Honda Accord Hybrid: First Drive Review
Words: Kshitij Sharma | Photography: Eshan Shetty
Car Tested: Honda Accord Hybrid
Variant: Accord Hybrid
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol with electric motor | 215PS/315Nm
The Accord is one of the bestselling cars ever made by Honda having sold over 1.9 million units over its nine generation lifespan. It was sold for three generations in India as well but aging design and falling sales led Honda to pull the plug on its D segment sedan which left the Toyota Camry Hybrid as the only Japanese option in the segment. Now, though, after a hiatus of little over three years, the Accord moniker is back, that too in a hybrid guise and things look quite promising.
Design and Styling
Currently in its ninth generation, the Accord still almost retains the shape of the previous gen model which was already a great looking car. But the new one turns its technology quotient up to eleven and it shows even in the design. The front of the car wouldn't look out of place in a sci-fi movie. The headlamps are all LED. The DRLs wrap around the headlamps and the headlamps themselves house the LED bulbs in covered crevices. The LED fog lamps sit just below the headlamps on either side and a chunky chrome grille dominates the front facia of the car. All of this combined gives the car a concept vehicle-like look which is rather appealing.
From the side you notice the chrome lining around the windows and the prominent shoulder line which gives the car a slight German-esque aesthetic. The tail of the car, too, is an all LED affair and looks rather futuristic. The car sits on a rather striking set of 18-inch wheels which are shod on 235 section Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tubeless tyres. Also, Honda will provide tubeless puncture repair kits with the car and a spare tyre which was missing from ours will be strapped to the boot floor. Though it will seriously eat into the boot space of the car which is already quite low due to the lithium-ion battery pack that resides in the rear of the car.
The cabin of the Accord can be summed up in a single word, high-tech (or rather two). The moment you take the driver’s perch, you find a lone and rather large speedometer staring back at you which happens to be the only dial in the entire instrument panel; the rest is all displayed on screens. The speedometer itself envelopes a screen which displays the trip, fuel efficiency, odo and temperature. The screens flanking the speedo on the other hand display battery charge and fuel capacity.
But wait there’s more, plenty more! The centre dash houses two more screens placed over one another. The top one is the intelligent Multi Information Display or i-MID for short. This screen displays the navigation system and other vehicle settings and is operated via the steering-mounted controls. Apart from this it also doubles up as the screen for Honda’s new blindspot warning system. Where most manufacturers go for sensors, Honda has fitted the Accord with a video camera that sends the feed to the i-MID display. You can either choose to keep it on always but even otherwise, it will prompt you when it detects a vehicle in the blindspot. It can also be turned off via the button on the right hand stalk.
The lower screen, on the other hand, is the touchscreen infotainment screen which supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In our humble opinion, the Android Auto seems to work much better and display more information than the Apple CarPlay (but that’s just us, we don’t want to start a debate). The cabin itself feels well made and very comfortable. The seats are wrapped in leather and the dash is made completely out of soft touch material. A tiny hard plastic section on the door panels, though, does feel left out in the midst of all this luxury. Coming back to the seats, they are supremely comfortable and the driver’s seat is 8-way adjustable whereas the passenger seat is only 4-way adjustable. There is ample knee and headroom at the rear but unlike its main competition, the Toyota Camry, the rear seats can’t be reclined but do offer supreme comfort and great thigh support. You can also move the front passenger seat by side bolster-mounted buttons for added kneeroom.
The twin-zone climate control system comes with an air purification system that controls the output of the aircon depending on the intensity of the sunlight. Pretty cool, huh?
Engine and Performance
If we told you that the Accord is powered by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated i-VTEC engine and makes 145PS of peak power and 175Nm of peak torque, you wouldn’t be too impressed, would you? What if we added that it is in fact an Atkinson cycle engine which along with Honda’s i-VTEC technology also uses the company’s E-VTC or Electronic Variable Timing Control which helps better combustion of fuel leading to better fuel economy, Still no? Okay, in addition to all this, the car is also fitted with two electric motors – the propulsion motor drives the front wheels whereas the generator motor produces the electricity. The propulsion motor is powered by a 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack that resides in the rear of the car and the motor is capable of producing 184PS of peak power which takes the total output to 215PS. Impressed yet?
The drivetrain is mated to an E-CVT gearbox, which, unlike the conventional CVT setup, only employs two electric motors. According to Honda, the system is similar in dimension to a conventional CVT but aids better response and efficiency which according to Honda is 23.1kmpl. The driver can choose between three driving modes namely EV, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive. In EV mode, the car runs purely on electric mode but has a limited range of just 1km. In Hybrid Drive mode it behaves like a series parallel hybrid where the ICE provides the power to the generator motor which in turn charges the battery pack which further provides the juice for the propulsion motor to use to drive the front wheels. The car will most likely spend most of its time in the Hybrid Mode as it is likely to be driven mostly in the city. Then there is the Engine Drive mode which is mostly for highway cruising and employs the hybrid system to work with the ICE to aid quick acceleration and quick overtakes. There is also ‘sport’ mode which can be engaged for a bit of spirited driving along with the B gear position which induces deliberate engine braking when you take your foot off the throttle –useful for driving in the hills.
Ride and Handling
Truth be told we did not get as much time with the car as we would’ve liked and our route on the Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad also meant that we spent most of our time on wide six lane highways with little more than tarmac in sight. But even here the Honda Accord proved that it is quite a capable car. The switch from hybrid to engine mode is very smooth and barely noticeable. The gearbox is as smooth as CVTs can be and you rarely ever feel the need for a stick or paddles. The throttle response, too, is quite good. Yes there is an initial burst revs and sound when you press the throttle but as you reach the desired speed, the car settles down just as quickly.
Then there is the sound insulation which is fantastic. Even at 120kmph, you can whisper your way through conversations with your passengers and it feels like you’re driving a car from a segment above. This has been achieved by active noise cancellation which employs microphones in the A-pillars of the car which reduce noise by emitting the opposite frequency via the speakers. The suspension too is clearly setup for comfort and the car simply tends to glide over most undulations the road throws at you. Unfortunately, though, we can’t tell you much about the handling due to aforementioned reasons but we’re sure it will not be a slouch. Also, unlike a lot of hybrids, the brakes provide good feel and also plenty of stopping power.
The Honda Accord comes across as a great package. But it is a CBU which is why it is priced at Rs 37.0 lakh ex-showroom Delhi compared to the Toyota Camry Hybrid which is priced at Rs 30.9 lakh ex-showroom Delhi and is also a CKD. But then again, the Honda is currently the very cutting edge of hybrid technology in its segment and all of it works almost flawlessly. That should work in its favour.