Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2014 Honda Accord Touring Hybrid

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Almost 40 years after its conception, the Accord remains as one of Honda’s bread and butter models and accounts for a lot of sales on their balance sheet. Today, the Honda Accord still stands out as one of the top midsized sedans on the market. It was redesigned for 2013 to better compete in this extremely crowded family sedan market.

Although Honda was one of the first mainstream manufacturers to release a hybrid car with their funky looking Insight, Honda’s less than focused approach to the hybrid game has meant that they’ve lost a lot of ground to their rival, Toyota.

One of Honda’s original missteps was with the first Accord hybrid which Honda dubbed as a “performance hybrid”. It was a hybrid sedan that oddly favoured horsepower over fuel economy. The result was slow sales due to less than enthusiastic shoppers.

But now there’s a all-new Accord hybrid and it’s so efficient it even rivals the market-leading Toyota Prius, let alone the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Hybrid system

The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid is a totally different animal than its 2005 predecessor.

Make no mistake that with this Ohio-built hybrid, Honda is aiming for mass market appeal and a much larger impact on its sales figures.

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Gone is Honda’s old IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system. This Accord hybrid uses a fresh approach with a two motor hybrid electric e-CVT powertrain similar to the Chevy Volt.

This i-MMD (Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive) system uses an electric motor to drive the front wheels most of the time, with the gasoline-powered engine acting as a generator or a second motor. Only at medium to high speed operation is there a mechanical link, via a lock-up clutch that allows the Accord hybrid to run on the gasoline powered engine alone.

Like the Prius, Honda offers an EV Drive mode for low speeds but the range is very limited.

The battery pack is a 1.3 kWh Lithium-ion unit that sits in the car’s trunk. Unfortunately, as with the case of most hybrids, the battery robs you of some cargo room, leaving there is no room for a spare tire under the floor and 3.1 cu ft less space. You only get a tire repair kit with an air compressor in case of emergencies.

Unlike the Ford Fusion hybrid, you also lose the split folding rear seatbacks due to battery placement at the front of the trunk.

Some hybrids pull off the gasoline/electric vehicle transition better than others and the Accord is at the top of its game. It’s almost as undetectable as you can get at highway speeds, and only around town can you feel the slight powertrain changeover without looking at the display screen.

The Honda Earth Dreams gasoline engine/generator is an i-VTEC 2.0-litre 4 cylinder Atkinson cycle engine producing 141 hp and 122 ft-lbs of torque. When combined with the electric motor, total system output is a respectable 196-hp.

While the Accord isn’t a hot rod by any means, the high torque from the electric motor adds an unexpected element of sportiness to the car.

I found that by exercising some control of the throttle pedal, I could glide along in pure EV mode on battery power alone, even at highway speeds. And I could certainly do at a much higher frequency than other midsized hybrid cars I’ve tested in the past.

The Accord hybrid’s regenerative braking is also one of the best I have experienced, with a progressive brake pedal and good pedal feel. For going down steeper hills, there is a much more aggressive engine braking / regeneration mode that can be activated.

The only real downside Honda’s i-MMD design is weight. The Accord hybrid is porkier than the equivalent non-hybrid model by around 300 lbs.

Regardless of the extra weight, with a tank capacity of 60 litres, I found that even in city driving I could stretch this car’s fuel range to over 900 kms per tank at an average of 5.3L/100 kms. Impressive!

Transport Canada officially rates the Accord hybrid at 4.7L/100 kms in the city, and 5.3L/100 kms on the highway.

Styling

Each time Honda redesigns the Accord, their press releases speak of more emotional designs and more character infused into the sheet metal. But ultimately this is a conservative segment and the Accord is designed to fit in well. I think that its fairly conservative lines will age well.

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Styling-wise, the hybrid is actually tweaked pretty significantly for a Honda product. There are blue tinted accent strips on the front grill, and optionally available multi-projector LED headlamp, as fitted on my test vehicle. They did a fantastic job in lighting up the road ahead, even in poor weather conditions at night.

Also unique to the hybrid are its 17” Aero-style wheels, trunk lip spoiler, and rear bumper diffuser. There are only a few small hybrid badges on the exterior that let other drivers know that this is no ordinary Accord, but indeed one with a more efficient status.

Interior

Even though the Accord is shorter outside than its predecessor, Honda’s engineers have worked hard to maintain its commodious interior capacity. The rear seats, in particular, are very accommodating, and overall the Accord remains as a very spacious car.

Honda also spiffed up the interior with nicer dash trim and fewer buttons. While previous Accords have been a bit weak on feature content, my test vehicle was fitted with a standard multi-angle backup camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a USB port.

Driving Experience

Beyond aesthetics, the Accord’s large greenhouse means that there is excellent visibility all around. Thin windshield pillars help to eliminate blindspots at intersections, and hybrid has the same great driving position as the regular Accord.

Road noise was a long time Accord complaint and Honda has tried to address these concerns with improved sound dampening measures. This is even more important with the hybrid model, as the lack of engine noise in Electric Vehicle mode can exacerbate other noises.

Like others in the segment, for the sake of efficiency, this latest Accord now has electric steering to help with reducing parasitic energy losses. The good news is that it’s one of the better tuned systems in the market.

While it still has the slight novocaine feeling, the steering weight is feels quite natural and the steering ratio quick enough. Incidentally, an electric water pump and air conditioning unit is also there to further increase efficiency.

However, as a whole, I felt that the Accord hybrid doesn’t drive with quite the level of engagement as a gasoline-powered Accord. The ride is a bit stiffer, and due to its low rolling resistance tires, it doesn’t feel as grippy on twisty roads, reducing some driver confidence.

Also, when the engine is revved hard during passing manoeuvres, it moans. It is a bit odd to hear it droning on at high RPMs, seemingly disproportionally disconnected to the road speed at which the car is moving or accelerating along at.

Final Thoughts

Overall the Accord hybrid a pleasant car to own and drive. While it is unlikely to immediately dethrone Toyota’s status in the hybrid game, it’s great news that Honda finally has a competitive hybrid in their fleet. And it’s one that doesn’t compromise too much on what makes the standard Accord sedan such a popular vehicle in its class to begin with.

While some past Honda hybrids haven’t been that impressive technologically-wise, I found this Accord hybrid Touring edition to be quite the opposite.

If you just want a hybrid vehicle in your garage that isn’t a Toyota Prius, this is a good choice and one that I can recommend wholeheartedly.

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Andrew Ling
Andrew is a proud car and tech geek who has worked in Surrey for over the last 10 years. He comes from a communications/marketing background and has worked for automotive-related companies such as Edmunds.com, BenzWorld.org since 1999. From track driving, to rally driving to autocross, he has done it all! When he’s not reading about the latest automotive news, he can be found outdoors snapping pictures at various events around town.
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