff. That’s about 20% less than the non-hybrid model. Interior volume is unaffected since the batteries all reside behind the rear seat.

The Ohio-built Accord Hybrid is warranted for 3 years or 36,000 miles for the whole car, 5 years or 60,000 miles on the powertrain and 8 years or 100,000 miles on the lithium-ion battery pack.

If you’re worried about the longevity of the battery pack you probably needn’t be. While the lithium-ion unit has a limited life span we’ve not seen any evidence that it will likely need replacing in the normal first owner’s use of the car, or maybe even the second owner’s. If you’re one who keeps a car indefinitely into the 200,000-mile range you might want to consider the conventional powertrain. In fact, there are many reasons to eschew any of these hybrids.

If you want a competent, attractive, comfortable hybrid sedan you will surely want the Accord on your shopping list.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved