Accord Hybrid quietly delivers improved gas mileage
The tested silver Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine that creates 141 horses along with a hybrid electric system that combines with the gas engine to create 196 horsepower. So the power is there, but so is the gas mileage, and isn’t that why you go with a hybrid power system?
The hybrid Accord is rated 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Ironically I seemed to get better gas mileage on the highway than in the city. The trip computer mileage rating dropped every time I tooled along city streets with their lengthy stoplights, especially along Blue Mound Road. Overall the car put me at 37.1 mpg and I recorded 35.2 mpg for the week, with roughly 350 miles on 10 gallons of gas, including a highway drive to Chicago where the computer put me at 40 mpg overall. I might have been disappointed by the gas mileage, but nearly every day I had the car the air temperature was below zero to start the day.
But is there sufficient power to get away from a stoplight or change lanes in a hurry if you so desire?
Yes, but on any incline, no matter how slight, and when you need real power to slip in and out of lanes on the highway or when pulling away from a stop, the car’s engine growls and sounds labored. The electronic-CVT (continuously variable transmission) seems to hesitate before building any torque. In fact, the hybrid system’s torque rating is a paltry 122. In gas-powered cars the torque rating is usually near, or better than its horsepower ranking. But acceleration through it all is adequate.
The CVT is mostly smooth in its power delivery, but engine noise is an issue if you seek much power. Several riders commented on its noise and wondered if everything was OK as I accelerated. Considering how quiet and smooth most Honda engines are, this was a bit disconcerting.
Yet Accord’s hybrid performs as well as the gas-powered model in all other ways. Handling is light and the car easy to control on the highway. It corners well and is simple to park in city driving. Ride is fairly comfortable too, as it should be on a 109.3-inch wheelbase with a multi-link rear suspension. Although some frost heaves delivered a bit of jiggle during my drive in extremely cold weather.
Traction from the front-drive car is good in sloppy conditions, but as with most non-AWD models, some care is needed on slippery winding roads or off-camber turns. The Accord runs on 17-inch tires and braking from four-wheel discs is good. Traction and stability control are standard.
Outside you’ll notice the Accord Hybrid comes with some hybrid badging, plus blue trim on the grille and a tiny lip-like spoiler on the trunk that helps the car slip through the air a little easier to help gas mileage.
Accord’s interior is quiet (active noise cancellation is used) and attractive as in other Accords. The sedan also has room for five adults. However, one of the hybrid’s disadvantages is its smaller trunk. The lithium-ion battery packs take up considerable trunk space, reducing the gas-powered Accord’s generous 16 cubic foot trunk to 12.7 cubic feet here. It also eliminates the Accord’s fold-down rear seats, so you won’t be carrying any long items in the hybrid model.
The car’s dash is attractive dash with a center speedo and trim in blue and green. While it looks great, the functional upside is coaching bars next to the main gauge. These are green the more Eco-friendly you drive. There’s also an ECON mode button on the dash that limits your acceleration and helps the car run at lower capacity to save fuel. That’s a fine thing for cruisng the highway, less helpful in the city when you often need more acceleration. On sub-zero mornings the car also runs on limited power until it warms some. A warning on the dash alerts you to the reduced power.
I like Accord’s dash, but the steering wheel partially blocks the view of the instrument cluster, at least for this 5-5 driver. I cranked the power seat up partially to get a better view out the windshield, but once I had the tilt/telescope steering wheel adjusted I couldn’t see the top of the speedometer dial, the 50-70 range. Taller drivers with the seat back and/or lower will be fine.
These seats are relatively flat, but comfortable, and were tan cloth in the test car, which makes them much nicer in winter than leather. Naturally the leather ones in more upscale versions are heated. Still, heated cloth would be a better choice for our climate.
Standard features here include that tilt/telescope wheel with radio, phone and cruise controls on its hub, automatic headlights and push-button start. There’s an 8-inch video screen mid-dash for radio, clock and trip computer gas mileage readouts. Navigation isn’t standard here, but is on pricier models. I do like the big buttons below the screen to control the radio, meaning no touchy touchscreen system. Below that is a dual climate control system, again with large, easy-to-use buttons.
This model comes with a variety of premium, or near premium features too, including heated side mirrors, a fine 160-watt, 6-speaker audio system that is Pandora capable and has all the other usual digital hookups standard in today’s cars. A rearview camera is standard and Honda’s Lane Watch system is too. It uses a camera in the passenger’s side mirror to show you the curb-side of the car and a large sweep behind it to help you avoid blind-spot accidents along with curb brushings or snow-pile side swipes.
The tested base Accord Hybrid starts at $29,945 and with a $790 delivery charge, this one hit $30,735, very near the average cost for a new vehicle these days. By comparison, a base gas-powered Accord starts at $21,995 and its 2.4-liter I4 that creates 85 horses is rated 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.
Buyers with deeper pockets may move up to the Hybrid EX-L model for $32,695 or the Touring at $35,695. These add more luxury items, such as memory seats, navigation systems and leather interiors.
At its base level the Accord Hybrid is a good performing, high-mileage car for family hauling. Its acceleration noise and reduced-size trunk are its limiting factors.
FAST Stats: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid
Hits: Great gas mileage, easy handling, comfortable ride and interior with attractive dash and rearview camera, plus Lane Watch. Room for five adults
Misses: Engine growls and sounds like it’s struggling when you accelerate much or go up an incline. Trunk is smaller than gas-powered version and steering wheel partially blocks view of instrument cluster.
Made in: Marysville, Ohio
Engine: 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cyl. hybrid, 196 hp
Weight: 3,550 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 192.2 in.
Cargo: 12.7 cu.ft.
Base Price: $29,945
Dealer’s Price: $27,457
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $30,735
Sources: Honda, http://www.kbb.com
Photos: Courtesy of Honda