First Drive

FIRST DRIVE: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Fuel-saving new hybrid powertrain strengthens mid-size Accord’s appeal

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid - front 3/4 view low
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$29,950 base.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 3.7 city. 4.0 highway. 4.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, 141 hp, 122 lb-ft torque; electric drive motor/CVT, 166 hp, 226 lb-

RICHMOND HILL, ON – Honda revamped its Accord lineup last year for the 2013 model year and this latest generation, like its eight predecessors, is resonating well with consumers.

Sales are strong and so are the accolades, including selection as the 2013 Canadian Car of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

While its conventional gasoline-fuelled engines – a 2.4-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder and a 3.5L V-6, also featuring i-VTEC technology – remain on the order sheet for 2014, there’s now another option – a hybrid powertrain that will broaden and strengthen the Accord’s appeal.

Two electric motors

The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid features a 2.0-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder gasoline engine plus a pair of electric motors.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid - engine.JPGThe double-overhead-camshaft engine is a downsized version of the current 2.4L four that’s been designed to squeeze every drop of efficiency out of a litre of gasoline. Using a more fuel-efficient, three-lobe VTEC camshaft design and running on the Atkinson cycle, it generates 141 horsepower and 122 lb-feet of torque.

It’s connected to an electric drive motor and a smaller electric motor/generator.

The drive motor, which is rated at 166 horsepower and 226 lb-ft of torque, actually replaces the transmission. Honda calls the setup electric CVT, but the label is somewhat misleading – unlike conventional CVT's, there are no belts, pulleys or gears.

The drive motor speeds up and slows down to drive the car, while the gasoline engine is engaged as needed through an electric clutch.

The system is totally different from Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, a "mild hybrid" system that will continue to power the Civic Hybrid, CR-Z and Insight.

Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive

The Accord Hybrid’s new system, with a combined output of 196 horsepower, has been designed specifically for mid-size vehicles. Honda calls it Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) and it continuously cycles between three different modes – EV drive, hybrid drive and engine drive – to deliver maximum fuel efficiency.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid - front-biased side view.JPGThe all-electric drive EV mode operates on initial launch, during light cruising and acceleration, as well as during braking.

The hybrid mode uses the output of the gasoline engine and the electric motor together to meet demand under heavy acceleration and during high-speed cruising. The electric propulsion motor alone powers the front wheels, while the gasoline engine (decoupled from the drive wheels) powers the electric motor/generator motor, which in turn provides power to charge the 1.3 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It is also recharged by regenerative braking.

For cruising at medium to high speeds, the gasoline engine drives the front wheels.

On the road

Driving over an 80-kilometre loop that included numerous grades and secondary roads, I found the system shifted between modes seamlessly.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid - rear 3/4 view low.JPGThe Accord was capable of running on flat surfaces up to highway speeds (about 80 km/h) on electric power alone. However, the slightest grade prompted the gasoline engine to kick in and contribute. Coasting down grades at 100 km/h was done in pure EV mode.

The powertrain’s response didn’t disappoint. While Honda wasn’t prepared to share 0-to-100 km/h times for the Accord Hybrid, it didn’t seem to lack spunk during acceleration.

Subsequent testing at AJAC's 2014 Car of the Year TestFest, resulted in a respectable 0-to-100 km/h time of 8.0 seconds and its 80-to-100 km/h time of 6.3 seconds was similarly about par for the class.

Class-leading fuel consumption

Natural Resources Canada rates the Accord Hybrid’s fuel consumption at 3.7 litres/100 km in city driving; 4.0L on the highway and 3.8 in combined driving, which is tops among four-door, mid-size sedans.

During the brief first drive, which was mainly limited to a 80 km/h speed limit or less, my driving partner and I posted a consumption rate of 4.3L/100 km in combined conditions, driving in a normal manner.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid - hybrid badge detail.JPGInterestingly, our projected range when we set out on that drive was 1,143 km – after the drive the posted range was 1,178 km.

In addition to the i-MMD technology, Honda has helped maximize this Accord’s fuel efficiency by reducing the weight of the vehicle, compared to its conventionally-powered sibling. For example, a new aluminum front sub-frame that combines die-cast and stamped components replaces the standard steel-and-aluminum structure, saving four kilograms.

Other lightweight components in the Accord Hybrid include an aluminum hood, rear bumper beam and brake pedal assembly. The changes help maintain proper weight balance in the car, despite the addition of the battery pack behind the rear seat.

There’s also a new liquid-sealed subframe mount in the rear to help compensate for the heavier load.

New amplitude-reactive dampers front and rear help the lightweight front strut suspension and rear multi-link setup retain the Accord’s comfortable ride and good handling characteristics.

Accord character maintained

The Hybrid shares all the features that are making the new Accord so popular with buyers, including class-leading interior space and high-quality materials and trimmings.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid - headlamp detail.JPGThe only real sacrifice required to accommodate the hybrid powertrain is in back – the rear seatbacks don't fold down and the trunk capacity is reduced from 447to 360 litres to accommodate the battery pack.

Otherwise, there are a few visible features, such as blue-tinted headlamps and blue accents on the grille and LED taillights, that distinguish the Hybrid from other Accords.

There’s also a small spoiler on the trunk lid and a special lower air diffuser, both to improve aerodynamics, as well as aero-styled 17-inch alloy wheels. Hybrid badges on the front fenders and trunk lid complete the exterior changes.

Inside, the steering wheel has gloss black accents and, of course, there’s an instrument layout unique to the hybrid that includes a power and charge readout to the left of the large speedometer and a battery charge gauge to the right.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid - steering wheel and instrument panel.JPGThe multi-information screen also displays a graphic clearly showing energy flow between the battery pack, gasoline engine and drive wheels.

The Accord Hybrid, which goes on sale today, is being offered in two trim levels. The base model, which starts at $29,950 (comparable in price to the non-hybrid sedan with EXL trim), is well equipped with such features as dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera and a multi-angle rearview camera.

The Touring model, at $35,690, adds such amenities as leather seat coverings, navigation, premium audio, LED headlights and a power moonroof.

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