Honda Motor Company started exporting motorcycles to America, from Japan, in the early 1960’s with a clever slogan, “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda”. I became an early customer when I purchased a new 1964 Honda while in high school in Grant, Nebraska. All three Wright brothers eventually bought Hondas, and of course mine was the smallest, the Honda 50, a little machine I rolled into my junior speech class to talk about in front of my classmates.
It was later, in the 1970’s, that Honda started exporting automobiles to the U.S., and in 1999 they sent the first commercially-produced hybrid sedan, the Insight, to our shores. Its introduction preceded Toyota’s Prius by seven months, but it had two fewer doors and carried three fewer passengers than the Prius. Such limitations have since been eliminated, but nonetheless the Prius has outsold the Honda hybrids for the last thirteen years.
For 2014 Honda has re-introduced its Accord Hybrid, which features a 50 mpg EPA city fuel economy rating. That mileage is a breakthrough, of sorts, for Honda, and the drive train features substantial technology with its 2.0 liter Atkinson-cycle gas engine and two electric motors (drive and generation). Total system horsepower is 196, and three driving modes are available in the hybrid Accord – all-electric, combined gasoline-electric, and gas-powered overdrive. The latter is a Honda exclusive, allowing the automobile to lock the gas engine to the drive wheels with a clutch, not a transmission, above 50 mph. The 55 hp electric drive motor is, in that situation, available for bursts of acceleration. And from a standstill, the Accord Hybrid goes from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, regardless of altitude. Speaking of which, the drive train in this car has a “B” braking mode that is great for descending steep mountain grades safely while charging the 1.3 kW lithium-ion battery.
Recently, a 2014 Honda Hybrid Touring edition was loaned to me out of the press fleet, and I drove it for a week. The Accord Hybrid comes in a standard, EX-L, and Touring edition, which is the top model and the one I tested. For $35,695.00, including freight, the Touring edition has a leather interior, navigation system with backup camera, adaptive radar cruise control, lane departure warning, moon roof, and dual heated power bucket seats. An item I particularly enjoyed was Lanewatch, a camera integrated into the right outside mirror that gives the driver a view of the lane (in the 8” screen) to the right and behind the Honda. This operates any time the right hand turn signal is activated.
The driving experience when behind the wheel of the Accord Hybrid is excellent, with a somewhat quieter environment than the conventional Accord and similar guidance, handling, and ride; all good. Visibility is top-notch (see above), and real-world economy for this reviewer came in at 37.5 mpg, 25% less that the EPA estimate. Sub-zero weather during my week with the car was a factor.
The mid-sized Honda sedan rolls on 17” aerodynamic alloy wheels with Michelin P225/50R17 Michelin GreenX energy saving radials. All Accords were re-styled for 2013, an improvement, and this hybrid had distinctive blue-accented grill and lighting, front and rear, plus a body-colored decklid spoiler.
In high school I fantasized about someday driving an automobile with the quality and innovation of my little Honda 50. Someday arrived a week ago when I tested the very capable, American made Honda Accord Hybrid.