The Accord stands out as a comfortable, roomy sedan that's nice to drive and easy to live with. But the last time Honda sold a hybrid version, it was an unconvincing effort that didn't deliver the stellar fuel economy that hybrid buyers are looking for.
This new model remedies that. At a time when many car models are boasting 40 mpg on the highway, the new Accord Hybrid hit that magic mark in our testing for overall mpg—city and highway combined. That ties it with the Honda Civic Hybrid as the most fuel-efficient sedan we've tested, falling shy of the smaller Toyota Prius hatchback by only 4 mpg. That's impressive, but buyers looking for the EPA estimated 47 mpg may be disappointed.
Overall, this is a very impressive hybrid system. Transitions between battery and engine power are very smooth. If you're gentle with the gas pedal, you can drive on battery power alone up to about 25 mph. And even at highway speeds, the engine willingly shuts off as soon as you lift your foot off the gas pedal.
Instead of a conventional transmission, the Accord Hybrid uses a direct-drive system that's similar to those in electric cars. The Hybrid accelerates as quickly as the regular four-cylinder Accord. And it's very quiet when driven gently. Hard acceleration, however, brings a wail from the engine.
Other aspects make the Hybrid less pleasant to drive than other Accords. Instead of the taut yet compliant ride of regular Accords, the Hybrid's ride is choppy, plagued by constant, quick motions. And our car was a bit sloppy when pushed to its handling limits at our track, oversteering in the sharp turns of our avoidance maneuver and compromising driver confidence.
Braking was also marginal, with relatively long stops, especially for a sedan. As with most hybrids, the brake pedal is a bit touchy and takes some getting used to.
To stretch your fuel dollars even further, you can opt for the Accord Plug-In hybrid, which has a larger battery and, when fully charged, is claimed to go 13 gas-free miles on electric power before reverting to normal hybrid operation. But it costs about $10,000 more than the basic hybrid, before the $2,500 federal tax incentive. And monitoring your fuel economy with the car's onboard computer can be a tedious and distracting affair.
In either hybrid, the battery robs some trunk space, although even the larger Plug-In battery leaves adequate room. More limiting is the rear seatback, which doesn't fold for expanding cargo capacity. And there's no spare tire, just a tire-repair kit.
Best version to buy. The basic Hybrid provides the best balance of features and price. An EX-L version adds leather and comprehensive electronic safety gear, including forward-collision and lane-departure warnings. But it also comes with the complicated and unreliable HondaLink infotainment system with dual touch-screen displays. We'd stick with the friendlier non-touch-screen system. The top-of-the-line Touring version adds a navigation system and active cruise control, but we'd skip that one.
|Highs||Fuel economy, hybrid drivetrain, roomy interior, visibility, driving position, lots of features, IIHS crash-test results|
|Lows||Choppy ride, complicated trip computer and infotainment system, engine moan when revved, limited trunk space|
||196-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine; one-speed direct-drive transmission; front-wheel drive|
|Braking||Relatively long stops.|
|Headlights||Low beams provide good visibility to the front and sides. Halogen high beams provide very good forward visibility|
|Access||It's easy to get in and out.|
|Visibility||Large upright windows, thin pillars, and a standard backup camera provide some of the best visibility of any sedan.|
|Cabin storage||A good variety of covered and uncovered storage options in various sizes.|
|Head restraints||The rear-center restraint is not high enough to provide adequate protection.|
|Child seats||Outboard tether anchors that are close to the seatback might make it difficult to fully tighten some tethers.|
This article also appeared in the July 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.