The Accord Hybrid feels like your average Accord, just with a different powertrain.
In the DoubleClutch.ca offices, we like the Honda Accord for its blend of everyday livability, and its nod to those who enjoy the act of driving. Case in point: the Accord is one of a shrinking pool of mainstream cars that can be had with a manual transmission. We’ve tested most of the different variations of the Accord, such as the fully-loaded four-cylinder Touring sedan (reviewed here), and the V6 Coupe (which we hustled in the canyons outside of Los Angeles). This time, we were sent a fully-loaded 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring, in a shade of Vortex Blue Pearl.
The Accord Hybrid is the high-tech, high-efficiency entry in the family. It doesn’t go out of its way to look like a hybrid – it’s no Prius, nor is it even like a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (reviewed here), which looks different from the standard gasoline model. The Accord Hybrid essentially looks like the standard Accord sedan, but there are a few subtle details that set it apart: the headlights and taillights have a very slight blue tinge in the clear plastic sections, and the Hybrid badges on the two front fenders are the main giveaways.
The Accord soldiers on with a relatively upright greenhouse, which lends itself to excellent headroom for all five occupants, even though this particular car is equipped with a sunroof. Compared to cars like the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu (reviewed here), the Accord is friendlier to passengers, and younger passengers will be able to more easily see out the windows, thanks to the low sills. The full-LED headlights are essentially the same as the Accord Touring sedan, and are excellent when darkness hits. The high-beam output is also powered by LEDs – a nice touch. The Accord Hybrid rides on unique aerodynamic 17″ wheels with 225-section low rolling resistance tires, though this particular tester came fitted with winter tires. For those looking to fly under the radar, when it comes to high-efficiency hybrids, the Accord does almost nothing to promote the hardware within – this is a good thing.
Inside, the Accord Hybrid echoes the low-key sentiments of the exterior. You’d be pretty hard-pressed to notice the differences, but the driver is treated to a different instrument cluster – the tachometer is removed, and replaced with a hybrid-focused cluster that allows the driver to keep tabs on what the hybrid powertrain system is doing. It would be nice to see a gauge like Toyota’s accelerator position gauge, so the driver is better able to avoid firing up the gasoline engine unless absolutely necessary.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are included, as is a built-in Garmin satellite navigation system, though a dedicated physical volume knob is missing, similar to the current Honda Civic (reviewed here). There are heated seats for all outboard passengers – more on this item later. There’s a new EV mode button on the centre console that tells the Accord Hybrid, when possible, to stay in electric-only mode. This really is only use for low-speed situations, like parking lots and driveways. Once the onboard battery is depleted, the gasoline engine will fire up to recharge the battery.
Under the hood of the Accord Hybrid is an impressive engineering piece, one that really affirms why they officially call themselves the Honda Motor Company. The beautiful thing about the engine powering the Accord Hybrid is that even though it is a technical powerhouse, it goes about its business in a very unobtrusive way – it simply just works. Displacing 2.0L (technically one of the biggest in the L-series family), the engine utilizes the efficient Atkinson combustion cycle, with Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift system operating the twin cams and 16-valves. Curiously, direct gasoline injection is not fitted. On its own, the gasoline engine produces 143hp at 6,200RPM and 129lb-ft of torque at 4000rpm, but when you pair it up with the output of the electric motors, total system power is rated at 212hp at 6200rpm, with as much as 232lb-ft of electric torque available right at 0rpm.
How it all works can be extremely dizzying to explain, as there’s so much going on, in terms of where power is coming from, and where it is all going. To the average driver, all they need to know is to select Drive, and go. Hypermilers will pay close attention to the EV lamp in the instrument cluster, and their goal is to ensure it remains ON, as long as possible. When you get into the nuts and bolts, it’s important to know that the engine doesn’t actually power the wheels at lower speeds (under 60-70km/h or so). There are two electric motor generator units: one connected to the engine, and one connected to the wheels.
The motor generator connected to the wheels is what first usually moves the car at low speeds, with electric power. If more power is requested by the driver, the gasoline engine will start and along with the motor generator that’s attached to the engine, it will feed power through the hybrid electronics, then through the second motor generator that is attached to the wheels, in a “serial hybrid” fashion. As speed increases (typical highway speeds), the hybrid electronics commands a clutch pack to engage between the two motor generator units , making the entire powertrain a “parallel hybrid” system. In this configuration, the engine can power the wheels directly, as well as charge the battery, depending on the status of the entire system is.
