Honda’s dependable Accord ups ante with hybrid model

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid.
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid.

Year after year, Honda’s Accord sedan can be depended on for efficiency and reliability.

This year’s hybrid model ups the ante when it comes to economy and comfort. 

Interior layout, legroom and insulating factors are virtually the same on all Accords, whether a four- or six-cylinder gasoline-only car or a gasoline engine-electric motor hybrid. When it comes to economy, the hybrid is tops. Instead of fuel usage of 20 and 30 miles per gallon of regular gasoline, the hybrid averages 45 to 50 mpg.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Accord hybrid at 45 mpg on the highway, 50 mpg in the city and 47.3 mpg combined. In one instance, the hybrid averaged 55 mpg in about 100 miles of suburban driving.

Primary midsize hybrid competitors, such as the Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry, also do well. The EPA numbers are 43 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 41 mpg combined for the 200-horsepower Camry and 47 mpg for city, highway and combined for the 188-horsepower Fusion. The Accord’s hybrid produces a combined 190 horsepower from the gasoline and electric motor powerplant.

Prices for these competitors range from $29,000 to $35,000 depending on the trim level chosen.

Of the seven sedans on the Accord palette, prices range from a $21,995 EX to $29,155 for an entry-level hybrid. The hybrid tested recently was a top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring model with a seven speaker, 360-watt sound system instead of a six-speaker, 160-watt one, leather trim, alloy 17-inch wheels and a host of upgrade equipment such as collision and lane departure warning systems, HondaLink, heated and power front seats and a hard drive with 16 gigabyte memory.

During the test week with two adults on board and combined interstate and rural driving, the 3,602-pound Touring hybrid averaged 42.1 mpg. Fuel usage depends on driver habits, weather, road conditions, tire size and pressure, weight on board and proper car maintenance. There was no attempt to go easy on fuel usage as the hybrid was driven in a spirited fashion. The fuel tank holds 15.8 gallons of gasoline.

The hybrid has a drawback, and that is noise coming from the engine compartment. The car whines and works hard while the continuously variable automatic transmission gets the car into the 40 to 50 mph range. The noise also is evident while the car is under acceleration at higher speeds.

There are two electric motors on board, one for propulsion and the other for recharging. A lithium-ion battery, which provides energy to the electric motors, takes up room behind the rear seat, which means trunk space is reduced to 12.5 cubic feet from a normal 15.5. Reduced trunk space eliminates room for a temporary spare. Without that spare, overcoming trouble on the road would be dependent on a tire repair kit.

The hybrid Accord moves in three ways. They are EV, engine and hybrid. Stored battery energy powers the front wheels in EV electric drive mode.

The 2-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine is useful on flat surfaces while cruising or accelerating. The car spends most of its time in hybrid drive.

The ride was impeccable with a front double wishbone and rear multilinks providing the guts of the suspension system. Stabilizer bars are found front and rear. P225 tires mounted on 17-inch alloy wheels helped keep the ride smooth.

Single-caliper brakes are 11.5-inch discs in front and 11.1-inch in the rear. 

The steering was responsive but not dangerously quick, and turns were tight. The Touring’s turning circle of 38.1 feet is the norm for cars in this midsize range. 

In terms of space, the Accord provides good legroom in front and the rear. In the front, legroom is 42.5 inches or close to that of a full-size sedan. In the rear, it is officially 38.5 inches. The rear bench seat has a pulldown armrest with cupholders.

Key features in this Touring sedan are a rearview camera, Bluetooth, USB audio interface and side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor.

Also standard are leather trim, including the power and heated front seats, navigation with voice recognition, a 360-watt AM/FM/XM radio/CD/MP3 high definition sound system with audio touch screen and seven speakers, sound controls mounted on the leather-wrapped and tilt-telescoping steering wheel (controls lighted at night), four power windows and door locks, power exterior mirrors, adaptive cruise control, keyless remote entry and smart start. 

There was a glitch in the sound system during the test week. Out of nowhere, an information panel would appear on the touchscreen while I was listening to my favorite AM radio station. I could push a reset button on the leather-clad steering wheel to remove the panel and reinstate the radio station – not a big deal, but annoying. The issue could easily become more than annoying to the car’s owner, though, and is a problem that would be easy for Honda to rectify.  

There are rear console climate vents, a self-dimming rearview mirror, exterior temperature gauge, compass and floor mats. 

A neat feature is the nav screen, which reflects what is on the side and rear of the vehicle when the right-hand turn signal is turned on. This will warn a driver of a jogger or a bicyclist coming up fast on the right and, hopefully, prevent the Accord from turning into somebody’s path.

Other niceties are two 12-volt outlets (dashboard, center console), lockable glove compartment with light, filtered air conditioning, dual-zone climate control, intermittent wipers in front, wiper and defroster in the rear, map lights, armrests, clock, trip meter, tachometer, trunk carpet and light, coin bin, beverage holders, sunglasses holder, lighted vanity mirrors on visors and moonroof.

On the exterior are chrome door handles and window trim and LED headlamps and taillights.

Standard safety fare includes airbags in front, on the sides in front and overhead, a four-wheel antilock braking system, stability control, brake assist and electronic distribution, seat belts and headrests for five with pretensioners in front, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring system and a latch system for child seats.

The Accord has a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty. Coverage on the powertrain is five years or 60,000 miles.

Hybrid components are under warranty for eight years or 80,000 miles.

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