By David Thomas
October 15, 2014
Editor's note: This review was written in January 2014 about the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2015, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
An estimated 47 mpg combined in what is arguably the best midsize sedan on the market should be enough to rocket the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid to the top of the hybrid heap.
The 2014 Accord Hybrid achieves only part of its promise, delivering a terrific driving experience that's close to the gas-only Accord's, but falling short of its eye-popping mileage estimates.
Exterior & Styling This is a hybrid that doesn't scream that it's more efficient than nearly every other car on the road. There are no significant differences in the hybrid's design, save for unique aerodynamic wheels and an exclusive grille treatment with subtle dashes of blue amid the chrome.
Other hybrid sedans go further than the Accord to distinguish themselves from their non-hybrid versions, namely the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry. Others, like the Ford Fusion Hybrid, take Honda's approach.
How It Drives That same level of … well, sameness from the non-hybrid translates to the driving experience, as well. While the Accord Hybrid packs an advanced hybrid powertrain, it's a very no-nonsense one.
Acceleration is plentiful coming off the line and at highway speeds. Rated at 196 horsepower combined and 226 pounds-feet of torque, its real-world power is squarely between the regular sedan's four-cylinder and its top-of-the-line V-6, just as the numbers would suggest. But the reality is that most V-6 shoppers would be satisfied with the hybrid's additional get-up-and-go over the four-cylinder, as well as enjoy a significant mileage bump, with little impact on the sticker price. Four-cylinder shoppers would gain significant improvements in both power and mileage.
The Accord Hybrid's continuously variable automatic transmission isn't as smooth an experience as the six-speed automatic in the Accord V-6, however. It is well-executed versus others I've tested, and to an average driver won't be a nuisance, but the V-6's acceleration is simply superb in all situations.
Ride quality has improved versus the previous-generation Accord, but the four-door still exhibits a slightly rougher and louder ride than some competitors. Steering continues to be an Accord strength in this iteration.
EPA mileage estimates for the Accord Hybrid are top of the class: 50/45/47 mpg city/highway/combined. That tops the Fusion Hybrid's 47-mpg city figure, falls just shy of its highway number and matches that car's combined number. It also surpasses the Camry Hybrid's and Sonata Hybrid's 41 mpg and 38 mpg combined figures, respectively.
We've tested the Fusion Hybrid extensively around our Chicago offices, and it has failed to achieve numbers even close to its EPA ratings. I tested the Accord Hybrid in Southern California over nearly 500 miles of highway, city and mountain driving, and it, too, fell far short of the posted ratings.
The Accord Hybrid achieved its best mileage in heavy, congested traffic, where the trip computer showed more than 42 mpg. For the rest of my time, it hovered right above 40 mpg. My final fill-up had the trip computer showing 40.8 mpg. My calculated mileage came out a bit higher, at 42.3 mpg.
While 42 mpg of real-world mileage is nothing to sneeze at, I was mostly driving alone or with one passenger, I never switched the air conditioning on (instead relying on 50-70 degree outside air to come through the vents), and when traversing down mountain roads I used both the EV mode and the aggressive regenerative braking mode.
A hundred-mile-plus highway drive did encounter strong crosswinds that, like mountain driving, can negatively impact mileage.
The Accord Hybrid also packs impressive range. It displayed nearly 670 miles of remaining range when I started my test, and at the final fill-up estimated it could go another 632 miles before hitting empty.
Interior Honda doesn't make a very elegant interior, but the Accord Hybrid's is spacious, ergonomic and incredibly comfortable. The cabin materials are also top-quality for this class; they resonated with me as fitting for the car's nearly $30,000 starting price.
Most interior dimensions are identical to the non-hybrid Accord, and almost all measurable figures inside are in line with the Fusion and Camry Hybrids. You can compare them here.
Getting to the bottom of the dimension stats is quite easy, however: The Accord is one comfortable sedan. The wide seat bottoms for the driver and front passenger alleviate fatigue over long hauls, while the broad seatbacks offer plenty of support. My six days in the Accord Hybrid were sandwiched between two cross-country flights, two days of walking a gigantic convention floor, a half-day of driving another alternative-fuel vehicle, and three late nights of concerts. Each time I slipped into the driver's seat, the Accord felt welcoming, and my normally always-achy back didn't feel sore the entire week.
The backseat offers plenty of room and comfort, as well, with impressive cushioning.
Ergonomics & Electronics The biggest change to the new-generation Accord is definitely the dual screens in the center of the dashboard, found on the hybrid's EX-L and Touring trim levels. The upper screen displays settings for music, climate, and various mileage and efficiency screens.
The lower screen is a touch-screen where you can select a number of functions, while there are also buttons and a control knob that allow for even more inputs. It might seem dizzying at first, but over time you become used to the setup.
The EX-L I tested was not equipped with navigation, and while I found my way around Southern California thanks to Google Maps from my smartphone piped through the car's Bluetooth, the lack of a map makes the dual-screen setup seem like overkill. The added screen real estate did, however, allow for more trip information and other mileage insight unique to the hybrid.
Cargo & Storage The large batteries needed to power the hybrid system take a chunk out of the Accord's trunk. It's 15.8 cubic feet in the base version of the standard Accord and just 12.7 cubic feet in the hybrid — a significant change. I had just one passenger when picking the car up at the airport, and while both of our standard, overhead-bin-sized suitcases fit in the trunk, there wasn't much room to spare.
The Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid trunks are similarly small, at 12 cubic feet and 13.1 cubic feet, respectively.
In the cabin, I found the sizable cubby ahead of the shifter useful; I rarely needed the larger storage under the center armrest. Large door pockets fit drinks and assorted driving flotsam, like sunglass cases and travel packs of tissues.
Safety The Accord Hybrid has a five-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The hybrid version of the Accord has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the non-hybrid version earned that group's Top Safety Pick Plus rating, the organization's highest honor.
The Accord Hybrid comes standard with a backup camera and Honda's LaneWatch system, which employs a camera mounted on the right outside mirror. When the right turn-signal is engaged, the center display screen switches to a view from the camera. This gives a terrific look at pedestrians or bicyclists that might be on sidewalks or the street in your blind spot. It's less useful when showing vehicles in your blind spot, as vehicles are usually large enough to notice without the camera.
Most of our editors find this feature to be a brilliant advance in blind spot detection, though a few suggested it can be annoying when used frequently, as it displays on such a large screen. The feature can be disabled.
Value in Its Class At a starting price of $29,945 including the destination charge, the Accord Hybrid is nearly $3,000 more than the Fusion and Camry hybrids. However, some features, like a power driver's seat and backup camera, are missing from the Fusion at that price.
At $32,695 as-tested, my EX-L trim felt worth every penny of the sticker price. The technology, ride comfort, comfortable leather seats and spacious cabin helped with that feeling of value. An Accord EX-L with a four-cylinder engine costs $29,060, and the V-6 is $31,135. The price premium to gain the added performance and mileage — even if it's not the $650 annual fuel savings the EPA suggests you'll get over the four-cylinder — is definitely acceptable. That's a change from hybrid sedans of the past, which typically didn't achieve enough fuel savings to justify their considerable cost increase over base models.