Like Toyota, its archrival, Honda was a pioneer in hybrid automobiles. Both companies issued battery/gasoline models just as the 21st century got underway. Unlike Toyota with its increasingly popular Prius, however, Honda’s hybrid path has been less steadfast and expansive.
Honda launched its first Accord Hybrid for 2005, joining the smaller Civic Hybrid and departing Insight; but the battery/electric midsize sedan disappeared after three seasons. Totally new hybrid and plug-in hybrid Accords debuted for 2014, but the plug-in faded away quickly and the regular hybrid missed the 2016 model year.
Now, the Accord Hybrid has returned for another stab at the battery/electric marketplace. The Accord Hybrid is part of Honda’s new Clarity lineup of alternative-fuel models: full-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell.
What's New for 2017
Following a year out of Honda’s lineup, the Accord Hybrid is back, said to be restyled and re-engineered, with a revised hybrid propulsion system. For 2017, the front bumper is more sharply creased. The lower bumper tucks into large meshed areas that contain LED foglamps. A contoured aluminum hood sits above a brighter, more prominent grille. Visual differences from the gas-engine Accord are subtle, but noticeable. Honda claims sportier driving performance.
Choosing Your Honda Accord Hybrid
In the hybrid powertrain, a 2-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine works with twin electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined output totals 212 horsepower.
The hybrid system lets the vehicle accelerate from a stop using only battery power, though it won’t go far without the gas engine. Three drive modes are available: EV Drive, Hybrid Drive, and Engine Drive. EV lets the car run on electricity alone, for a short distance. In Hybrid Drive, the electric motor powers the car, with the gas engine serving as a generator to keep its charge level sufficiently high. Engine Drive allows the gas engine and electric motors to work together. Fuel economy is estimated at 49 mpg in city driving and 47 mpg on the highway, or 48 mpg combined.
Display Audio with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability is offered in EX-L and Touring trim levels, with a 7-inch touchscreen. Making the battery pack more compact allowed an increase in cargo space, to 13.5 cubic feet.
Partly because of lower gasoline prices lately, hybrid sales have sagged somewhat as shoppers gravitate back to gas-guzzling SUVs and sizable sedans. Even apart from phenomenal gas-mileage estimates, though, the comfortably spacious Accord Hybrid delivers plenty of features—including a surprising amount of active-safety technology—for a reasonable cost. Plenty of vehicles don’t offer such a comprehensive safety suite at any price.
Honda redesigned its popular Accord Hybrid earlier this year following a one-year break, bringing best-in-class fuel economy, making a modest bump in horsepower, and adding an impressive suite of active safety systems.
But while these features are great, it's the fact that Honda managed to retain the same versatility, comfort, and driving character that's led the Accord to success for decades.
Pricing and Equipment
Regardless of whether you select the base Hybrid, the volume EX-L, or the range-topping Touring, you're picking up a mid-size sedan that returns an EPA-estimated 49 miles per gallon city and 47 mpg on the highway, with a combined rating of 48 mpg. Those are genuinely impressive fuel economy stats, allowing the Accord Hybrid to cover just over 774 miles on a single tank of fuel.
Those numbers are possible thanks to a thrifty 212-horsepower powertrain that pairs a 2.4-liter gas engine with a pair of electric motors and a lithium-ion battery. The Accord Hybrid sends its power to the front wheels via a complicated ballet of electronics and mechanicals that mimics the behavior of a continuously variable transmission.
Despite coming in three trims – Hybrid, EX-L, and Touring – Honda covers a relatively narrow swath of prices with the Accord Hybrid, starting at $30,480 and topping out at $36,830 (including $875 in destination charges). Befitting of the high-ish price, even the base Accord Hybrid comes with a healthy roster of standard equipment, including:
Honda's advanced Sensing safety system
Dual-zone climate control
10-way power driver's seat
Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity
17-inch alloy wheels
Because electric motors produce their maximum amount of torque instantly, the Accord Hybrid is surprisingly quick off the line.
With the electric motors doing a lot of the leg work, the Accord Hybrid is impressively quiet, especially at freeway speeds.
Despite a weight penalty for the hybrid powertrain and a comfortable ride, this is still a fun sedan to tackle a twisty road with.
There are numerous reports of the Accord Hybrid failing to hit its EPA-estimated numbers.
Dig too heavily into the gas pedal, and the unusually buzzy engine dominates the driving experience. It's noisy and very un-like Honda, a brand revered for its silky smooth engines.
The electronic CVT doesn't help the engine noise problem, keeping the engine speed in the noisy part of the tachometer.
Interior fit and finish is exactly what we expect from Honda – the Accord Hybrid feels solid and well built.
Both front and back seats are comfortable over longer distances.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are only available on EX-L and Touring models.
The Accord's interior is well built, but it's starting to feel stale, relative to the more expressive cabins on competitive models.
The Hybrid loses a few cubic feet of cargo space compared to the standard Sedan.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Alongside the Mazda 6, the Accord has long been the most engaging mid-size family sedan. That Honda managed to retain that charming driving character while delivering segment-leading fuel economy is an impressive feat. This hybrid isn't boring.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The EPA's promised fuel economy figures are notoriously difficult to achieve in most cars, but the reports of the Accord Hybrid's underachievement – one CarsDirect staffer reported meager fuel economy in the mid 30-mpg range – is startling.
The Bottom Line
The Accord Hybrid is a gamble. While fuel prices are affordable now, purchasing Honda's fuel-sipping mid-size sedan is a smart way to financially insulate yourself from wild pricing swings. But even if fuel prices stay the same, a $30,000 family car that promises well over 700 miles per tank – particularly one that drives as well as the Accord Hybrid – is still a smart buy. We'll take an EX-L in Modern Steel with a black interior, please.