The 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery lives behind the rear seat and is what provides the electric motors the juice needed to move the 1613kg curb weight. Compared to the previous Accord Hybrid we saw in 2014, the battery pack and electric motors are lighter and smaller, with incremental improvements nearly throughout the entire system. All this is carefully managed through an electronic continuously variable transmission, made up of planetary gearsets, more so than the steel chains that you typically see attached to gasoline-only CVT automatics.
There’s a new “Sport” mode that increases the level of battery assist that gets sent to the front wheels, which does help improve acceleration considerably, but at the expense of increased fuel consumption and increased battery usage. If you choose to just take comfort in how the Accord Hybrid seamlessly manages everything for you, the efficiency numbers you can get in the real world are seriously impressive.
The Honda Accord Hybrid is rated at 4.9L/100km in the city, 5.1L/100km on the highway, and 5.0L/100km in a combined cycle. Right off the bat, these numbers are quite a bit better than the elephant in the room: the Toyota Camry Hybrid – to the tune of almost 20% in certain situations. Throughout our (extremely cold) week with the Accord Hybrid, we managed an indicated average of 5.9L/100km. The outside temperature has a significant influence on real-world efficiency, simply because using the interior heater will fire up the engine. In a springtime test, it was actually very easy to attain numbers closer to the 5.0L/100km range. The Accord Hybrid will hold 60L of regular 87-octane fuel.
From the driver’s seat, the Accord Hybrid feels like your average Accord, just with a different powertrain. The driving position is typical Honda – it’s easy to find a comfortable set up, and visibility is especially good in all directions. The seats are also typical Honda, firm, fairly flat, but well-supported. Steering is precise, but feedback is fairly muted, which is expected. Being a hybrid, the brake pedal has a different feel thanks to the re-generative braking system, which takes some time getting used to. The gear selector has an additional “B” mode that increases the amount of re-generative braking that occurs when you lift your foot off the accelerator. It’s not quite as aggressive as the BMW i3, but it is possible to drive the Accord Hybrid with mostly one pedal, with enough experience.
The Accord Hybrid’s innovative powertrain also allows it to be run in electric-only EV mode, even on the highway. Once the battery level is high enough, the gas engine will shut off, and the car will be powered at high-speeds with the battery alone. Once the battery is depleted, the gas engine fires up and recharges the battery for its next stint of battery-only operation. The time spent on the highway with the engine off is what contributes to the Accord Hybrid’s excellent high-speed efficiency.
Honda prices the Accord Hybrid at $31,300 for the base model. You get quite a bit of standard equipment at this price level, such as their excellent HondaSensing active safety suite, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, heated front seats, keyless access and push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the same 17-inch wheels as on the fully-loaded Touring model and a reverse camera. Though it costs a bit more than the base Toyota Camry Hybrid LE, you get those crucial heated seats (Toyota doesn’t offer it on the LE), and you don’t have to accept smaller 16-inch steel wheels and plastic covers.
Honda’s superior mobile phone connectivity also means you get data-based navigation, even in the base Accord Hybrid. Competitors such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Chevy Malibu Hybrid are actually stronger than even the Camry Hybrid when it comes to rated efficiency, but come with their own quirks – though it’s possible to get into a stripped-out Fusion S Hybrid for just under $26,000, if you look around enough. Stepping up to the fully-loaded Accord Hybrid Touring adds those snazzy full-LED headlights, leather seating surfaces (with rear heated seats), the option of Vortex Blue Pearl that this particular tester was painted in, built-in Garmin satellite navigation, and a power sunroof. Its price-as-tested comes in at $37,400, before additional dealer taxes and fees.
The real value in the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid comes with sticking to the base model, but like all efficiency-focused vehicles, it’s important to do the math to see if you’ll break even in terms of purchase price versus gasoline money saved. While the Accord Hybrid happens to excel at both city and highway driving, your own habits will dictate the real-world results you actually get. The Toyota Camry Hybrid is unquestionably the more popular low-key hybrid sedan (as seen in taxi livery just about everywhere), but the Honda Accord Hybrid is actually the better hybrid, boasting better numbers, and better features, albeit at a slight cost premium. It handles the medium-sized low-key daily driver role extremely well, and aside from the reduced trunk space (eaten up by the battery), there is little compromise in opting for the Accord Hybrid. It is a very welcome addition the widely-talented Accord family.