2018 Honda Accord Hybrid first drive review: lighter shade of green


It’s easy for the 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid to get lost.

Short of small “Hybrid” badges on the front fenders, not much on the car’s exterior says it's powered by electrons. There’s no plug-in variant for now (a role reserved to the Clarity Plug-In sedan), and the latest hybrid Accord is built alongside other Accords in Ohio this time around.

Even the battery packs, which have been moved from the trunk to underneath the rear seats, don't intrude the way like they used to. Will buyers miss having less trunk space than other Accords? (Editor's Note: Probably not.)

DON'T MISS: 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid: more trunk space, higher fuel economy promised

The 2018 Accord Hybrid just blends in, for better or worse.

Honda let us take the mid-size hybrid sedan for a quick spin around the brilliant hills of New Hampshire. The very early, pre-production model gave us hints of what’s to come when the sedan goes on sale early next year—but only hints.

And it’s far more nuanced than we could have imagined.

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

Enlarge Photo
2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

Enlarge Photo
2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

Enlarge Photo
2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

Inconspicuous consumption 

Honda’s keeping quiet on mileage figures for now, but not for the reasons we imagined.

The new Accord is lighter, lower, and cuts a smaller hole in the air than the last model, but the hybrid powertrain is effectively the same from the last generation.

A 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine feeds power to Honda’s two-motor hybrid system that drives the wheels on electrons only in certain driving conditions—a “series hybrid” configuration.

READ THIS: 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid: gas mileage review of mid-size sedan

The engine is rated at 143 horsepower alone, and is teamed with a 134-kilowatt (188 hp) electric traction motor for a net output of 212 hp.

During heavy acceleration or high-speed cruising, a clutch locks the engine and motor together to power the front wheels—a “parallel hybrid” drive—that is more efficient.

Power is slightly up from the last-generation, but Honda officials expect that the Accord Hybrid will manage the same fuel-efficiency ratings as the outgoing model: 49 mpg city, 47 highway, 48 combined, or perhaps slightly better.

That may be a letdown for Accord Hybrid shoppers looking to eke out more mileage than the most-efficient Camry Hybrid version that gets over 50 mpg combined.

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

Good news: Honda says that the thermal efficiency of the internal combustion engine is up to 40 percent (compared to 38.9 percent of the last generation). The batteries are also physically smaller this year too, which helps the Accord fit a bigger gas tank between the rear seats and the trunk—14.8 gallons in the normal Accord vs. 12.8 gallons in the hybrid.

Switches between series and parallel operation were fairly seamless, and in our drives, not readily noticeable. Honda says the noises we heard in our pre-production car will be ironed out before the car goes on sale early next year.

An EV-only mode can force the Accord Hybrid to travel on electrons alone, but only for short distances—a few miles at best. Officials from Honda are keeping quiet on the Accord Hybrid’s battery size for now, so determining capacity and gas mileage wasn’t possible on our drive.


 
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