No longer do we have to accept boring economy-based hybrids.
The Honda Accord has been a regular stalwart of the affordable midsize sedan segment for decades. It's also become synonymous with the sensible family sedan that enthusiasts can enjoy. Honda loves to give its vehicles great handling and fun vehicle dynamics, and until recently, that was most apparent in the coupe models. This generation of Accord doesn't have a coupe option, but the Japanese automaker has made sure nobody will be disappointed in the current four-door. The latest hybrid version has just been refreshed, and we think it's a bit special. The Honda Accord Hybrid is a remarkably well-rounded sedan with a trick up its sleeve. These are the highlights.
The reason anyone buys a hybrid is fuel efficiency, whether the reasoning is purely economic, environmental responsibility, or a mix of both. The Accord Hybrid returns an EPA estimated 48/48/48 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, and we got an indicated 40 mpg putting the Accord hybrid through its paces in both typical and adverse conditions. On paper, the Toyota Camry's 51/53/52 mpg city/highway/combined is a lot stronger, but in the real world, we got an indicated 42 mpg with less arduous driving conditions. Admittedly, we spent more time on the freeway with the Accord Hybrid, but we believe it balanced out. A difference of 2 mpg through a solid week's driving isn't a big deal once you start to factor in other pros and cons of the two cars.
We've been eagerly waiting for Apple Carplay and Android Auto to become widely available. Having to plug a phone into the infotainment system to use it every time you get into a car isn't ideal. While the Accord Hybrid isn't the first vehicle we've driven with the wireless feature, it's still one of the earliest. Honda doesn't include the wireless functionality as standard across the Accord range, which makes us less thrilled as Hyundai is rolling it out on some base models, but it does come on the Accord Hybrid's EX and above trim levels. Honda's infotainment systems don't rank highly against competitors such as Hyundai and Kia, but the addition of Wireless Apple Carplay And Android Auto almost makes that a moot point.
Hybrids are mostly marketed on their fuel economy, so automakers want to extract every last bit of distance from every last drop of fuel. The engine is tuned for economy, the battery only supplements power at crucial moments, and throttle response is dulled to mitigate lead-footed drivers wasting gas and battery power. Honda's two-motor system makes use of a propulsion motor and a generator/starter motor built with magnets that don't use heavy rare-earth metals. That makes the system both lighter and cheaper while reducing its environmental impact.
On its own, the four-cylinder engine produces 143 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque; then, the battery increases output to 212 hp and 232 lb-ft. Peak torque comes right off of idle due to how the two electric motors are used, and Honda has given the Accord Hybrid stronger acceleration in Sport mode. That extra shove shows of the line. It also makes the car peppy around town and gives it legs on the freeway and back roads. The drivetrain is responsive and loses the feeling that you're driving a hybrid vehicle.
One of the traps the Accord Hybrid doesn't fall into is making a big deal of having battery power. The time for making driving a hybrid vehicle a big social statement is over and wasn't particularly welcome in the first place. The only overt clue that the Accord Hybrid isn't just powered by gas is the blue edged badging. Other than that, you get the same cultured and sporty body styling as the rest of the Accord range and the choice of adding EX, EX-L, and Touring trim. The 2021 facelift is more of a nip and tuck, consisting of a widened grille, new LED high- and low-beam headlights (EX trim and above on the Hybrid model), and smaller fog light openings.
The second thing that often puts us off hybrids when wearing our enthusiast hats is vehicle dynamics and handling. Batteries add weight, and when they're added to a chassis that wasn't designed for them, it upsets the car's dynamics even more. The Accord Hybrid does not suffer from those issues. It's as much of a delight to take the long way home with as the gas-only Accord.
During the refresh, Honda refined the throttle input, and it's now more linear and predictable. Honda also redesigned the braking system to make it smoother and more consistent and blends the mechanical and regenerative braking forces together almost seamlessly.
Those improvements to the throttle and brakes seem minimal, but the impact is noticeable and makes a lot of difference. The improved throttle and braking mix with the quick turn-in, balanced chassis, and predictable shifts in grip to create a remarkably fun and sporty drive. At the same time, nothing is lost in terms of comfort and convenience in typical day-to-day driving. The Accord Hybrid's greatest triumph in managing to be an overtly comfortable car with a hybrid powertrain while delivering a driving experience that enthusiasts can appreciate without spending premium car brand money. It's an anomaly in its segment and shows that hybrid power doesn't have to be just about the economy or just about the performance in the more affordable segments.