A common misconception about economical hybrid vehicles is that they're slow and boring. But the mid-size, roomy Honda Accord
Hybrid sedan shows that hybrids can be both quick and economical.
Hybrid is the top-line, highest-power Accord
. It's the third gasoline-electric hybrid car in Honda
's lineup, along with the compact Civic and Insight.
The tiny Insight two-seater was the first hybrid sold in America when it arrived in 1999 and remains the fuel-economy champ, delivering an estimated 61 mpg in the city and 66 on highways with a manual transmission and 57 and 56 with an automatic.
Most folks won't notice anything different about the way the Accord
Hybrid drives, compared with a regular gasoline Accord
V-6 model. However, the Accord
Hybrid is the most powerful Accord
, with a 255-horsepower rating. It's also the first V-6 powered hybrid car in America.
The next highest-horsepower Accord
has a 240-horsepower V-6. The Accord
Hybrid has more punch than the regular Accord
V-6 because an electric motor supplements the V-6 with extra power at the appropriate time and produces additional thrust.
The result is that the Accord
Hybrid is faster than a regular Accord
gasoline V-6, doing 0-60 mph in just 6.7 seconds. Honda
isn't making a big deal about the Accord
Hybrid because it just wants to illustrate that hybrid technology can improve a car -- not only make it more fuel-stingy.
The front-drive Accord
Hybrid's propulsion system allows an estimated driving range of a whopping 633 miles while delivering 29 mpg in the city and 37 on highways with its standard five-speed automatic transmission. That compares with 21 city and 30 highway for the Accord
gasoline V-6 with an automatic in comparable EX upscale trim.
Only items such as a slightly modified grille, small rear spoiler and discreet hybrid badging visually set the the Accord
Hybrid apart from a regular Accord
. However, the Accord
Hybrid costs more than the top-line Accord
EX V-6 automatic transmission gasoline sedan: $29,990 -- or $31,990 with a navigation system, which is the only option. That's an increase in both cases of $3,290 over the EX.
Putting aside environmental and social status concerns, prospective Accord
Hybrid buyers thus might want to figure out how far they must drive the Accord
Hybrid to make up the difference.
The regular Accord
(Oct. 31 AutoTimes) is among the world's top sedans, being practical and sporty enough to be fun to drive. The Accord
Hybrid has the same basic features of all front-drive Accord
s and is equipped like the top-line EX version with leather upholstery and such.
Yet, the Accord
Hybrid has a few drawbacks. You give up 2.8 cubic feet of cargo room because of space taken by the battery pack. And there's no fold-down rear seat to increase cargo capacity. Some might object to the numb, rather vague, overly light electric variable-assist power steering.
There's some telltale drag when the brakes are applied and when the car is decelerating; that shows the regenerative system is working to charge the nickel-metal-hydride batteries. (Of course, no plug-in cord is needed.) What's happening here is that vehicle motion energy normally wasted as heat to the brakes is recaptured and fed back into forward motion.
The hybrid propulsion system adds about 285 pounds to the car's weight, but doesn't slow acceleration because most of that weight is offset by increased use of aluminum for such things as the hood and bumper beams.
There's no sunroof or spare tire because they would add economy-robbing weight. Rather, Accord
Hybrid owners get a small air compressor and can of tire sealant if there's a flat. However, tires are slightly larger.
Hybrid uses the same Integrated Motor Assist hybrid gas-electric technology as the Civic and Insight hybrids. Honda
's hybrid system uses the gasoline engine -- and then utilizes the electric motor for more power when needed. Toyota and Ford hybrid systems take an opposite approach; they rely on the electric motor for as long as possible -- then start the gas engine when it's needed. The Accord
Hybrid's electric motor thus can't propel the car by itself.
The hybrid's V-6 has a cylinder deactivation feature that disables three cylinders during easy cruising and deceleration for better fuel economy, and the move between three and six cylinders is generally undetectable.
The engine also stops running when the Accord
Hybrid comes to a halt, although it does that so unobtrusively that most drivers wouldn't know it.
The tiny Insight has a limited market, with only about 600 sold last year in America. But Honda
says Civic hybrid sales totaled approximately 25,000 cars here in 2004, and anticipates selling at least that number of Accord
Hybrids this year.
Hybrid has a few small gauges related to the hybrid system and a unique Active Noise Control system that utilizes the audio system to help allow a quiet interior. A new hybrid-powered dual-zone automatic climate control system operates during engine idle-stop mode so occupants don't fry during stops on hot days.
2005 HONDA ACCORD HYBRID
Surprisingly fast. Fun to drive. Fairly high fuel economy.
Costlier. Rather numb, overly light steering. No spare tire. Higher fuel economy worth the price?