2014 Honda Accord Hybrid
That 141-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC gasoline engine, by the way, is noteworthy not just for being Honda's first Atkinson-cycle engine but for being the most efficient internal combustion engine in the world.
High mpg without hypermiling
Anyone who’s spent a lot of time driving a hybrid vehicle knows that there’s a familiarity curve. After you get to know the system and the displays, and anticipate behavior like when the gasoline engine might turn on, and how much all-electric operation you have, you may start to ‘game’ the system, and modify your driving.
The problem is, traffic doesn’t necessary follow those patterns—and the sluggish starts and pulsing-and-glide business you might need to do for the highest numbers might be enough for road rage. Or, perhaps, driving as gently as your hybrid demands is actually adding to your own anxiety level.
And to that, we can report that we saw great mileage in the Accord Hybrid—and met the EPA Combined estimate, coincidentally—by merely driving normally, with traffic (and actually with some rapid starts and exuberant driving at a few points). Averaging results from me and another drivers over about 130 combined miles, we saw 47 mpg.To conduct a couple of experiments, we then took the Accord Hybrid on two back-to-back runs of the same vehicle on the same 13.3-mile suburban loop, with lots of traffic lights and cruising speeds of 30 to 55 mph. Turning off the A/C and driving very gently—no less than five under the limit, and never blocking traffic—we saw more than 72 mpg (returning with the battery at about the same level). With the same car, we headed out with the A/C set cold, taking off full throttle as many times as we could (the electric motor system has tire-scorching torque off the line), driving much faster, and not braking in a smart way, we returned with an average of nearly 37 mpg.
From that (provided our trip computer was accurate), we're quite convinced that very few, if any, drivers are going to see running averages below 40 mpg. We're of course eager to see how well we do in a follow-up drive, on familiar drive loops.
As pleasant-driving as other Accords, for the most part
If you can manage to set the powertrain and mileage thoughts aside for the moment, the Accord Hybrid steers, rides, brakes, and functions—most of the time—much like any Accord. And Honda has introduced some special measures to make sure that they're smooth.
Hybrid models get a new all-aluminum subframe, along with a liquid-sealed subframe mount that helps quell vibration, while the suspension components have been bolstered in back for the addition of the battery pack (about 155 pounds together with the power control module). Active noise control provides yet another measure of quietness inside the cabin.
All Accord Hybrid models get dual-path, amplitude-reactive dampers that help damp any harshness introduced by the hybrid system’s additional weight—and altogether, the Hybrid drives better because of it. The steering doesn't feel quite as crisp at turn-in as in the other Accord models—possibly a result of those different dampers, or the somewhat less sticky run-flat tires. But overall, its handling is surprisingly engaging—far more so than the Toyota Camry Hybrid, for instance.
The Accord Hybrid’s braking system is a special electric-servo regenerative system that follows technology developed originally for the Fit EV. And it’s excellent here. Among hybrids, we think it’s the best-coordinated yet, with absolutely none of the grabbiness you have in some hybrid systems when you press lightly at lower speeds or the unpredictable lurching you get from some other systems in the last several feet of a stop.
The back seat of Hybrid models is just as roomy as that of other Accords, but rear seatbacks don't fold forward and trunk space is cut to 12.7 cubic feet—still enough, we'd think, for a large grocery run.
Simple, straightforward interface
Compared to what's offered in Toyota vehicles, as well as to Ford's interactive customizable displays, we found the displays and guides in the Honda Accord Hybrid to be refreshingly simple—with gauges for battery level and fuel level off to the right and a charge/boost gauge to the left. The center, reconfigurable area can display a number of trip-computer readouts, show a dynamic power-flow schematic, or even display navigation prompts (if so equipped). For those competitive types, there's also an Eco Guide and Eco Score system, with arcs that advise you momentarily on driving style.