The newest edition of the Honda Accord has been with us for almost a year, but the hybrid version has been late making it to the party. We tested it out for a week, and here’s what the 2018 Accord Hybrid told us.
The essential fact to know, is that the hybrid Accord drives like… all the other versions of the model. It runs on a powertrain containing a 2.0L 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine (output: 143 hp) as well as an electric motors (output: 181 hp); together they put 232 lb-ft of torque at the service of the driver. Total output of this combo is 212 hp – which is more than most of its main rivals, for instance the Toyota Camry (208 hp), Hyundai Sonata (193 hp), Kia Optima (192 hp), Ford Fusion (188 hp) and Chevrolet Malibu (182 hp).
The powertrain of the 2018 Accord Hybrid works in three different configurations: EV Drive (100% electric), Hybrid Drive (electric motor and the gasoline engine powering the generator motor) and Engine Drive (gasoline engine only).
As well, the driver can, depending on the situation or simply on their mood, choose from three different drive models - Normal, Eco and Sport – at the turn of a button. I came away seriously impressed by the Sport mode! The driving dynamics it provides bears little resemblance to hybrid-car driving such as we commonly assume it to be. There’s no lack of raw power, enabling some seriously impressive acceleration off the line. You might easily forget you’re in a hybrid-powered car at all.
Inversely, the Eco mode, well - how should put this - literally snuffs out the driving pleasure. It’s great for die-hard eco-conscious motorist who want to use as little gasoline as possible, but I think that most motorists will opt for the more lively Normal mode, or the Sport in certain more caffeinated situations.
No, not a CVT – an e-CVT
As for the transmission that controls the power from the engines, the Accord gives the impression you’re using a good old CVT (note: sarcasm intended). But that’s not the case at all! This Accord does not work with a CVT; the transmission is continuously variable, but it’s an e-CVT. This system doesn’t manipulate the gearbox with a mechanical set-up, rather it uses one electric motor connected to the wheels and another linked to the thermal engine which serves as a generator. This allows for maximizing energy recovery when braking.
Technical details aside, the driving sensation you get is still pretty much what you would expect from a CVT; slam down the accelerator pedal and you get the impression the 4-cylinder is going to huff and puff itself to death.
As just touched on, this is one element I really appreciated, and which is now actually found in the majority of electrified vehicles. The paddles behind the steering wheel here serve to slow down the car, recharging the cattery pack in the process. Specifically, the left paddle has three levels of progressive braking power, while the right paddle allows the driver to reduce the force of the braking. These paddles are really useful in heavier traffic situations to regulate speed all while juicing up the battery.
And what about fuel consumption? My weeklong test drive concluded with a figure of 5.6L/100 km. Which is just fine, and on top of that I enjoyed driving the car, the workings of the engine and torque, etc., without giving much of a thought to fuel consumption at all. My time in the car was spent mainly in urban settings – about 70%. It’s true you could find a ride that will skimp even more on fuel use, but you may not find a hybrid that is as spacious, pleasant to drive and well-equipped as the Accord is.
The Accord Hybrid comes in two versions: the Hybrid, tagged starting at $33,090, and the Hybrid Touring, going for $39,790 and up. The basic Hybrid does come with a generous supply of standard features, for instance 17-inc alloy wheels, automatic LED lights, a 7-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, a multi-angle backup camera and keyless entry and starter, as well as advanced safety systems like blind spot display, the impact-reduction braking system and forward collision alert and all of the new-generation safety technologies that should be present in all new vehicle sold today.
That base model even includes a road-sign recognition system, highly practical for us absent-minded types!
The Hybrid Touring edition, meanwhile, adds in the heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, head-up display, blind spot information system with rear cross traffic alert, ventilated front seats, heated back seats, perforated leather for the seating and wireless charging for smartphones. Last but certainly not least, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are integrated in both versions of the Accord Hybrid – thank you Honda.
The last word
The new contours of the Honda Accord are a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, that’s clear. Personally I’m not enamoured of its overall shape, I prefer the old Accord in that respect. But there’s no denying interior space is really generous, in both rows. The trunk is also big with its 473 litres of volume, and that hatchback opening ensures wide-open access when comes time to fill it up. It’s worth noting that, unlike some other recent-vintage hybrid models, the Accord Hybrid carries its battery pack under the floor of the second row of seats, so no trunk space is lost.
The 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid is fuel-efficient, its performance is reassuring albeit unexciting, and it’s comfortable. Despite a few irritants (for example the driving position, slightly off-kilter vis-à-vis the steering wheel, and the e-CVT transmission (still better than a CVT, mind you)), if you’re interested in a hybrid car, it should be near the top of your shopping list.