Honda’s 2017 Accord Hybrid may be the most effective midsized fuel-sipping sedan going.

Based around an unusual full hybrid powertrain with no actual transmission – but a virtual continuously variable tranny instead – its 48 mpg combined rating is very close to Toyota Prius territory in a handsomely styled, spacious, and much-more powerful package.

Oddly, the Accord Hybrid was introduced in 2015 with better EPA mpg than any competitor only to see Honda withdraw it from contention in 2016, revise it to make it even better, and re-release it in present 2017 form. It was based on the limited-market and now also discontinued 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid, and shared its superbly efficient powertrain albeit with smaller battery.

Honda has also experimented with a lease-only Fit EV which also was withdrawn, and as the automaker feels its way into the electrified vehicle space, perhaps there is rhyme and reason to its methods, as the Accord Hybrid does face a closely matched class.

The midsized sedan segment is actually the most competitive among the three dozen hybrid makes and models sold in the U.S. Hybrid models that shoppers may also consider include the newly updated Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, best-selling Ford Fusion, 46-mpg new Chevy Malibu based on the Volt’s powertrain, and Toyota Camry. The Camry is due for a styling and efficiency refresh in 2018 to catch it up from its now-in-use 2012-spec powertrain in refreshed 2015 body, and should become a potent contender, but for now, the Accord is very strong.

Positioned nearly like an Acura, and a couple-few thousand dollars above some of the others, even the base EX Accord Hybrid is well equipped and fit and finish are quite nice. The top-shelf Touring we drove was an enjoyable vehicle indeed.

The Accord Hybrid is thus also a worthy alternative to the likes of the less fuel-thrifty Lexus ES and Toyota Avalon hybrids, though as is always the case, you’d be advised to do your own feature-for-feature comparison to really decide.

Go Power

Not only does the Accord Hybrid have the highest EPA rating of 49 mpg city, 47 highway, and 48 mpg combined, it also has the most gas-plus-electric “system” power of 212 horses and 232 pounds-feet of torque.

This is 16 horsepower more than the 2015 version and came by way of extensive tweaks to the otherwise same powertrain, and now tops the output of the Malibu (182 horsepower), Fusion (188), Sonata and Optima (193), and Camry (200).

Hitting both high mpg and highest power speaks to the exceptional efficiency of the Accord’s 2.0-liter DOHC Atkinson Cycle engine and two electric motors. The i-VTEC gas engine alone produces a modest 143 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 129 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.

The motors put out 181 horsepower (135 kilowatts – traction motor) and 142 horsepower (106 kilowatts – generator motor). The generator closely matches the peak output of the engine but the larger traction motor can also draw at least 30 horses from the 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery during acceleration.

Improvements to the new system.

Unusual also is the powertrain uses its two motors along with a clutch and a single fixed gear ratio instead of a conventional multi-speed or Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

Honda calls it “Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive” (I-MMD) and it can propel the Accord on battery power alone at modest acceleration from a standstill or at other times under low torque demand such a when cruising. Upon deceleration, as per usual, the system regenerates electricity to the battery.

In all the car has three drive operation modes: EV, Hybrid and Engine. Under higher power demand, the car is in hybrid mode in which the smaller electric motor starts the gas engine.

Once running, the engine can spin the smaller motor to generate electricity for use by the larger motor (this is series hybrid mode similar in principle to the original Chevy Volt sans large battery). Alternately, a clutch can connect the gas engine in Engine mode with the larger electric motor so both can physically work together to spin the wheels and move the car.

The entire system is nearly seamless and quite an elegant solution.


An evolution of the family line, the 2017 Accord Hybrid comes in three trims – EX, EX-L and Touring – and takes most of its design from the ninth-generation 2016 Accord.

As the range topper, the Hybrid attempts a sportier, more sophisticated impression with restyled front and rear bumpers, a new grille, new headlights and taillights. Unique to the Hybrid is an aluminum hood with tapered crease to enhance a “premium look.”

Its unibody uses 55.8-percent high tensile steel, with 17.2-percent of the steel being ultra-high strength. This plus advanced safety features net it a five-star safety rating.

Inside is a comfortable and functional layout with a 7.7-inch display standard and available 7-inch Display Audio touchscreen. Also available are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with compatible cell phones.

Standard is Honda’s Sensing package in all trims and includes camera and radar-based features like Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, and Active Cruise Control.

Honda also managed to gain an extra 0.8 foot of truck space with a new compact Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) battery pack, and the class-leading 13.5 cubic feet is useful, albeit the rear seats don’t fold down.

Also updated is the suspension, with mechanical Amplitude Reactive Dampers (MacPherson struts) up front and independent multi-link in rear. New bushings reduce shimmy at all speeds, help decrease noise along with active noise cancelling and in all, the system along with increased structural integrity allows for greater control.

On the Road

With 0-60 mph arriving in the low seven-second range, and handling tightened up, Honda emphasizes the Accord Hybrid is “fun” and this is true in qualified terms.

Drivers accustomed to the likes of an Infiniti Q50 Hybrid or other more-potent sedan will not be blown away, but then this is a supremely efficient practical family car, so something has to give.

