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2017 Honda Accord Hybrid: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Russ Heaps July 2016

Honda considers the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid to be the top dog within the Accord lineup, and as such, it also claims the flagship title for the brand's entire stable of cars. The vehicle's achievements, however, extend beyond the Honda brand. With all the improvements that the automaker has crammed into this rejuvenated sedan, it leads the midsize-hybrid segment in horsepower and fuel economy.

Beginning life as a 3-door hatchback in 1976, today's Accord has evolved into something much different from the original. Sure, it offered some surprising standard features right from the get-go -- such as a radio that received both AM and FM signals -- but that first Accord was a pip-squeak compared to what it is today. Measuring a measly 162.8 inches from end to end, it was only about 3 inches longer than today's Honda Fit.

Along the Accord's 40-year trajectory, it's attracted fresh technology like a black suit collects lint, and the latest Accord Hybrid doesn't disappoint. Between its updated 2-motor hybrid system and its cartel of available connectivity and safety technologies, this hybrid will dazzle all but the most jaded car nerd.

Available in three trim grades -- Hybrid ($29,605), EX-L ($32,905) and Touring ($35,955) -- the Accord Hybrid should have wide appeal among the environmentally conscious.

Take a Look

Because Honda put the Accord Hybrid on hiatus in 2016, it had to wait until the 2017 relaunch to benefit from all of last year's styling updates. These aren't sweeping changes, but they do include the aluminum hood, a rear-deck spoiler, and front and rear fascias.

From the curb, there isn't much that announces it as a hybrid: You'd have to notice the blue-accented headlights and grill or the minuscule Hybrid badge on the trunk lid to realize that this isn't a conventional Accord.

Get Up and Go

Hybrids derive their power from some combination of a gasoline engine and one or more electric motors. In the case of the 2017 Accord Hybrid, it's a 2-motor hybrid setup that Honda calls Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive, i-MMD for short. After helping spin up the 2-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder gasoline engine, the smaller of the two electric motors then generates electricity for the larger one, which provides extra wheel-turning power when needed.

Although the larger electric motor alone can provide all the propulsion for short distances at low speed (EV Drive), typically it serves as a booster to the gasoline engine during acceleration (Hybrid Drive). When cruising, the gasoline engine does the heavy lifting (Engine Drive). The three forms of drive comprise the i-MMD.

When totaled, the hybrid system delivers 212 hp. This is a 16-hp improvement over the previous Accord Hybrid and the highest among hybrid competitors such as the Ford Fusion, the Hyundai Sonata, the Chevrolet Malibu and the Kia Optima.

For the sake of brevity, we'll identify the transmission as continuously variable just as Honda does. In truth, though, it's more of a virtual transmission than an actual one. Trust me, you don't want to know the details -- you just need to know it works.

Mileage Measure

At 49 miles per gallon in the city, 47 mpg on the highway and 48 mpg combined, the posted mileage numbers are the best in the segment. Honda suits are quick to point out that, between the 2015 and 2017 versions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changed how hybrid fuel economy is measured. This explains why EPA-estimated mileage for the 2017 Accord Hybrid differs somewhat from the 2015 edition's 50 mpg city/45 mpg hwy/47 mpg combined. The bottom line is that, overall, the new Accord Hybrid bests its competitors, as well as its previous-generation predecessor.

Nod to the Nerds

If you do some homework, you'll discover that the base price of the 2017 is up roughly $300 over that of the 2015. That's a reasonable increase over a 2-year period, and when you factor in all the added high-tech gadgetry of the new Accord Hybrid, you'll find that the small boost in price is really a bargain.

Honda Sensing -- which includes Honda's Collision Mitigation Braking System, as well as lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, road-departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control -- comprises the bulk of the new tech built into every Accord Hybrid.

EX-L and Touring trims also get goodies such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and include a second 7-inch touchscreen in addition to the standard 7.7-in display. HondaLink Assist and a smartphone-linked navigation system with Apple Maps or Google Maps are also offered.

Behind the Wheel

Once you get beyond the hybrid system, the Accord Hybrid shares just about everything with the conventional Accord, both inside and out.

Despite delivering about the same power output as the conventional 4-cylinder Accord, the hybrid version accelerates more like the Accord V6 because its peak torque is closer to that of the V6 than the V4. That means goosing the throttle is rewarded with an enthusiastic burst of power, particularly from a standstill.

The Accord is no sports car, but Honda has done much to improve its driving dynamics over the years, especially with the latest generation. Handling competence has reached a point where the Accord is actually kind of fun to drive, and this holds true in the 2017 Accord Hybrid, too. The fact that I was getting terrific fuel economy didn't even enter my mind as I was whipping this hybrid through some twisty roads near Napa, California, recently.

It's also worth noting that Honda has managed to normalize brake feel. Hybrid systems rely on regenerative braking to recapture some electric power that's then redeposited in the battery. In every other hybrid I've driven, including the previous Accord Hybrid, the regenerative process produces a draglike sensation when braking, but Honda has all but eliminated brake drag with this new model.

Wrapping It Up

Honda intends to double Accord Hybrid sales to 30,000 units annually. Depressed gasoline prices may make buyers more resistant than Honda expects, but even in a fuel-glutted market, the automaker is convinced its sales goal is attainable.

Only time will tell if Honda is correct. But in terms of value, fuel economy, comfort and performance, the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid stands tall among midsize hybrid sedans.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid: First Drive Review - Autotrader