Drive to Five Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

Odometer (Legend):  529,726

529726

Odometer (ILX):  81,353

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Stare at them.  Those directional 17″ alloy wheels had me hypnotized like spinning pinwheels at first glance.  Maybe they’ll have the same effect on you.

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Let’s take a ride in one of the most technologically-advanced cars that Honda has ever produced, which also happens to be one of the most “user-friendly” cars I’ve ever driven:  the 2014 Honda Accord.  I found myself quickly comfortable with its switches and controls.  With the intelligent key in my pocket, I put my foot on the brake and hit the Power button (it’s not a “Start” button, like in my ILX).  A sequence of lights and sounds initiated, and the gauge cluster populated with the text “Ready to Drive.”  If it hadn’t been for the whirr of the climate control system, the car would’ve been dead silent.  The level of refinement, build quality, and tech features made this extended week-long test drive a memorable experience.

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Accord Background

I’ve been an Accord fan for quite some time.  Here’s a picture from the year 2003 after I detailed my neighbors’ Accord LX.  Eagle-eyed Acura fans will also spot the silver Acura 2.5 TL in the garage — with which my neighbors were replacing their Accord at the time.

tyson_with_accord

It’s well-known that the Accords of this era are capable of seemingly immortal longevity, as evidenced by “Million Mile” Joe LoCicero’s 1990 sedan (pictured at right below) that went to 1,000,000 on the odometer and (as far as we know) is still rolling:

joe_old_new

But where’d Honda’s volume-selling midsize sedan get its start?  The first Accord debuted as a 1976 model year vehicle.

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Thirty eight years, and 9 generations of bodystyles later, Honda is still cranking out the Accord.  And the latest iteration (launched as a 2013 model) has been widely beloved:  In fact, Honda has sold an average of over 30,000 Accords per month so far in 2014.  To put that into perspective, that’s 20 times as many ILX’s as Acura has sold in those same 5 months.  You’re going to be seeing these Accords around for awhile yet.  A lot of them.

But here’s the kicker — and the whole reason why I think the Accord Hybrid that I was allowed to evaluate over the past week is an undisputed home run:   In case you missed the fine print on the vintage ad above for the 1976 Accord, it boasted fuel economy as follows:  31 mpg city, 44 mpg highway from a 68-horsepower 4-cylinder engine.

Now, let’s see what what the 2014‘s number look like.

accord_mpg

Holy smokes.  And 196 horsepower, which is a far cry from those lonely 68 horses in the 1970’s.  I put the Accord Hybrid through its paces to decide if it’s a vehicle I’d be able to own.  Here’s my take.

Style

I mean, it’s an everyday Accord, right?  Not supposed to “wow” anyone.  This is Honda’s bread-and-butter sedan.  Yet, this car is “handsome” from every angle.  The new-for-2013 bodystyle carries on for 2014 and it’s easy on the eyes.  Hybrid models get some special updates that I especially enjoy:  blue accents in the headlights and fancy LED strips underneath them.  A subtle lip spoiler rounds out the back end and LED taillights add an upscale look.  Let’s talk about that paint color:  Obsidian Blue Pearl.  I’m a big fan, especially when the Arizona sun hits it just right.

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Performance

“This is a hybrid?” was my first thought as I accelerated up the onramp to Scottsdale’s Loop 101 freeway. The beauty of Honda’s innovative hybrid system is that in low-speed maneuvers, the car glides around in “EV” (electric vehicle) mode, propelled only by its battery power.  Torque from the electric motor is instantaneous and that makes the car accelerate briskly from a stop.  In parking lot maneuvers, the car is peppy and despite being a heavier and larger than car than my ILX in all aspects, it somehow actually feels lighter.

When you dip into the throttle a little deeper, the gasoline engine steps in to assist.  I found performance very good from the 2.0-liter, 16-valve engine.   The best part is, unlike some other hybrids I’ve driven, the engine’s start/stop cycles are virtually undetectable.  Part of the trickery behind achieving those 50 mpg city includes the deactivation of the gasoline engine when the car is sitting idle at stop signs and depending on engine load.  Upon acceleration, the motor fires back up.  During a gentle cruise at 65 mph on the Beeline highway, I saw EV mode alternate off and on depending on the grade of terrain as well as accelerator input.

The Accord’s drivetrain employs a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with no ‘tangible’ gear shifts.  When you stay heavy on the gas, the engine spins at a high RPM but never seeks another gear.  Rather, the acceleration is linear and fluid.  It takes some getting used to, especially for someone like me who’s used to driving a stick shift.  Over the course of the week, I blew my fair share of Toyota Priuses (Priii?) off the line at stoplights.  This Accord Touring is a hybrid that even a someone like me (who isn’t usually a “green car” fan) can still drive and enjoy.

