For 2014, our fourth annual Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy award goes to the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid.
This new model of the redesigned Honda Accord sedan introduced last year is comfortable, quiet, stylish--and delivers real-world fuel economy from 40 mpg to as much as 52 mpg.
And that's Toyota Prius liftback territory, in a mid-size sedan that's neither as polarizing nor limited to the underwhelming performance of Toyota's quintessential hybrid.
Alert readers noticed we didn't post a nominee description of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid; that's because we've spent the last week driving the car to ensure we made the right choice.
Over 480 miles of mixed use in three Northeastern states, we added autumn driving impressions to those gathered on our first drive of the car in sunny, temperate Texas last month.
Honda has managed to pull off a neat trick: Against competitors that have been in the market for several years, its first-ever full hybrid model matches the best of the breed for styling and interior quality, while also delivering among the highest real-world gas mileage as well.
2014 Honda Accord HybridEnlarge Photo
At last month's Accord Hybrid launch event, Honda had the car's closest competitors for comparison: hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Toyota Camry.
The Fusion Hybrid was probably the best handling of the four hybrid sedans, and it essentially tied with the Accord Hybrid for the nicest interior. It's responsive and strong on the road, but it clearly doesn't return the real-world gas mileage that the Accord and Camry do.
Compared to the hybrid Accord, the Toyota Camry Hybrid feels a lot more ponderous in the way it accelerates, steers, and handles. The accelerator response doesn't feel at all linear, while that of Accord Hybrid does. And its interior remains less upscale than the Ford or Honda. Still, the hybrid Camry returned very good mileage on a short test loop.
As for the Sonata Hybrid, while it was improved for the 2013 model year, its single-motor hybrid system still feels clunky, with an occasional balky, juddering feel that reminds us of nothing so much as a failing automatic transmission.
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid TouringEnlarge Photo
While the hybrid Sonata's transient response for quick passing on the highway is very good, it too doesn't return the real-world gas mileage of the hybrid Accord or Camry models.
And it's the real-world gas mileage that tipped the balance to the Accord Hybrid.
This is a car that is built in the U.S. and that will ultimately sell in the tens of thousands each year. The base model of the gasoline 2014 Accord is rated at 30 mpg combined, but the hybrid Accord is more than half again as high, at a combined 47 mpg (50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway).
And unlike the Fusion Hybrid, we think the Accord Hybrid will achieve that number--or come within the 10-percent variance that most buyers find acceptable.
Over our recent week of test driving, the Accord Hybrid consistently returned 39 to 45 mpg on several long high-speed highway runs.