There’s a great scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where a young Indy is told, “You lost today kid. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” (You can watch it here.) Honda must have felt that way with its first generation Accord Hybrid that came out nearly a decade ago. The Accord’s efforts to use the hybrid system to increase both power and mileage was outdone by the Toyota Prius and its killer MPG numbers. A couple of years later, the Accord Hybrid was gone and Toyota owned the hybrid world.
Safe to say those engineers at Honda didn’t like it and have been plotting their return. While the new 2014 Accord Hybrid still doesn’t equal the Prius in mileage, it’s close enough to interest potential buyers. And the Accord has a few tricks up its sleeves that could sway folks.
Of course we have to start with the mileage. Officially it’s listed at 50 in the city and 45 on the highway, with a combined number of 47. Consumer Reports has already called out Honda saying its testers only got about 40 MPG during their test. USA Today testers did even worse with only about 38. My week with the Accord Hybrid came in much closer. I averaged 43 MPG. Still not what the company promises, but a lot better than a standard Accord. If all out mileage is your goal, the Prius will win. But before you go that route, take a look at what else the Accord has to offer.
First, it’s a much better looking sedan. While Honda isn’t exactly taking risks with Accord styling, it’s a solid-looking car that doesn’t have many styling faults. The lines are clean and the car has a nice aerodynamic swoop to it. The Prius is car that just screams “look at my mileage!” I think a lot of Prius owners wanted that look. But there are plenty of other folks who just want a nice looking sedan, and the Accord is their car. Of course you can get other hybrid sedans, like the Toyota Camry or the Hyundai Sonata, but the Accord Hybrid beats them in the mileage battle.
The Accord Hybrid uses the same basic chassis as the standard Accord, and that’s a good thing. Honda is really good at building solid cars that drive well, and this is no exception. The only thing you lose with the hybrid is a little bit of trunk space where they stuffed the batteries. Fortunately, it doesn’t cut into the back seat. Leg room is great and I hauled some folks around town with everyone commenting how comfortable it was.
The Accord Hybrid has three different drive modes. There’s the pure electric drive, which is great for starting. The engine drive, which uses just the 2.0 liter four-cylinder and is better for highway. Finally, there is the hybrid drive that combines both to give more power when you need it. The result is a peppy little car. Not overpowering, but just enjoyable to drive.
My test car was the top of the line Touring model. It had all the usual upscale additions like leather seats and upgraded electronics such as adaptive cruise control. It’s always interesting when the car takes over and slows down when you’re just a little too close. I also liked the LaneWatch blind-spot system. When you signal to turn right, the display on the dash shows you what is directly beside and behind you. There’s something about the blind spot on the passenger side of the car that makes this worthwhile. It even has line markers that allow you to judge whether the car in the lane to your right is far enough back to for you to move over. Necessary? Not if you pay attention, but then that’s why a lot of people get in accidents. This is one more stab at avoiding a crash.
Sticker price for my test car was $35,695. It had no options, just the $790 shipping and handling fee which means you don’t have to get carried away to get a nice car. You can get the base model for about $5,000 less. Oh yes, it’s also built in Marysville, Ohio so you can feel like you’re supporting American workers.
At the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy asks his dad “And what did you find?” to which the elder Jones answers “Me, Illumination.” OK, that’s a bit of a reach to expect that from a car. But let’s just say those Honda engineers have definitely found E-lumination with the 2014 Accord Hybrid.