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Amenities

My Accord was outfitted with the Touring package and all sorts of creature comforts including heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control with air filtration system, and rear console vents (important in Arizona!).  The overall experience from the inside is one of Acura-esque quality, right down to the leather steering wheel which has a nice feel to it.  Head room was more than adequate for me at 5’11” in height.  Space in general is found in abundance, with storage cubbies throughout the cabin.  The Accord has two power outlets as well as a USB interface to keep all your electronic toys charged and happy.  All-in, my test car goes for $35,695.

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Technology

Twenty miles of my workday commute last Thursday were on Highway 87.  The speed limit goes from 65 mph, to 55 mph, to 45 mph as the road gets closer to the metro Scottsdale area.  Just for kicks, I decided to see how well the Accord’s adaptive cruise control would manage my speed & distance in the flow of traffic, without having to intervene and override the system.  Hovering a foot over the brake pedal just in case, I allowed the car to close in on the vehicle in front of me as the speed limit dropped.  To no surprise, the Accord’s speed smoothly matched that of the slowing forward vehicle, even as speeds came to a near complete stop at the McDowell Road intersection.  High five to Honda’s engineers for a flawless job on developing the adaptive cruise system.

Honda’s navigation system has voice recognition and the screen also doubles as a rear-view AND side-view camera.  The camera system is called “Lane Watch”:  A rear-facing camera mounted to the passenger side mirror that clearly illuminates the vehicle’s blind spot on the screen in the instrument panel when the right turn signal is triggered.  It’s like having a GoPro camera zip-tied to your passenger mirror.  I loved it!  So much, in fact, that I frequently clicked the button at the end of the turn signal stalk that activates the camera at all times — not just when the right-hand turn signal is blinking.

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Areas for Improvement

There’s a whole lot to love about this Accord Hybrid.  Its shortfalls were few.  Among them, in 105+ degree external temps, the air conditioning did (understandably) take awhile to cool down the cabin (I had it on “LO” for almost 10 miles before I got comfortable), especially in stop-and-go situations where the gasoline engine was turning off frequently.  The instrument panel has 2 screens which are sometimes duplicative in nature (the Acura RLX and MDX employ a similar system).  It would probably just take some training to get used to.  I’d like to see fog lights on the car.  And finally, those wheels… if I bought an Accord Hybrid I’d replace the stock wheels with something like the 17″ alloys from the Accord Sport.

Final Verdict

We have a winner.  All-in-all, the Accord Hybrid is a fantastic car and one that I’d be proud to own and drive.  I feel like it’s an outstanding “bang for the buck” midsize sedan, and I thank Honda for allowing me some time behind the wheel!

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Here’s a short driving scenes video – just a few minutes of tooling around my neighborhood in style.

Following are a few more photos of some of the highlights of my week with the Accord.

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“Ready to Drive” prompt upon ignition sequence.

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Check out that range estimation on a full tank of fuel!  625 miles!

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Lane Watch camera system:  First, the button to activate, located at the end of the turn signal stalk.

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Camera in operation:

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I loved that the navigation interface displays real-time traffic patterns and alerts.

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Engine cover

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All the creature comforts you’d expect!

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Spacious rear seat

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A great looking midsize sedan from any angle.

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Until next time!

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10 Responses to “Drive to Five Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring”

  1. Honda has gotten a lot of use out of the same dead pedal that is pictured in this blog. I have the same one in my Legend, my wife’s CR-V has the same one and I’m sure countless other cars in the Honda lineup over the years have the same one in their cars. It’s a simple $2 piece of plastic, but if it is not positioned well in the car, the driving experience is not comfortable to the driver. I agree, the wheels don’t fit the car.

    • Thanks for reading! I guess it depends on seating position, driver stature, and a lot of other factors. I’ve taken plenty of long-distance drives in my Legend and other Hondas and been able to make good use of the dead pedal. Where do you think it would be better positioned?

  2. I can take or leave the wheels – but I bet aftermarket wheels would have a noticeable effect on the MPG. . . . 625 miles on a tank? YES PLEASE!

    • Haha, I know! That kind of range is awesome. The most I ever went with the Legend was 500 miles, and I was sweating bullets the low-fuel light had been on for so long. This Accord would be an awesome cross-country road tripper.

  3. Tyson, you may want to request a light tan interior the next time you test drive a car in Arizona during the summer. A light tan interior makes a big difference in my Acura TSX in 90+ weather. Just my two cents. 🙂

  4. Great review, Tyson. Looks like Honda is doing good with their bread-and-butter! Now, if they could just add a little cinnamon to their bread. 🙂

  5. This Accord is semi/partially – kinda-sorta on my radar. I’m really liking the 50 MPG, but wondering how the drive between the hybrid and petrol version differ.

    • Yeah that’s a good question, I’m not sure how the ride would differ. The Accord I’d really like to take for a spin is the 4 cyl “sport” model to see how that one handles.

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