Review: The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid
I’m used to driving forced induction cars, from massive turbodiesel pickups to tiny Japanese imports with no more displacement than a soda bottle. I’ve always had an affinity for turbochargers, the so-called replacement for displacement, though I think I’ve found a replacement for turbos in the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid. With its 2.0 liter Earth Dreams engine, the Accord Hybrid manages to blend comfort, fuel economy, and performance in a sedan that more than of my Millennial friends mistook for a BMW.
Of course my father recognized the Accord for an Accord the moment he saw it, but to me the Honda was handsome from pretty much any angle. It looked good without being flashy, and while the roads will soon be overrun with similar-looking models in just a few months, it’s hard to find flaw with its design. While other automakers are chasing the sculpted fluid look (think Hyundai and Ford), Honda’s Accord has grown into a burly big sedan with some serious chest hair. It may not sign any modeling contracts, but it definitely gets some second looks.
The interior is comfortable, predictable, and plain, none of which are necessarily a bad thing. After being overloaded by Kia’s 42-button center console, having fewer systems to operate and worry about was a nice change of pace. On the same token, the number of information screens in the Honda Accord can get a little bit overwhelming, while at the same time being underwhelming; how many people really need to see whether the power is going into, or out of the battery at any given time? It just seems a bit superfluous.
Not all of the info screens were useless though, as I enjoyed watching my instant fuel economy rise and fall, and the coaching bars in the instrument cluster helped me maximize fuel economy when the mood struck. These coaching bars would rise and fall depending on how much power you were using or regenerating, but they never felt intrusive or judgmental, going from an environmentally-friendly green to a non-threatening blue when you step on the accelerator.
So let’s skip right on ahead to the good stuff; how does the Honda Accord Hybrid drive? In a word, beautifully. You’d never know this was a hybrid by the way it drives, feeling more like a gutsy V6 than a 2.0 liter four-banger. Stomp the gas, and the Accord surges forward with the same gusto and torque as any other sedan in this segment, and while the official rating pegs the 0 to 60 MPH in the 7.1 second range, the Honda Accord Hybrid feels a lot faster. That’s thanks to a flat torque curve and a gearless E-CVT transmission the delivers power smoothly and with confidence, resulting in uninterrupted acceleration throughout the power band.
It’s an absolute pleasure to drive, and I never found myself wanting for more passing power at any speed. My only qualm is that at times, the hybrid system seemed to suffer from a sort of “turbo lag”, with a noticeable delay between pressing the pedal and actual movement forward. It was never so much a problem or even annoyance as it was something I quickly got used to, and unlike my experience driving other hybrids, I never had to back off from a passing maneuver because I ran out of acceleration.
This is, in short, a no-compromises hybrid, and one that starts just north of $30,000. It’s the anti-Prius, and once you start checking off the options list, it becomes a damn comfortable car too. Add in a massive sunroof, LED headlights, and a well-appointed leather interior, and the Accord Hybrid becomes a pseudo luxury car, loaded with the kind of technology and creature comforts (oh seat warmers, how I love thee) on par with many entry-level luxury options. Among my favorite features in my fully-loaded model was the adaptive cruise control and passenger-mounted turning camera, which broadcast my blindspot to the backup camera/touchscreen display every time I put on my left turn signal.
Sure, it’s still a Honda Accord, but at least two of my friends mistook it for a BMW, if you can believe it. Personally, I don’t see it in the least, but it happened more than once in the span of a week. That’s got to be worth something, though I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.
Even with a heavy foot and high speeds, the Honda Accord Hybrid delivered fuel economy that makes puts my Chevy Sonic with its 1.4 liter turbo to shame. I never saw less than 38 MPG on the highway, and cruising at 70 MPH saw my MPG match or exceed the EPA ratings, which stands at 50 MPG city and 45 MPG highway for a combined 47 MPG. Thanks to the innovative hybrid system, I was able drive nearly two miles from my house to the grocery store on battery power alone. While it helps that most of the trip is downhill, in my old Jeep Wrangler a similar round trip consumed nearly a quarter tank of gas. Not an exaggeration.
Even though my tester came in at over $36,000, you can have a no-frills model sans navigation and leather seats, but equipped with a backup camera, for $30,000 if you include the destination fee. That’s the best bargain in the hybrid car market if you ask me, delivering an engaging driving experience and the kind of fuel economy that once required driving a car akin to an oversized go-kart (and with a much worse power-to-weight ratio).
For the average driver, the Honda Accord Hybrid can save as much as $700 a year in fuel costs, though those who do mostly city driving will see even more savings. I found myself hard pressed to come up with places to go in order to use up the fuel in my loaner during the week I had the car, a fantastic problem to have.