In 1999, the first Honda hybrid, the Insight, rolled onto showroom floors. Since then, the brand offered several other hybrids including the second-generation Insight, Civic Hybrid, Accord V6 Hybrid, CR-Z and Acura ILX Hybrid. So why are we referring to the 2014 Accord Hybrid as Honda’s first real hybrid? Simply put, these earlier models used the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology, which is a mild-hybrid setup at best.
|1. A 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 141 hp and 122 lb-ft of torque is paired to a 124 kW electric motor generating 166 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque for a combined output of 196 hp.
2. The Accord uses an E-CVT that is more of a direct drive unit than conventional transmission.
3. Fuel efficiency is rated at 50 MPG city, 45 MPG highway and 47 MPG combined.
4. The Accord Hybrid begins at a price of $29,945 for base models with the range topping Accord Hybrid Touring model coming in at $35,695 after destination charges.
IMA is basically a small electric motor wedged between the gasoline engine and transmission. The electric motor can assist the gasoline engine, but, unlike the systems found in most other manufacturer’s hybrids, the little motor isn’t powerful enough to propel the car independently.
A PROPER HYBRID
That all changes for 2014 because Honda is finally marketing a proper, two-stage hybrid drivetrain for the Accord. To make up for its tardiness, the sedan is poised to one-up its competition by boasting class-leading fuel efficiency with officially ratings pegged at 50 MPG city, 45 MPG highway and 47 MPG combined.
For those keeping score at home, this is the second mid-size sedan to be introduced with a claimed 47 mpg fuel economy average – the other being the Fusion Hybrid. That car never lived up to those numbers; will this one?
SEE ALSO: Hybrid Buyer’s Guide
The powertrain for the Accord Hybrid is essentially the same as found in the Accord Plug-In released earlier this year. That means the new 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine producing 141 hp and 122 lb-ft of torque is paired up to a 124 kW electric motor generating 166 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. Combined, the two power plants create a total output of 196 hp.
SMOOTH HYBRID POWER
Like any two-stage hybrid, the Accord can be driven in pure electric mode (EV), regular hybrid mode and by the gasoline engine only (Engine Drive). Honda spent a lot of time ensuring the vehicle seamlessly transitions between these modes and it pays off. Compared to the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid or even Toyota Camry Hybrid, there is a lack of hesitation or jerkiness when going from EV mode to hybrid mode to gas-only mode, thanks in part to a smooth operating “transmission” that Honda calls an E-CVT, but is really a direct drive unit.
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With similar total power output to that of the Camry and Sonata hybrids, the Accord feels just as quick in a straight line. It is more eager to accelerate than either of those models, but is a bit louder under that acceleration. Like the Sonata Hybrid, the Accord will operate in pure electric mode at much higher speeds and tolerates greater throttle input than the Camry hybrid.
Brakes are often a sore spot for automakers breaking (no pun intended) into the hybrid market, but Honda does has over a decade of experience with regenerative brakes and the Accord Hybrid’s stopping gear feels like conventional discs and calipers as a result; none of the on-off switch plaguing so many other hybrids.
What makes this even more impressive is the fact that Honda is using brake-by-wire technology where electro servos apply pressure to the calipers instead of brake fluid fed through hydraulics. The Accord does have a master cylinder feeding fluid to brake lines, but they end at electric transmitters that send a signal to the electric servos.
Weighing in at less than 3,600 lbs., the Accord Hybrid is roughly the same weight as the V6 sedan. To achieve that, Honda applied various weight savings measures including an aluminum rear bumper beam, aluminum hood and aluminum front sub-frame to compensate for the heavy hybrid powertrain.
Dynamically the hybrid feels like a slightly numbed-down Accord with steering that is missing some of the usual Honda feel and a chassis unwilling to respond as quickly as usual. Despite this, and the fact it is running on low-rolling resistance Michelin tires, the hybrid Accord is still one of the more engaging, fun to drive hybrids, which we admit is a bit of an oxymoron.
See Also: 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Review
Unlike the Sonata, Fusion or Optima Hybrids, Honda left the Accord Hybrid looking a lot like non-hybrid models. The biggest tip offs that this is the hybrid version come from unique rims, a unique rear spoiler, a new rear diffuser. Head and tail lamps have blue bezels and the grille is tinted, too. A more in-depth look reveals that the hybrid is slightly longer and slightly lower than regular Accords.
Inside the hybrid is also similar to other Accords, aside from a unique gauge cluster, different trim pieces and extra menu screens. It is regular faire inside here which means a well laid out, easy to use interface that is clean, if not a bit drab. Material fit and finish seem to meet Honda’s typically high standards.
Like regular Accords, the hybrid comes equipped with “LaneWatch” blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, and optional forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise and navigation. As can be expected with a hybrid conversion, the extra drivetrain equipment eats some trunk space; three cubic feet in base Accord hybrid models and 3.5 in higher trimmed versions.
The Accord Hybrid will begin at a price of $29,945 for base models with the range topping Accord Hybrid Touring model coming in at $35,695 after destination charges. Adding a legitimate hybrid drivetrain to the Accord at an attractive price should only help make this high-selling model appeal to an even wider customer base. In this hotly contested market segment, it’s hard for a new comer to arrive and take on the best of the best, but the Accord is poised to do exactly that.