2014 Honda Accord Hybrid: the return

There was a time when buyers said they looked for safety and value for money as the top reasons for choosing to buy one car over another. Nowadays, fuel efficiency is among the top, if not THE top reason buyers choose one model over the other.

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Published on 2013/10/24

MARKAM (Ontario) – With the price of gasoline forever going higher and higher, it’s not hard to understand why fuel economy is given such great importance.

Many car companies are now offering hybrid versions of their sedans, complimenting their gasoline-only versions, to offer buyers a more complete line-up. Now, pretty much every manufacturer has a hybrid midsize sedan in their product portfolio, but Honda was the first.

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Back in 2005, Honda offered a hybrid version of the seventh-generation Accord sedan, at a time when no one else in the market had anything like it. The 2005 Accord Hybrid used Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology on their 3.0L V6 motor. As a result, the car was quite fast, but not all that efficient compared to the gasoline V6 model, since it could not be driven solely on electric power. Plus, the car was quite expensive, and hence Honda didn’t sell very many of them, particularly in Canada.

This prompted Honda to completely skip out on a hybrid variant for the eighth-generation Accord, but that doesn’t mean they gave up on the idea. No, they were just taking their time, reworking their hybrid system.

For the 2014 model year, Honda is again offering an Accord Hybrid, this time based on the ninth-generation model. Again, the hybrid powertrain is only offered in the sedan body style, and the system it now uses is completely new.

For the 2014 Accord Hybrid, Honda has developed a new ‘intelligent Multi-Mode Drive’ (i-MMD) hybrid system, which works with the car's conventional 2.0L I4 gasoline engine (an engine unique to this model) which produces 141 hp, plus its 166-hp electric motors. Since maximum power is achieved at different points for each motor, the total system output is rated at a sufficient 196 hp.

The simple explanation on how this i-MMD hybrid system works is that the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid can be driven solely in gasoline engine mode or just electric mode over short distances - something its predecessor could only dream about. It can also be driven with the two systems combined, to help consume as little gas as possible.

Its new setup is very clever. It comprises of two electric motors which not only work to propel the car, but also work as its transmission. Hence, the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid has no mechanical gearbox, which means you will also never have to change the transmission oil.

Honda calls this system E-CVT (Electric Continuously Variable Transmission), and having experienced it first-hand at this vehicle's launch event in Markham, Ontario, I have to say that this is one of the smoothest systems I have ever come across.

The transition between gasoline and electric mode is almost transparent, as there are no nasty jerks when the hybrid system switches between the two powertrains. Thanks to a clever regenerative braking system, it recharges the battery packs quite quickly, so you can press the EV button (located at the bottom of the gear selector gate) and promptly make use of the battery power you have in store.

According to Honda, the new Accord Hybrid can accomplish a city and highway average of just 3.8 L/100km. At the launch event, I averaged 3.7 L/100km on a 45-minute drive on back roads, which had a few too many hills. I would say that in real-world, normal driving with the air conditioning and the radio on, one could still manage to average under 5.0 L/100km, which is very impressive.

As for the rest of the car, it is just like any other Honda Accord sedan, which means decent amounts of equipment, plus lots of room for a family of five. Due to the battery packs, the trunk space is a little compromised over the standard car, but it is still big enough for most of the shopping you’re likely to do.

So it is efficient and practical, but there’s more. The ride and handling is excellent, which is often amiss on cars in this category. The steering offers a positive feedback as to what the front tires are doing, and while most cars with regenerative braking have an on-off switch feel to the brake pedal, Honda engineers developed a ‘pedal feel simulator’ which makes the brake pedal feel normal – a very good thing.

The only big difference between the interior of a regular Accord and the Accord Hybrid is with its instrumentation. The hybrid version has some extra information in its dials, which can display which motor is powering the vehicle at any given time, and also charting your battery information.

Exterior visual differences are limited to blue-tinted headlights, blue-accented grille, 17-inch aero-styled alloy wheels, a trunklid spoiler and a rear diffuser. Oh, and the obligatory ‘Hybrid’ badges around the car.

As for pricing, the base version of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid starts at $29,590, while the loaded Touring model is yours from $35,690. The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid is vastly improved when compared to its predecessor, and if you are looking for a hybrid sedan as your next car, this one is worth a very close look.

FAMILY RATING

4/5: Lots of space for five people in the cabin, although the trunk is a bit compromised due to its battery pack. Still, fitting a baby stroller is not a problem, as is fixing baby seats on the rear bench.

In collaboration with Canadian Tire.

Editor’s Rating


Fuel Consumption

Very frugal indeed


Value of Price

Lots of technology for not a lot


Styling

Looks OK, won’t make you turn your head


Comfort

Quiet and comfortable


Performance

A hybrid you can enjoy driving


Overall

A very satisfying hybrid