Have you been trying to let off some steam lately? You know, free your mind from fear of being stranded on an island with sociopathic Instagram billionaires when you just wanted to hear some bands, or stories of airline employees kicking passengers’ asses, or how our species seems doomed in just a general sense? I hear ya. It’s a rough world out there. You deserve a break, my friend. What you need in your life is a 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid.
I swear, it’s so damn quiet and smooth, it’ll wipe the stress right off your back. You might even save a few whales along the way!
(Full disclosure: Honda Canada prepared an Accord Hybrid clean with a full tank of gas and lent it to me for a full week. I had to fill the car back up before returning it.)
Seriously, if you don’t know what a Honda Accord is by now, you and I need to sit down for a talk. Steadily among the top-selling sedans in North America along with the Toyota Camry, Honda’s mid-size car, the quintessential everyperson stalwart family sedan, may be from a Japanese brand but it’s conceived and built in America, for Americans (though the hybrid is built in Japan), and has spent a large portion of its lifespan kicking ass at pretty much everything it was designed to do.
If an alien were to come to Earth, open up one of humanity’s encyclopedias, and look up “a good automobile,” chances are the Accord would be the textbook definition.
The model you see here is the ninth generation Accord. It’s approaching the end of its production run and is expected to be overhauled next year. The hybrid is back after a short hiatus, and Honda has dropped the short-lived, limited production plug-in version it was selling in specific regions back in 2014 (Canada never got that one.)
At Honda, the term “plug-in” is now reserved for the upcoming lineup of Clarity hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, because like Toyota, Honda’s still trying to make that work. Good on them! Don’t stop believing.
So for now, at least, the Accord Hybrid sticks to a tried-and-tested self-charging formula that Honda calls a two-motor hybrid drive. The system is more-or-less similar to what you’ll find in a standard Toyota Prius (not the plug-in Prius Prime). It combines a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline four-cylinder engine with two AC electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack tightly squeezed behind the rear seats.
I know, that sounds boring as shit. But it’s actually pretty cool, so keep reading.
Hybrids and electric cars are taking over eventually, guys. Deal with it. When Honda unveiled the Clarity program at the 2017 New York Auto Show, it proclaimed that by 2030, two-thirds of its global fleet will be electrified. If Honda wants to cash the checks it just signed, it better bring its mass-selling sedan back onto the hybrid bandwagon.
Also, people are still buying an insane amount of Accords. We bought just over 350,000 of them last year. Even the almighty crossover ain’t got shit on this titan of a sedan.
But the most obvious reason for the Accord Hybrid’s existence is that the car now faces serious hybrid competitors in the mid-size segment such as the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion Energi, Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima Hybrid.
If Honda wants to continue drop-kicking its rivals in the balls like it’s been so good at doing in the past, it must offer a hot hybrid as well. The car you see here is Honda’s weapon of choice for that.
Honda’s been going through a weird, cyborg-ish design phase lately. Several of its cars, albeit typically excellent in their respective segments, end up looking like rejected Gundam designs sold to Honda on the cheap. The CR-V and Civic are prime examples of this.
Thankfully, the Accord was designed and released prior to that sad design trend. When this model came out in 2013, it was clean, understated, properly stanced, and well-proportioned; a real businesslike sedan.
But then, Honda went off on a tangent and ruined things. After the car got a facelift in 2016, the Accord inherited acres of fake chrome, especially up front. As well as LED everything. And what’s up with those wheels? Still, I find this looks much better than the Civic. And—ahem—less bloated.
Which one is the mid-size car again?
I don’t know how Honda manages to achieve this, but each time I get behind the wheel of this generation Accord, I instantly feel happy with my life.
I think it all comes down to the simple, airy, and quiet cabin. You sit low and comfortably in an Accord. It feels familiar, like the cars I grew up in during the 1990s. But there’s more to the Accord than a low seating position. The A-pillars, they’re thin by modern standards, so it’s easy to see out of the vehicle. There’s also a lot of glass in there thanks to a low cowl, so the car doesn’t intimidate you. It feels small, and drives that way too, but I’ll get back on that later.
There’s just no learning curve to this thing. You get in, and instantly recognize it as a car. You start it. You drive it. That’s it. It may sound dumb, but it’s weirdly refreshing in today’s world of gimmicky, overly complex cars.
Being a hybrid, it doesn’t make a sound while doing so. You use an actual shifter, not buttons, or a weird sex toy to shift its automatic gearbox in the D position. You take off in absolute serenity... whoooosssh.
The real beauty about the Accord hybrid is that while everything seems simple and easy to operate when you’re driving it, there’s actually a fair bit of hybrid witchcraft going on under your ass.
Similar to the BMW 330e I reviewed a few weeks back, the Accord has different drive modes, but the car actually manages them itself. Most of the time, the Accord is a full gas-electric hybrid, recharging its own batteries, with a combined output of 212 horsepower, Honda says.
You can sort of drive the Accord in full EV mode. For short distances though, the batteries don’t have much range. On their own, the electric motors churn out a claimed total of 181 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque, which you don’t really feel behind the wheel.
The car is slow in EV mode. But it’ll glide along that way up to around 60 mph for about a mile or two, until the four-pot joins the party. So in that respect, the Accord hybrid is better than a Prius.
I had a bit of fun with EV mode, crawling through mall parking lots and parks, pulling up to nearby joggers to ask for directions. Startling them because they never heard me pulling up. That, or wondering why a car sounds like it has a bunch of crickets having an orgy under its hood, which is what the Accord hybrid sounds like when in EV mode.
The lack of a plug-in option in this day and age of hybrids and EVs is a big disappointment, especially from Honda, a carmaker that has the engineering know-how to manufacture a quasi-autonomous humanoid robot called ASIMO.
