2014 Honda Accord Hybrid TouringPosted on April 16th, 2014
Gasoline/electric powertrain stretches driving range
By Nina Russin
Americans who consider the Toyota Prius to be the gold standard of gasoline electric hybrids should take a second look at Honda, whose history is actually longer and in some ways deeper. The original Honda Insight arrived stateside in 1999, a year ahead of the Prius. Since then Honda has continued to refine its technology with a new version of the Insight, as well as hybrid versions of the Civic and Accord.
The 2014 Accord Hybrid sedan is remarkably fuel-efficient for a car of its size and mass. Its power, fuel efficiency and quiet, spacious interior make it well suited for American highways.
An eco-assist system helps the driver achieve maximum fuel efficiency with instructive graphics inside the gauge cluster. There is also a real-time and average fuel economy graph available in the center stack screen. Average fuel economy according to the EPA is 47 mpg.
Standard safety features include both rearview and LaneWatch side view cameras. The side view camera projects a wide-angle image to the right of sedan when the driver signals to turn in that direction. As a runner and cyclist sharing the roads with cars, I can’t say enough good things about this feature that protects pedestrians in bicycle lanes.
The Touring model tested comes fully loaded with convenience features as well, including keyless entry and start, leather seating, navigation with real-time traffic updates, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a power moonroof, LED headlamps and tail lamps. Base price is $34,905. Adding in the $790 destination charge, final MSRP is $35,695.
Engineered for efficiency
Power comes from a two-liter, Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Because the electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low engine speeds, power off the line is on par with a much larger V-6 engine.
Continuously variable valve timing and a very high compression ratio maximize the gasoline engine’s fuel efficiency. At the same time, both enhance throttle response for better driving dynamics.
The hybrid can operate on pure electric power at low speeds or when energy demands are low, such as steady state highway cruising. An icon in the gauge cluster informs the driver when this is happening.
Although the Accord’s lithium-ion battery pack is lighter and more compact than nickel metal hydride units used by some competitors, engineers were cognizant of weight gains the hybrid components add. In order the keep the car nimble, the team made some important modifications to the chassis.
An all-aluminum subframe on the hybrid is lighter than the steel and aluminum component on the gasoline car, and an aluminum rear bumper compensates for weight gain from the battery pack, located between the second-row seatbacks and the trunk.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of a MacPherson setup in front and multi-link in the rear. An electric power steering system offers plenty of assist at low speeds with a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. The sedan’s turning circle is a tick over 38 feet.
Test drive in Phoenix
This week I drove the Honda Accord Hybrid on highways and surface streets in the Phoenix, Glendale and Chandler, Arizona metropolitan areas as well as sections of the Beeline Highway between Phoenix and Payson and the Bush Highway in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. The Accord proved to be a willing and enjoyable partner for each adventure, with its responsive steering and suspension and quiet interior.
My first outing was across town during a Friday morning rush hour. This is a situation in which drivers really appreciate hybrid technology, since the gasoline engine shuts off when the car is stopped in traffic. Since the sedan operates in pure electric mode at low speeds, crawling along at a snail’s pace doesn’t drain the gas tank either.
In a world full of blaring horns and oversized subwoofers, it’s nice to ride in a vehicle that shuts all of that out. At the same time, engineers were attentive to visibility issues around the perimeter, adding a convex insert to the driver’s side mirror so he can monitor two lanes of traffic to the left. I felt quite comfortable weaving through traffic when opportunities presented themselves.
The second test drive involved a 2,000-foot elevation gain, heading north out of Phoenix towards Payson and then south along the Bush Highway: a two-lane road at the base of the Superstition mountains. I was amazed at how good fuel economy was during the climb, averaging speeds of 70 miles-per-hour.
Equally impressive was steering and suspension response on the decreasing radius turns and pitchy hills the Bush Highway is known for. The sedan’s front-to-rear weight balance was indistinguishable from the gasoline model.
Regenerative braking recaptures energy during the drive to recharge the battery pack. A ‘B’ setting replaces low gears to slow the car down on steep hills. In this setting, there is more regenerative braking.
I did notice a significant drop in fuel economy during hot weather. On the first drive, outside temperatures reached the mid 90s, and fuel economy averaged 41 mpg. It rose to 47.5 mpg on the second drive when temperatures were cooler, despite elevation gains in that route.
The reason for the difference was increased engine load the first day from the air conditioning compressor. Although the sedan has an electric air conditioning compressor as opposed to a belt-driven mechanical unit, it may still require the engine to cycle on more frequently, especially if battery power is low.
The passenger cabin of the Accord Hybrid is as spacious as the gasoline model. The trunk, however, is quite a bit smaller due to the location of the battery pack. Owners will have no problems stashing luggage or the weekly groceries, but larger items could be a problem.
Honda’s interior ergonomics tend to be quite good and the Accord Hybrid is no exception. I found the power driver’s seat adjustments easy to use, providing plenty of lower lumbar support. The steering wheel diameter is small enough for women to find comfortable.
Climate and audio controls are intuitive and easy to reach from either front seating position. Redundant controls on the steering wheel enable the driver to use the Bluetooth interface, change audio channels and information pages with minimal distraction.
Although large glass panels add weight to the vehicle, the power moonroof brings a welcome dose of ambient light inside the car.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions including bright sunlight. A leaf display on the gauge cluster shows the driver his efficiency at the end of every trip.
The Honda Accord Hybrid comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, a rearview camera, side view camera, forward collision warning and daytime running lamps.
The Accord Hybrid is produced at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio assembly plant, making it one of two hybrids the automaker produces in the United States.
Like: A stylish, spacious hybrid sedan with excellent fuel economy and performance.
Dislike: Small trunk may not meet the needs of some buyers with active lifestyles.
Model: Accord Hybrid Touring
Base price: $34,905
As tested: $35,695
Horsepower: 141 Hp @ 6200 rpm; 196 net system horsepower
Torque: 122 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm (gasoline engine only)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 50/45 mpg city/highway
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