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2014 Honda Accord PHEV Review
Honda’s next step in hybrid tech is a huge leap
by Colum Wood
With the launch of the Insight in 1999, Honda became the first automaker to offer a mass production hybrid. Since then, Honda has built Jets, ASIMO and the S2000, but little has changed in its gasoline-electric technology lab.
Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system is as outdated as a first gen Blackberry in an iPhone5 world and consumers have responded, voting with their wallets to make the word Prius, not Insight, synonymous with the term hybrid.
The 2014 Honda Accord, however, marks a major shift in Honda’s engineering push. Playing catch up with others in terms of technologies like direct-injection on its gasoline powerplants, it’s finally moving into the 21st century of alternative powertrains, albeit a decade late.
NEW ACCORD LOOKS, PLUS HYBRID GETS ITS OWN STYLE
And yet Honda has seemingly caught up immediately with the launch of the 2014 Accord PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). Based on an all-new Accord platform that’s 3.6-inches shorter overall but with the same interior space, the plug-in Accord is also styled to stand out.
Compared to the rest of the new Accord lineup, the PHEV gets a unique grille that’s certainly more dramatic, though hardly more appealing. Compared to its internal combustion counterparts, it also gains a comically large H on the grille.
And then there are the wheels. Light weight 17-inch forged aluminum units, not all is as it appears, with a simple spoke design hiding behind the aerodynamically styled wheel covers – or just call them hubcaps if you prefer.
HONDA DITCHES OUTDATED HYBRID TECH
Of course the real story is what’s under the hood, with Honda’s first-ever two-mode hybrid system using a lithium-ion battery pack, electric motor and a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making a combined 196-hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. While acceleration is less than shocking (groan, we know), it’s perfectly suitable for a mid-size sedan.
In many ways it feels a lot like a Prius – although without the horribly slow part – and that’s a good thing. The transition from gas to electric power is smooth and we’re thrilled to report that unlike the old IMA system used in cars like the Civic Hybrid and CR-Z, the start-stop function at idle is smooth.
The brakes are surprisingly consistent, a rarity amongst hybrids, which first engage the regenerative function and then transition to conventional braking delivering disparate pedal feel. Honda solved this issue by having the regenerative function operate for almost the entire pedal travel. This also helps to maximize the recharging function to deliver maximum electric range.
YOUR CHOICE: HYBRID OR EV?
As for range, Honda claims the Accord PHEV will get 10 to 15 miles of electric-only propulsion from its 6.7 kWh battery pack and 124-kilowatt (kW) electric motor, although what’s perhaps more important is just how fuel efficient it is once that range has been depleted, not to mention the fact that Honda lets you choose just when you want to use the electric miles. This is particularly handy to help maximize fuel usage as electric cars are at max efficiency in the city, whereas an internal combustion engine operates best out on the highway. As a result, the Accord plug-in hybrid will let you start your morning commute on the highway operating much in the say way a conventional hybrid would, and then once you reach the congested city streets, you can switch over to electric power.
Hopping behind the wheel for a rather short spin, it’s more than a little impressive to see the fuel economy gauge in the center of the car’s speedometer read out 199.9 mpg. An official EPA MPGe rating has yet to be released, but Honda expects no less than 100 MPGe, based on a combined cycle of electric and hybrid propulsion.
We drove a few miles in pure EV mode on city streets and on the highway before resetting the gauge and hitting the large “HV” button in front of the gear shifter, switching the car over to a conventional hybrid drive mode. After a few more miles on the highway and then some city driving we were more than a little surprised to see the numbers had averaged out to 55 mpg – better even than the Prius.
Read the complete 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid Review