Accord Hybrid is one of the thriftiest

06/12/2014 6:00 PM

06/12/2014 6:00 PM

When it comes to the Honda Accord Hybrid, it’s the fuel economy, stupid – borrowing a bit from James Carville’s1992 campaign slogan for Bill Clinton. The Environmental Protection Agency rates its fuel mileage at 50 miles per gallon in the city and 45 on the highway, figures that best other hybrids such as the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta

The Accord Hybrid, manufactured in Marysville, Ohio, combines a 141-horsepower, 2.0-liter gasoline engine with two electric motors that deliver 196 horsepower combined. The car continuously cycles between gasoline, electric (EV) and hybrid modes. Under most conditions the gas engine powers a generator, which in turn provides energy to charge the hybrid battery or to power the electric motor that drives the wheels. The EV mode is used during cruising, light acceleration and when braking. The gasoline engine and electric motor work together under heavy acceleration and at high speeds. A lithium-ion battery is situated behind the rear seat.

Honda’s hybrid does a commendable job of feeling normal while transitioning from electric drive to hybrid drive to gasoline drive in seamless fashion. Credit the electronic continuously variable automatic transmission and the software that operates it. Regenerative braking puts energy back into the battery.

A plug-in version of the Hybrid has a larger battery that can be recharged in three hours using a 120-volt wall outlet or one hour using a 240-volt charger.

There are three trim levels. Prices start at $29,155 and top out at $34,905. I drove the top Touring model from Honda’s press fleet. In my week with the Accord, I averaged a bit over 40 miles per gallon without using special driving techniques to save fuel.

The Hybrid’s cabin is basically the same as the standard Accord with the exception of instrumentation. The seats are good, as Honda’s typically are. They have excellent lumbar support and a wide range of adjustability. Back seat legroom is adequate for adults. Wind and road noise were not an issue. The suspension is a balance between firmness for responsive handling and compliance for a comfortable ride.

An 8-inch color display screen in the center of the instrument panel serves as the control center for many functions. Trying to manually tune radio stations, for example, was more complicated than just twisting a knob.

The audio system features text messaging, a Pandora interface and Bluetooth hands-free connection with a cell phone.

The EX-L and Touring models have forward collision warning and lane departure warning. The Touring model has adaptive cruise control. A small camera mounted under the right side mirror shows the area alongside the vehicle when the turn signal is activated. Honda calls it Lane Watch. The view can also be called up any time by pressing a button on the end of the turn signal stalk. I know of no other car with such a system and I found it invaluable in traffic.

Honda has announced that Apple Siri Eyes Free, a dealer-installed option, connects Siri from your iPhone to the vehicle. It will be activated with a button on the steering wheel.

Styling is subjective and personal, but the Accord is pleasing without being radical. It lacks the trendy sport-coupe profile of some of its competitors, but the new design is likely to wear well over time when other designs might grow to look dated. Dimensionally, the car is slightly smaller outside than the previous model while the inside has more rear-seat legroom and a larger trunk.

Price

The base price of the test car, an Accord Hybrid Touring, was $34,905. Transportation brought the sticker price to $35,695.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty. The battery pack has an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

Tom Strongman’s email is tstrongman@gmail.com

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

Engine: 2.0-liter, 141-horsepower four-cylinder

Electric motor: 124 kW

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic, front-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 109.3 inches

Curb weight: 3,602 pounds

Base price: $34,905

As driven: $35,695

MPG rating: 50 in the city, 45 on the highway

At A Glance

Point: The Accord Hybrid, rated at 50 mpg in the city, is one of the most efficient sedans available. The transitions from gas to EV and hybrid drive are very smooth.

Counterpoint: Given the current cost of gasoline, it takes about 5 years to recover the added cost of the hybrid.

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