MBN USA Test Drive – 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

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Honda has risen to the top of the mid-sized hybrid sedan ranks with its 2014 Accord Hybrid that promises an unprecedented 50 miles to the gallon in city driving, 45 mpg highway and 47 combined while offering a non-hybrid-like driving experience.

Although Honda was the first player in the hybrid game back in the late ’90s, it quickly ceded hybrid superiority. One of Honda’s not-so stellar efforts was the Accord Hybrid, sold from 2005-2007, trading mileage for performance using a V-6 engine. It was an intriguing combination, but yielded only 28 mpg combined.

Honda has now elbowed its way to the head of the line. The key to the new 2014 Accord’s excellent mileage is an all-new hybrid powertrain that pairs a 2.0-liter gas engine with two electric motors. The combination yields a muscular 196 horsepower and stellar mileage.

Most of the time, the gasoline engine does little more than power the generator that charges the 1.3 kWh battery pack and/or sends current to the drive motor somewhat similar to the Chevy Volt. At higher speeds, a lock-up clutch between the two electric motors engages and sends power from the engine to the front wheels. A powertrain controller shuffles through the drive modes — full electric, hybrid, or gas engine — in response to power demand.

The Accord uses electric power to get moving and for most low-speed driving below 45 mph. On highway driving, the gas engine takes over and drives the wheels. The changeover is seamless and the rather complicated system will be invisible to most people.

Performance through what Honda calls an electric continuously variable transmission (e-CVT) has been measured at a rewarding 7.2 seconds from 0-to-60. A quarter mile can be finished off in 15.7 seconds at 90 mph. We found the Accord felt very un-hybrid-like.

The hybrid handled and cornered every bit as well as the standard Accord offering a more entertaining driving experience than many mid-sized competitors. Some people may find the ride on the stiffer side of normal, but it suited our taste.

We discovered the gas mileage numbers, unlike most hybrids in the mid-sized sedan segment, were not just “pie in the sky.” Driving responsibly — at least by our definition — in our usual semi-lead-foot manner yielded a rather startling 46.1 mpg covering more than 200 miles of city and highway driving. Honda’s EPA numbers apparently don’t lie.

The price is usually a sticking point when hybrids are compared to their standard gas-engine counterparts. The well-equipped base hybrid EX is $29,945 including destination charge, the mid-level EX-L is $32,695 and the top-line Touring is $35,695. You will have to determine how much gas savings will be realized and how many miles you will have to drive to recover the additional cost. The key here is that the 4-cylinder Accord, which we found to be an excellent mid-sized sedan, is rated at 27/36/30 compared to the hybrid numbers of 50/45/47.

Making a better case for the elevated purchase price, Honda has loaded the hybrid with considerable standard equipment. The base EX comes with dual-zone climate control, full-power accessories, a rearview camera, eight-way power driver’s seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and keyless ignition/entry. The range-topping Touring includes virtually everything in the Honda arsenal including our favorite, adaptive cruise control.

The Accord Hybrid has considerable safety built in including the unique LaneWatch blind-spot display, which switches the eight-inch center display screen to a low and wide view of the passenger side of the car when the right turn signal is engaged. It’s a neat device, but we wish Honda would also include blind-sport monitoring in the left mirror, which we think in freeway driving offers more crucial blind-spot protection.

While the Accord’s new exterior styling, introduced for the 2013 model year, is definitely a step up from the previous iteration the interior layout represents a solid advancement. The instrument panel contains a pair of large, circular dials, and the information they display can be easily read from the passenger’s side as well. Information on hybrid status is provided including a display that keeps track of your driving habits and gives you an ECO score.

Rear-seat occupants will find generous legroom and shoulder room. There is a sacrifice for hybrid driving — the loss of trunk space to account for battery pack storage. The trunk measures just12.7 cubic feet, three fewer than the non-hybrid version. And the rear seatbacks do not fold down.

With the technology-loaded Honda you can have the best of all worlds — outstanding mileage, satisfying performance, a plethora of creature comforts, and cutting-edge safety equipment.

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