Also, the fact that the Accord doesn’t have an actual EV range, like a Volt or even a Fusion Energi, makes it feel somewhat obsolete by comparison.
Then there’s the awkward delay in the way the alternate drivetrains react when you gun the throttle. I won’t blame Honda’s eCVT—the trick transmission that uses electric motors to drive the wheels in place of a conventional gearbox—for this, because it remains one of the best ones I’ve sampled.
My hypothesis is the Accord Hybrid’s brain doesn’t quite know what it needs to do quickly enough, so it lags when asked to sort out which propulsion system will work best for your needs. There’s a lack of consistency here; the car needs a bit more work in that department.
Finally, Honda’s two-screen infotainment system is a huge let-down, and a stress-creator as far as user experiences goes. I don’t get how Honda screwed this one up. Here’s an actual in-car conversation my shooter Myle and I had about it:
Clavey: “Hey man, can we pull up fuel consumption stats on that screen?”
Myle: “I think so. Like this. Err, wait. I think it’s... no. Oh, I know! You need to do it from the steering wheel. Here, I’ll - hmm, that doesn’t seem to work. One sec. I think you need to tap here. Or is it displayed on the second screen on top? There. Got it! Wait.”
It’s a total disaster. And Honda, please give us a goddamn volume knob.
The Accord Hybrid was born to daily. It’s soothing to drive. It’s also an Accord, which means leg room for days in the back. Oh, and even if cargo space is a tad lower than a non-hybrid Accord at 14 cu-ft (versus 15.8), the trunk is basically a cave. It’s also the largest in the hybrid midsize segment. Only the Kia Optima hybrid Stef reviewed earlier this week comes close at 13.4 cu-ft. Sadly no, that rear bench doesn’t fold down.
But what you’ll get in return is stellar fuel mileage for the everyday duties of your hard, expensive and stressful life. Honda claims 48 MPGs combined. This makes the Accord the most fuel-efficient mid-size hybrid in the segment, with the closest competitor being the Chevy Malibu hybrid at 47 MPG.
That’s all good looking on paper, but from my experience behind the wheel, the Accord pulled 40 MPG at best. Still, as far as real-world MPGs go, that’s not bad in the least.
The car also costs absolutely nothing to run. Put $20 of gas in the damn thing and it’ll drive forever.
But the Accord, in all versions, wins for daily driving because of Honda’s renowned reliability. If you’re looking for a long-term investment, you simply can’t go wrong with an Accord. But you already knew that.
It’s not bad! Not bad at all. The Accord itself is a surprisingly spirited performer, and the hybrid inherits this too, even with the added heft from the batteries. It turns in quickly, brakes strong and feels light and nimble overall. When I reviewed the four-cylinder version last summer on Clavey’s Corner, I actually preferred its handling over the “smaller” Civic, if you can believe that.
Honda claims a 0-60 time of 6.9 seconds. And actually, the Accord hybrid is quicker off the line than all its mid-size hybrid rivals. As long as all of its motors are going full swing, it feels quick behind the wheel.
Essentially, the genius of the Accord is that it disappears from underneath you. It just goes out and does whatever you ask of it well. Something a Prius can’t exactly brag about. Did I hit that street corner all out without chirping the tires? I did! But I hardly noticed. Because Accord.
Honda offers three different versions of the Accord hybrid. Prices kick off at $29,605. EX-L, which adds a power moonroof, heated seats and other shenanigans, like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, goes for $32,905.
My tester was the top flight Touring model. It sells for $35,955. Unless you really dig LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a factory sat-nav, it’s not really worth it.
But all Accord Hybrids come pretty loaded with Honda’s full set of semi-autonomous features called Honda Sensing. If you dig that stuff, Honda’s is pretty impressive overall. The car will pretty much drive itself on the highway. And there’s LaneWatch. That’s a cool one. It’s a little camera located on the passenger rear-view mirror to help you see things the mirror can’t. Like this:
Admit it. That’s a cool feature. You will be shocked at how much you use it.
Ok, so let’s compare: the Accord hybrid’s most direct competitor, the Chevrolet Malibu hybrid, starts at $27,250 and tops out at roughly 31k. But the Accord is a smidge faster off the line, pulls slightly better MPGs, and chances are it’ll outlive the Chevy in the long run. Also, for the moment at least, GM can’t beat Honda’s resale value. So yes, the Accord hybrid is a good value as far as mid-size hybrids go.
Or you could get a Camry, and... never mind, I’m not even going to finish that sentence.
Did you guys expect me to say this car was bad? I’m sorry, but, it’s not going the happen. The Honda Accord is a good car. And the hybrid kicks everyone’s ass in the areas that count. Surprised? I’m not.
Except for the lack of a plug, actual electron range and a confused brain, this is as good as a green family sedan can get without looking like a block of plastic that melted in the microwave. I’m looking at you Toyota Prius.
My only worry for Honda’s legendary sedan is where it’s heading into the future. The Accord’s biggest threat isn’t crossovers, but it’s own little sister: the Civic. That thing is taking up all the place at Honda these days with three body variants, an Si and upcoming Type R. And the sedan version of that car is almost as large and feels more upscale than the Accord. Also, the Clarity cars I saw in New York looked awfully mid-size.
I just hope the next generation Accord won’t get pushed to full-size status, where it suffers the fate of the Nissan Maxima and becomes a sad artifact from the past that no one cares about anymore.
Here’s my advice: don’t worry about that stuff. You’ve got enough on your shoulders at the moment. Just drive your Accord hybrid into the sunset and everything will feel alright.
William Clavey is an automotive journalist from Montréal, Québec, Canada. He runs claveyscorner.com
This post has been updated to clarify the nature of the car’s eCVT transmission.