The 3,400-pound vehicle otherwise does not disappoint in striking a balance between “normal” – even attractive – looks and capability to almost match the most fuel-thrifty vehicles available.

Default drive mode at slow speeds and gentle throttle input is EV, although if it is cold out or HVAC is otherwise demanding juice, the engine will kick on per normal hybrid practice.

Under hard highway acceleration however, perhaps a couple-second delay between foot down and power forward was discerned as it switched from parallel “Engine Drive” to its “Hybrid Drive” series mode.

This was a result of the system un-clutching the engine from the wheels so it can drive just the generator motor at whatever rpm is needed to supply the Accord Hybrid’s large traction motor.

The effect is similar to a downshift in a conventional automatic transmission, not exceptional bothersome, and otherwise the system is seamless.

Ride quality is all-day comfortable, and quiet, in part due to active noise cancelling which is icing on the cake for a rigid chassis, and attention spent by the engineers in cutting road noise where possible.

Compared to some other hybrids, the legroom is only adequate in the driver’s seat for those with the longest legs. On the left side of the pedals there is actually open space to extend a leg with 34-inch inseam straight, but on the right, the knee is always bent, nearly more than desired. This is not a deal breaker, but at times one might like the option to straighten the knee further, especially in long stints behind the wheel.

Rear seat occupants are also treated to good comfort.

That small quibble aside, the Accord Hybrid is a crisp handler even on its low-rolling resistance 225/50-17 Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires. The adroit suspension lends confidence in the corners, and brakes likewise haul the car down within acceptable tolerances and pedal feel.

Being easy on the brakes of course will improve one’s eco score, as that’s the way to add the most regenerative energy to the battery.

That Honda caters to drivers not wanting to compromise between a non-hybrid’s performance is otherwise nice, and its 18 rated mpg over the most-efficient 2.4-liter four Accord is astonishing.

However, when contemplating a hybrid stoking your hopes with its high advertised mpg, a few things should be considered. The U.S. EPA’s test cycle is much more realistic than those in other markets, but the “48 mpg” is not achievable if driving without care.

The feds assume legal driving, highway speeds not as high as some of the highest posted in the land, and you are on your own if you don’t work within the hybrid’s capabilities.

Cold also will sap efficiency, as heated seats and cabin use energy, and the battery itself is happiest in balmy weather.

On 30 degree F days, while jamming the accelerator and not being mindful of braking technique, the Hybrid could plummet to low 30s. With greater moderation, mid 40 mpg is achievable, and on the extreme, the car is capable of going almost toe-to-toe with the less-powerful Prius rated for 52 mpg and which suffers the same limitations.

We’ve seen north of 50 mpg in the Accord Hybrid, and in extreme cases of sedate intentional driving, over 60 mpg and more can be achieved on the way to hyper-miler territory.

Tailpipe emissions likewise are reduced, although unlike with a plug-in hybrid or EV, there is almost always some. In areas of the country where the grid is still coal intensive, the Accord Hybrid may however prove quite relatively clean, and the EPA has an online tool for you to determine this.

As for the rest of the experience, the car’s instruments, and infotainment including Apple CarPlay works well either tethered with USB cord or via Bluetooth. At times a bit of a lag was detected however when using the touchscreen, but it’s not exceptionally clunky.

Info displays are conveniently arranged, comfort of seats front and back with otherwise ample space leave little to be desired.

The Car for You?

The Accord Hybrid is pushing the edge of a quasi luxurious car, and Honda’s marketers know this full well.

“Accord Hybrid attracts a more educated and more affluent buyer than Accord Sedan,” says Honda in its media kit. The car’s average buyer is age 53, 68 percent are male, 73 percent are married, 79 percent have been to college, and average income is $115,000. The Accord Sedan follows a similar profile with the biggest gap being income, at $82,000.

This is the irony that cars that save the most at the pump are also filled with options that preclude the lower income people who would stand to benefit the most from such an advantage.

Honda was always proud of its Marysville, Oh. plant where the 2015 Accord Hybrid was built, but the 2017 is coming from Sayama, Japan closer to the supply chain.

If Honda were to make a base hybrid model with fewer fine features, but still with this 18-mpg better powertrain, it might erode sales overly much from the bread-and-butter Accords. This is a reality of the green car market. If you are already in the target demographic, happy are you as you would have wanted all the bells and whistles anyway.

If you do not fit the profile, well there’s always a base Accord, a Civic, or something else.

This said, we really like this car. It hits almost all the high spots between class-leading fuel efficiency, power, driving dynamics, comfort, and style.

It could be a smart buy for people who would like to keep a couple-few tens of thousands in the bank instead of shelling out for a BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Lexus, Acura, etc.

This is not saying the Accord Hybrid really tops those creature-comfort-intensive and higher performance exercises in conspicuous consumption, but it may score in the 90-percentile range and offer respectable resale value, reliability, and do the job.

As always though, further research and your own test drive will be necessary. As noted this the most tightly competitive class and by next year Toyota may be back in the running. So it goes with any consumer good where one-upmanship is continual.

At this present writing however, the Accord Hybrid is a very tough act to follow and that is all anyone could really ask.