Test drive: The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid is a 50+ MPG dream

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid photo
© Eric Rogell

Before I get into the full review, it has to be said right up front that all-new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid feels like it's a generation ahead of current hybrids. A bold statement, I know, but one that you'll probably make yourself the first time you get behind the wheel of one.

© Honda

Two Times the Motors Equals Better Efficiency

It's due to Honda's new Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) system featuring their Earth Dreams Technology™ engine (that's what they call it). Or I should say "engines" since the new Accord is powered by a two-motor hybrid system made up of an electric propulsion motor and a gasoline engine.

Here's how it all works: The Accord Hybrid is able to use the two motors to switch seamlessly between three driving modes: EV Drive (which is 100 percent electric motor), Hybrid Drive (electric motor with the gasoline engine driving a generator motor used for generating electricity for the electric motor) and Engine Drive (gasoline engine only). This gives the i-MMD system the ability to choose which mode is best for how you're driving, squeezing as much efficiency out of the system as possible. It's nearly imperceptible as you drive. And it's the reason for the EPA estimated 50 mpg city that Honda's been bragging about.

Is 50+ MPG in the City Realistic?

The problem with a lot of EPA estimates is they are based on ideal driving conditions, and rarely match up to real world driving. And if you drive aggressively and were born with the genetic mutation known as a Lead Foot (like I was), then your actual mileage may not only vary, but vary dramatically.

That's why when I test these vehicles I tend to push them a bit to see how much of a variance I see. That way, I can get an idea of a worst case scenario. Chances are you won't jackrabbit off the line at every light or squeal the tires through a turn, so you can expect to get better economy than me.

© Eric Rogell

With the new Accord Hybrid, I spent most of my time driving "normally" without worrying about economy. And even doing that, I was rewarded with about 53-54 mpg overall on a day of mostly city driving, with some highway peppered in. Not too shabby.

And Honda held a hypermile challenge for the journalists at the event (I didn't compete, I know my strengths and that isn't one of them), and the winner came in at over 85 mpg city. He swears he didn't push the car through the route, so ridiculous economy can be achieved in the car… if you drive it like it's made of fine porcelain.

© Honda

The Drive

If you're worried you're going to have to sacrifice driving pleasure to get those high mpgs, you can relax, the new Accord Hybrid is a dream to drive. Truly.

It is built to drive as much as it is to tread lightly on the environment. The gas engine is an all-new 2.0-liter DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine that pushes 141 horsepower—which sounds anemic, but add in the electric motor and the total output bumps to 196 hp—and that's closer to how it feels when you're driving it. There's plenty of git up when you want it.

© Honda

Touch the gas (or stomp on it), and you'll experience nearly instantaneous full torque from the motor, just like you would from an electric car or a fuel cell vehicle. That's partly because you're taking off in EV mode, and partly because he Accord Hybrid doesn't have a traditional transmission. Instead, it gets an Electric Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT), with only one gear. Without getting too techie, the E-CVT is what switches between the two motors, for example disengaging the gas engine from the drivetrain when in EV mode to eliminate efficiency loss from mechanical friction in the engine.

The result is quick acceleration and a continually rising whine from the engine that seems to be begging for another gear, one that never comes. Those who are used to driving a manual shift vehicle will be looking for the shift knob when they hear it, but you start to ignore the sound quickly enough. And like I said earlier, the Accord Hybrid just feels like it's a step ahead of where the competitors' hybrid drives are.

© Honda

The E-CVT also has two modes: D mode, which is the same Drive mode you find in all automatic cars, and B mode (for Brake). Shift into this one and you'll collect substantially more energy from regenerative braking to feed to the battery. I was in B mode for most of one of the days, and didn't even realize it. Honda says you can safely operate the car normally in this mode, it's made for those who want/need more power to the battery.

Speaking of braking, Honda has developed an electric servo-brake system for the new Accord, designed to capture more energy from regenerative braking than standard systems. The brakes themselves feel like standard brakes, you won't notice a softness or sinking you can experience with some systems. And at one point I had to engage the ABS system (you know, just for testing), and even slamming on the brakes didn't upset the system.

All the Other Stuff

The styling on the Accord Hybrid is updated as it is on the standard Accord, but it gets a few blue accents to set it apart as a hybrid, along with 17-inch euro style wheels and a gloss black steering wheel.

Inside there are unique power meters on the dash to let you know how efficiently you're driving, and a host of available safety features, like Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and LaneWatch blind spot display. One of my favorite features on the new Accord Hybrid, and on all recent Hondas, is their Multi-Angle Rearview Camera. When you're in reverse, you can select Normal, Wide Angle or a straight down look at the ground. I find this invaluable when I'm parking, especially backing into my garage. And I find myself looking for it on all other vehicles now. Also addictive is the camera mounted in the passenger side view mirror. Pop the turn signal and you get a clear view of what's along side you, right in the large, center-mounted touchscreen display. Again, I find myself missing this when I'm not in a Honda. (Come on other vehicle makers, get with the program.)

Also, the Accord Hybrid will be available in three trim lines: The base trim for $29,155, the EX-L for $31,905, and the Touring with all the toys, for $34,905.

Overall

If there's a need for an affordable 4-door sedan in your life, and you want it to be attractive and fun to drive, while packing in the latest in safety and eco-tech and also delivering improbable fuel economy, the new 2014 Accord Hybrid is tough to beat.

See also: 2014 Honda Accord hybrid to start at $29,155, goes on sale on Halloween

Tags: Hybrid Cars

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