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Honda Accord Hybrid: 50 MPG City

By Frank A. Aukofer, June 28th, 2014

Honda's 2014 Accord Hybrid marks the first midsize sedan to achieve an astonishing EPA city rating of 50 mpg -- even more if you feather-foot the throttle.

A competitive 13.7-mile test run for this review in low-speed city traffic delivered 88.5 mpg. Another, on a 10.5-mile loop in combined city/highway traffic ended with 66.2 mpg. Such anecdotal evidence should boost Honda, which has been in a one-sided battle of hybrids with Toyota for the last 15 years, with Honda soundly defeated at every turn.

When Toyota introduced its Prius in the U.S. in 1997, it used a complicated hybrid system in which the electric motor was primary, backed up by a gasoline engine. A few years later, Honda delivered the Insight, which featured a relatively simple hybrid system -- a small electric motor pancaked between the engine and transmission that boosted a low-powered gasoline engine.

Both systems delivered exemplary fuel economy; but there was one big difference: Prius could be driven exclusively on electricity, though not very far. The Insight's gasoline engine was engaged all the time. The Prius has dominated with 3 million sales worldwide.

You can order hybrids of varying designs from Ford, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Kia, Buick, Chevrolet and even Mercedes-Benz. Most are unlikely to have the impact of the Toyota Prius because, like the new Accord, other hybrids are just one choice among various other power plants. All Prius models are hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

Honda's new system, called i-MMD (for Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive) combines a 2.0-liter gasoline engine with an electric drive motor and a generator. Together, the electric motor and gasoline engine deliver combined 196 horsepower to the front wheels.

Because the electric motor delivers instant torque, or twisting force, there is no need for a transmission, and the Accord can be driven exclusively on electric power at speeds up to 70 mph (though it will only go about a mile at that speed).

Once the car reaches highway speeds, the gasoline engine takes over for cruising. The generator and electric motor, along with regenerative braking and coasting, recharge the Accord's battery pack, which resides in a space between the rear seatback and trunk. The batteries reduce the trunk space from 16 to 13 cubic feet, which is the only noticeable difference from a standard Accord gasoline sedan.

The 2014 model, with a price tag of $29,995, is not the first Accord hybrid. Honda produced an earlier model from 2005 to 2007, when it was dropped because of dismal sales.

That hybrid sedan was designed as a performance car with a 255-horsepower V-6 engine paired with an Integrated Motor Assist electric motor. It delivered zero-to-60 acceleration times in the 7-second range, but real world fuel economy was well below the EPA city/highway rating of 29/37 mpg.

The new 2014 Accord Hybrid, on the other hand, delivers 50 mpg or more, plus good road manners. With no transmission as such, acceleration from rest is a simple surge of power. A careful touch on the accelerator pedal keeps the car in full-electric mode, but stepping hard causes the gasoline engine to fire up and help out.

With pure electric power, the Accord is funeral-home-quiet. But even when the gasoline engine starts, it's not much different because of extensive sound-deadening. Highway cruising on the gasoline engine is similarly silent.

Though not intended as a sports sedan, the Accord is well balanced and handles competently around corners. The ride is not cushy soft but the suspension system is supple and soaks up bumps without feeling upset.

Quality materials and workmanship characterize the interior and there's comfort for four -- only the center-rear fifth passenger gets an uncomfortable perch.

Specifications

Base price $29,155 (as tested: $29,945)
Curb weight 3,550 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Epa mileage rating 50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 15.8 gal.
Horsepower (net) 141 at 6200 rpm / 166 at 3857
Motor type 4-cylinder / i-MMD electric motor
Overall length 192.2 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 122 at 3500 rpm / 266 at 0-3857
Transmission Single-speed
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
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