We spend a week in the best Accord Hybrid yet, but don't get close to its EPA fuel economy numbers.
Quiet, comfortable interior
No trunk pass-through
Observed fuel economy below EPA estimates
Distracting infotainment system
It was 41 years ago in May that Honda launched the first-generation of a vehicle based on a "desire for accord and harmony between people, society and the automobile."
The first Honda Accord hatchback weighed roughly 2,000 pounds. It was 162.4 inches long, 54 inches high, and had a 93.7-inch wheelbase. Under the hood was a transverse-mounted all-aluminum a 1.6-liter engine that generated 68 horsepower and 92 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The standard equipment list included cloth seats, an AM/FM stereo radio, intermittent wipers, a tachometer, steel belted radial tires and a rear window wiper, washer and defroster. Only one trim level was offered and the suggested retail price was $3,995.
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid
The latest hybrid model, based on the ninth-generation Accord, is a far cry from that first-gen hatchback. Now a midsize sedan, overall length stands at 191.4 inches, with a wheelbase of 109.3 inches .and a height of 57.7 inches.
For 2017, Honda has given the Accord Hybrid the same "major minor" facelift it gave gasoline-only models in 2016. Up front, there's a new fascia with a more chiseled look. It incorporates narrower headlight enclosures, LED-strip fog lights and a lower air intake with a honeycomb mesh grill. Less successful is the Accord's new "wing" signature grille. The wide band of chrome, at least in our view, is reminiscent of Acura's recently axed "power plenum" grille. The hood is now constructed of aluminum in order to save weight and improve fuel economy.
Along the sides, the 17-inch alloys fill the wheel wells nicely. But while they're surely aerodynamic, they look way too busy and don't really complement the overall look of the vehicle.
In back, the changes are more subtle. The chrome strip above the new LED taillights has been re-shaped, there's a new chrome trip strip that highlights the lower valance, while a body-color deck spoiler is now standard.
The new look is an improvement, but Honda still has a way to go to match such style leaders as the Mazda Mazda6, Ford Fusion, and the new Chevy Malibu.
The interior, however, is one of the best in the midsize segment. It features a stunning one-piece upper dashboard that encloses two binnacles. The first is in front of the driver and houses the various gauges. The central one contains an upper display screen.
In addition to displaying entertainment functions, the upper screen is also used to display Honda's LaneWatch - a system that uses a camera on the underside of the passenger-side mirror. When activated (by engaging the right turn signal or pushing a button on the end of the stalk), it displays the right side of the vehicle. It's a nice touch and not as gimmicky as we first thought. But at the same time, there is no left-side blind spot warning feature – something that would make the system much more effective.
The new lower screen is larger, but the off/volume knob has been eliminated. This is not a step forward as the front seat passenger must fiddle with a touch-sensitive slide switch in order to adjust the volume and other functions. The driver, on the other hand, can use the steering wheel-mounted analog buttons for volume and channel pre-selects. The good news is that, on EX-L and Touring models, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto simplify some of Honda's maddeningly convoluted and distracting infotainment interface.
The rest of the controls are typical Honda – smooth, intuitive and within easy reach of the driver. There's plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and headroom for both front seat occupants as well as three adults in back. And in an era of rising beltlines, increased claustrophobia, and poor outward visibility, it's refreshing to note that the overall view from the Accord's driver's seat is excellent.
The interior measures a relatively spacious 100.8 cubic feet (the non-sunroof base model gets an additional 2.4 cubic feet). The trunk, however, is only 13.5 cubic feet, 2 cubic feet less than non-hybrid models due to battery placement. Not only that, the batteries are placed up against the front trunk bulkhead, which means there is no pass-through to the passenger compartment. In order to transport a 52cm road bike, we had to remove both the front and rear wheels – a step that wasn't necessary with the new Civic.
Even the least expensive Accord Hybrids come with a long list of standard features. Dual zone automatic climate control, push-button start, cruise control, HomeLink, power windows, locks mirrors, and doors, alloy wheels, a rearview camera with guidelines, stability control, traction control and six airbags are all there. The steering wheel also includes illuminated controls for the audio and cruise control systems along with controls for Honda's Bluetooth HandsFreeLink.
Pick the EX-L and you'll be treated to leather seats (heated in front with 2-position driver's memory) and steering wheel, a power moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror. Meanwhile, the top-trim Touring model adds LED headlights, automatic high beams, front and rear parking sensors, body-colored side sills, and a satellite-linked navigation system with turn-by-turn directions.
The big news, however, is on the safety front.
For 2017, all Accord hybrid models come standard with the Honda Sensing suite of safety technology features. This includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control systems. A multi-angle rear view camera is also standard.
Under the hood
2017 Accord Hybrid models are available with just one powertrain. The engine is a DOHC 2.0-liter inline-4, producing 143 hp at 6,200rpm and a maximum 181 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The electric motor produces 181 horsepower between 5,000 and 6,000 rpm, along with a maximum 232 lb-ft of torque between 0 and 2,000 rpm. Total system horsepower is rated at 212 at 6,200 rpm.
The Accord Hybrid is rated by the EPA at an estimated 49/47/48 city/highway/combined mpg. These are great numbers for a midsize sedan and should put the Accord at or near the top of its class. But in around town driving – supposedly its forte, we only managed to average 30.9 mpg. That's decent city mileage for a family sedan, but it's 17 mpg below the EPA's combined rating and 18 mpg below what the EPA states drivers should be getting in around town driving. We understand that hybrids typically aren't as efficient in cold weather, but that's a big difference between the EPA's estimates and our real-world results.
On the road
The 2017 version is the best Accord Hybrid yet. The suspension soaked up bumps and potholes, both large and small. There's good feedback through the steering wheel and it's easy to modulate the brake pedal with none of the regen feel of earlier hybrids. Thanks to a direct drive system that employs a clutch and a pair of electric motor/generators, there's also nearly instant torque off the line. we noticed, even at freeway speeds, very little road noise as well as good isolation from wind noise.
But that's pretty much where the fun ends. The suspension is tuned for comfort over handling and, when pressed, the engine starts to buzz and it has a rough sound we don't normally associate with Honda engines.
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid prices
A regular Accord sedan, equipped with a 6-speed manual and 2.4-liter four, can be had for $23,330. But the hybrid model sits atop the lineup, with the entry-level model sporting an MSRP of $30,480. The top-shelf Touring trim, like our tester, comes such niceties as a leather interior, moonroof, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a satellite-linked navigation system and starts at $36,830 – and that's without adding dealer-installed accessories such as wireless phone charging and illuminated door sill trim.
The Bottom Line
The 2017 Honda Accord has a lot going for it. It's the best Accord Hybrid yet with a quiet interior, improved handling, and loads of safety technology. On the other hand, no trunk pass-through limits its versatility, many of the infotainment system controls are distracting, the price of admission is still high, and the fuel economy we observed was nowhere near EPA estimates.
But the fact is that hybrid buyers looking for a quiet, dependable midsize sedan should definitely put the 2017 Accord Hybrid on their shopping lists.