Car Reviews First Drives

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid First Drive: Delivering More of (Almost) Everything

Rationalizing a Hybridized Accord With Sub-$3 USD/Gallon Gas

Rationalizing a Hybridized Accord With Sub-$3 USD/Gallon Gas

It’s tough to argue with more. When a car makes its debut with more power, more fuel efficiency, and more cargo space than all of its competitors, we take notice. So even though gas prices are averaging $2.18 USD a gallon nationwide as this is written, Honda wants to double sales of the Accord Hybrid, which is now made in Japan. The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid competes in a class that arguably has far more players than market interest, from the newly refreshed Ford Fusion and new Chevrolet Malibu to the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry. Where the Accord Hybrid also delivers more than the competition, unfortunately, is in its base price. We spent some time with the updated Accord Hybrid to see whether it deserves its base-price premium in the growing midsize hybrid sedan class.

If EPA-rated fuel economy is your only deciding factor and you won’t consider the more efficient Toyota Prius hatchback, start and finish your search with the 2017 Accord Hybrid. Nothing beats the Honda in this field, with the car’s anticipated 49/47 mpg (4.8/5 L/100km) city/highway above all other midsize hybrid sedan players. The 2017 Fusion Hybrid is good for 43/41 mpg (5.5/5.7 L/100km), the Sonata Hybrid comes in at 38-39/43-45 mpg (6.2-6/5.5-5.2 L/100km), and the Camry Hybrid gets 40-42/37-38 mpg (5.9-5.6/6.4-6.2 L/100km). The EPA tweaked its ratings formula a bit for 2017, meaning some cars—even those without any mechanical changes—might be rated differently this model year. Even so, the 2017 Accord Hybrid already beats the 2016 Malibu Hybrid’s 47/46 mpg (5/5.1 L/100km). Fuel economy on hybrids can vary more than you’d see on non-hybrids, but the Honda is still at the top of this class with EPA mpgs.
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid front three quarter in motion 07

The Accord Hybrid isn’t all about mileage, though; the car is also the most powerful in its class, with 212 combined-system hp. With more power than before, that could make the Accord Hybrid quicker than every midsize hybrid sedan we’ve ever tested, though we won’t know for sure until we get our hands on one and track test it. We’ve tested pre-update 2014 Accord Hybrids reaching 60 mph in 7.0-7.4 seconds, and a 2015 Camry Hybrid hit 60 in 7.1 seconds. A 2016 Malibu Hybrid prototype reached 60 in 7.4 seconds, a 2016 Sonata Hybrid in 8.3 seconds, and a 2013 Fusion Hybrid in 8.5 seconds.

On the road, the 2017 Accord Hybrid is responsive even before you put the transmission in Sport mode. The car feels quicker than it actually is, thanks to how seamlessly the 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle inline-four and electric motor work together in the 2017’s improved setup. Besides the Econ button you’ve seen in non-hybrid Hondas, the Accord Hybrid also offers a transmission Sport mode and a “B” mode that maximizes regenerative braking. There’s also an EV Drive button that activates an engine-off mode, but given how sensitively you have to drive to keep the engine from turning on, it’s best only used when there’s no one behind you. Still, as with other cars in this class, it’s helpful to have so many choices. If EV-mode driving is a priority, look beyond a Honda dealership for a plug-in hybrid or wait a while for Honda’s Clarity lineup to arrive in 2017 with plug-in hybrid, EV, and fuel cell powertrains.

Not sure if you want to spend $37,000 USD on an Accord Hybrid or an Accord Touring V-6? Check out our Accord vs. Accord feature RIGHT HERE.

Honda advertises that its best Accord is a hybrid, not its sportiest. The car’s biggest drawback is the disconcerting engine-noise moaning that made itself known on winding roads on our drive event with the sound’s intensity not quite matching the speed and aggressiveness with which I pressed the accelerator pedal. Also, the hybridized Accord doesn’t feel as light on its feet as other variants, but I appreciated how the somewhat sensitive brakes nearly felt normal, which isn’t always the case for hybrids and EVs.

For better or worse, the Accord Hybrid looks normal, too. There’s some blue trim in the headlights and taillights, but it’s so subtle that some might miss the details are there at all. Even with the polished 17-inch wheels that carried over, the Accord Hybrid looks handsome and refined, words we couldn’t use for the new Prius. Then again, the Prius has way more room for cargo than the 2017 Accord Hybrid’s trunk, which is up to 13.5 cubic feet (an improvement of 0.8 cubic feet from the pre-refresh model) thanks to a smaller Intelligent Power Unit that’s comprised of a 1.3-kW-hr lithium-ion battery pack and a DC-DC converter. That 13.5 cubic feet is at the top of the class, as long as you don’t include the Toyota Prius’ 24.6-27.4-cubic-foot hatch. The Honda offers the spacious back seat you’d expect of an Accord, however, with enough legroom to get comfortable on a road trip until someone wants a snack or a bathroom break.
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid interior

Because with the Accord Hybrid’s 743-mile (1,196-km) range (calculated using the EPA highway rating of 47 mpg (5 L/100km)), you’ll want a break before the car’s fuel tank empties. That long driving range—a combination of a decent sized fuel tank and good fuel economy—is a wonderful hidden feature that means fewer visits to the gas station.

If you’re wondering how long the hybrid premium takes to pay itself off in fuel savings, it varies wildly depending on what other car you’re considering, its price at the trim you want, and how many miles you drive every year. As a base line, find the EPA’s combined city/highway numbers, and enter them here in this fuel-savings U.S. calculator. What you’ll find is that the math might work out in the hybrid’s favor if you’re matching it against a six-cylinder Accord, but it could take more than five years if you’re also looking at a four-cylinder variant.

The Accord Hybrid is a car you consider because you appreciate the different driving experience, not just to save money on gas. As with other hybrids, it’s a car you get because you like the idea of (safely) hypermiling or you like the idea of pulling gently away from a stoplight without the engine turning on, provided the Honda’s radiator fan isn’t loudly working away on a hot day. The Accord Hybrid also features far cooler instrument cluster gauges than the ones in non-hybrid Accords, and it has the spacious cabin you’d expect of the nameplate. It’s not quite as fun to drive in the traditional sense, but the wide-open throttle response may surprise drivers next to the Honda that’s “just a hybrid” at stoplights.

Like all of its midsize hybrid sedan competition, the Accord is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ when equipped with available active safety tech, and it gets a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA. But what those other midsize hybrid sedans don’t all offer is the enticing combination of space, pace, and efficiency in one package. The 2017 Accord Hybrid, which includes active safety tech as standard on every trim, competes against formidable competition. It’s not perfect, but the refreshed Accord Hybrid is a solid car—if you like the design and don’t mind an occasional disconcerting engine noise on back roads, look into one before the impending arrival of the next-gen car.