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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid EX-L First Drive

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid EX-L offers performance and efficiency wrapped in sleek styling.

What It Is
A midsize hybrid with more refinement than many of its competitors.
Best Thing
Comfortable, quick acceleration, and loaded with features.
Worst Thing
Not as quiet as other hybrid sedans.
Snap Judgment
The 2014 Accord Hybrid carves out its own place among hybrid vehicles.


Toyota and hybrid are synonymous with one another, but the new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid is poised to break that link. With the new model, Honda is showing that you don't need to drive a Prius to get the best fuel economy. Honda has stepped up to the plate and produced a vehicle to rival the Camry Hybrid, with a 50 mpg city rating and great styling. Not only is it pleasing on the eyes, with best-in-class fuel economy, it'll get you from A all the way to Z, leaving B far behind.

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We enjoyed our time driving new Accord Hybrid in and around San Antonio, Texas, at the official Honda-sponsored launch event. It builds upon the successes of both the gas model and the plug-in. With the introduction of the two motor system, the 2014 Accord Hybrid delivers a class-average of almost 200 horsepower, but adds great acceleration off the line, which is something the majority of its competitors can't say.

With the success of the Accord and Accord Plug-In, Honda hopes the addition of the Accord Hybrid will push out the current segment leader, Toyota, and claim the top spot as the best-selling midsize sedan. Other competitors have stepped up to the plate but haven't been able to match the Camry in sales, but with the new Accord Hybrid, it might be enough to push the sales numbers high enough to close the small gap. Even with all this hype, we wanted to sit behind the wheel and see for ourselves if the new Honda Accord Hybrid was not only worth $31,905 price tag on the EX-L model we drove, but also if it could reach its estimated fuel economy figures.

Walkaround

The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid shares the same lines and curves as the rest of the Accord lineup, but with a few details exclusive to the hybrid model. Hybrid badges have been placed around the exterior, the grille and LED taillights feature blue accents, the 17-inch wheel are exclusive to the Hybrid, and a rear air diffuser and spoiler on the trunk are to help improve aerodynamics. Take away these details and you're left with the stylish exterior of the standard Accord model.

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With the exclusive hybrid features, the new Accord has a more sophisticated air and a sense of refinement. Although the automaker didn't push any boundaries when styling the new hybrid, Honda has definitely listened to customer feedback about past and present Accord models to bring forth what is sure to be a strong seller in its segment when it hits the market.

Sitting Down

The hybrid distinctions continue inside the cabin, with unique gauges and gloss black accents seen on the steering wheel, surrounding the infotainment system, and around the shift knob. Looking closely, there's a definite "sparkle" to the gloss black finish, giving the Accord Hybrid an almost feminine feel...we can't imagine many men would choose to have their cars sparkle, although it's not terribly noticeable.

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Immediately your eyes are drawn to the dual-screen infotainment display. There are both buttons and knobs, while the lower screen retains its touchscreen features. Using the controls, though, proved to be less intuitive than we thought.

When switching between what's displayed on the top screen, it's hard using the buttons and knobs on the infotainment system. However, it was much easier using the button on the top left of the steering wheel above the audio controls; push it repeatedly to cycle through until you're at the screen you want. Doing that by the actual infotainment controls had us pushing buttons, turning knobs, and getting nowhere. Other than that, the radio, phone, and other controls were very fluid and didn't give us a headache trying to figure them out.

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The seats were comfortable and firm, and provided ample support when driving for extended periods of time. The front passenger seat was accommodating, even to taller passengers. The back seat, though, left much to be desired. Positioning the seats self-behind self, I had maybe an inch between my knees and the seat in front of me. However, with the seats moved forward a few inches, the back row had more legroom that would accommodate the majority of passengers.

Because of the battery placement, the trunk was surprisingly small. I'd be amazed if it could hold more than one suitcase at a time. With the lack of cargo room, some of the Accord Hybrid's competitors may end up stealing some customers. The Toyota Camry Hybrid alone has notably bigger cargo room than the Accord Hybrid, and if Honda wants its newest model to be the complete package, it may need to find a way to make that trunk bigger.

Driving

Looking at the hybrid vehicles currently in this segment, there aren't many that can say they can offer strong performance while maintaining high mpg. The 2014 Honda Accord steps in front of its competition by offering quick acceleration, while still achieving an EPA-estimated 50 mpg city. Right off the line, the two-motor system from Honda kicks in and has the Accord up to the speed of traffic in no time at all. Although it may be louder than some of its competitors, having that added power is a huge benefit when needing to make quick maneuvers or rapidly merge with fast-moving traffic. With 196 horsepower, we'd expect no less from the Honda Accord Hybrid.

At first, the brakes were a little touchy, but once used to them, they were precise and firm. While driving down the highway in San Antonio, Texas, the Honda Accord Hybrid felt right at home. It took in all road conditions and performed well above expectations. The only issue we had was hitting that mpg number when driving on the city streets. Set up for an mpg challenge, we were given a loop that would give us the best opportunity to see just how high we could get that number to climb.

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While there were two people who stood out among the crowd by reaching more than 80 mpg, we failed to even get close to that number; we managed about 55 mpg by turning off the air conditioning and coasting when we could, but that number dropped below 50 mpg when we got stuck in traffic. That's still pretty impressive, and it just goes to show that driving habits play a big part in fuel efficiency. After hearing the astronomical numbers of others in our driving group, we definitely want to get behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid on our home turf and see if we can recreate their results.

Summary

Strictly looking at price, the Honda Accord Hybrid is definitely one of the more expensive hybrids in its segment. However, this may be a case of "you get what you pay for." Honda has outdone itself to deliver a great vehicle. With one of the highest mpg ratings on a non-plugin hybrid model, the new Accord should be at the top of any hybrid shopper's list. The only real downside we could find about the new model was its relatively small trunk, and legroom in the back seat. Compared to the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Accord feels fresh and offers more power off the line. We have a feeling that when the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid goes on sale, people will be lining up outside dealers for their chance behind the wheel.

Basic Specs

2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder, continuously variable automatic transmission, 196-hp, $31,905, 50 mpg city/45 mpg hwy

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