2017 Honda Accord Touring Hybrid
Did you know that Toyota wasn’t the first manufacturer to come out with a hybrid vehicle to the North American market?
Before the start of the current millennium, in 1999, Honda snuck in the original Insight hybrid into the U.S. market, beating the Toyota Prius by just a few short months.
However, as hard as they might have tried and in spite of arguably superior engineering, the “Prius” model name has reigned supreme, and Honda hybrids have not posed a serious threat to the Toyota brand.
Back and better than before
The Accord hybrid isn’t totally new. Also sold in the 2014 and 2015 model years, production was paused for the 2016 model year as the company moved production from the Ohio USA plant back to Sayama Japan. Regular Accords are still built in Ohio today.
Honda isn’t too concerned about the Prius because it was never able to totally fulfil North American demand for the previous Accord hybrid anyway. Part of the decision for moving the hybrid’s production to Japan was because more manufacturing knowledge exists there as well as a better supply base.
In the process of the move and the one year hiatus, the Accord hybrid also gained a few other updates that the rest of the Accord line-up was fitted with. These mild changes should increase the car’s appeal.
Chiefly, these include updated exterior styling with updated LED headlamps and foglamps, revised suspension tuning, new interior trim, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration for the optional touchscreen interface.
What’s uniquely new to the hybrid?
Blue-tinted LED headlamps and taillamps are exclusive to the hybrid as well as the requisite hybrid badges and an aluminium hood to safe a few pounds here and there.
During the hiatus, Honda’s engineers didn’t just do a little nick and tuck to the surface level items of the Accord hybrid. They also revised the gasoline-electric powertrain, increasing its output by 16hp (now generating 212 hp) while slightly improving the car’s fuel economy.
Revisions to the 2.0-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine and the two AC motors are responsible for the increase in total system output.
As before, the two-motor hybrid system in the Accord is able to run as full-electric with the gasoline engine resting (mainly at low speeds or when cruising on the highway up to about 115 km/hr), as a gas generator to charge the battery, or in full gasoline + electric mode when heavy propulsion is called upon.
For the 2017 model year, the hybrid also gains more trunk space thanks to a physically smaller lithium-ion battery pack. However, the rear seatbacks still do not fold down, limiting the Accord hybrid’s cargo carrying capacity to just what you see is what you get in the trunk.
How does it drive?
Quiet, comfortable, surprisingly sporty, but also vanilla. All of those terms can be used to describe the Accord hybrid’s driving experience. The control weights are light, and the electric power steering wheel a bit numb and devoid of feel. However, Honda makes no apologies about it as that is what the target market wants.
The cabin is simple, spacious, and airy. Previous Accord buyers will feel right at home thanks to the low dashboard and tons of glass around. There is fantastic visibility all round, and the car is the opposite of intimidating.
Despite the hybrid wizardry under the hood and the battery in its backside, the only learning curve associated with the Accord hybrid has to do with the more techy infotainment gadgets.
Otherwise all you need to do is start it and drive it. The computer will take care of minimising the fuel consumption for you.
Even though it is a hybrid, there is a normal gearshift knob that is oh so familiar. Expect this to change soon though, as Honda moves to push button transmission gear selectors as it has already done on its Acura line-up.
Technology gadgets galore
Honda’s optional Display Audio infotainment system includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen to compliment the upper 7.7-inch LCD screen (which largely acts just as an info read-out screen). While the concept behind it is great, there is a lack of redundant hard controls and switches, meaning that there is a need to get accustomed to the user interface as some of the settings as buried one or two screens deep.
Impressively, like most of Honda’s other models in Touring trim, the Accord Hybrid Touring also comes with safety technology borrowed from the company’s premium Acura division.
Honda’s Sensing package includes a variety of driver assistance and safety features including lane departure warning, collision mitigation automatic emergency braking, active cruise control, and even an active lane keeping assist system which is a very “lite” version of autonomous steering. In other words, the computer will provide steering assistance to keep the Accord within the lane’s painted lines up to around 15 degrees of steering angle or so.
Think of it as the poor man’s Tesla, and that’s meant to be a compliment!
The Accord Hybrid Touring also comes with Honda’s fantastic LaneWatch system, which switches the 7.7-inch upper LCD screen’s display to a low and wide angle view of the car’s passenger side when the right turn signal is engaged or a button on the end of the turn signal stalk is pressed.
As I’ve written in previous reviews, LaneWatch is particularly handy in night time conditions or in poor weather conditions as the passenger side wing mirror’s camera quality is very good.
The system also does a fine job of adjusting the contrast and brightness, truly aiding in the driver’s decision-making ability. And yet the technology behind Honda’s LaneWatch is so simple to use, without the complexity of more expensive radar-based blindspot warning systems.
If you don’t already know, the Accord is one of the top-selling sedans in North America, alongside with the Toyota Camry.
Although it may be just an everyday family sedan, Honda is clearly doing something right as the model you see here is the ninth generation Accord.
With Honda facing serious hybrid competitors such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, it needs to keep offering up its weapon of choice in the segment. The reality is that hybrids and electric cars will be taking over eventually. At the 2017 New York Auto Show, Honda proclaimed that by 2030 it expects that two-thirds of its global fleet will be electrified. This feat isn’t going to be accomplished with futuristic but low volume models. It’s going to be thanks to mass-selling vehicles with long-standing nameplates such as the Accord hybrid.