First Look: 2013 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid

By Blake Z. Rong | September 06, 2012
Honda's new Accord could be the biggest new car debut this year. This ninth-generation Accord gets completely redesigned: bigger on the inside, smaller on the outside, with more power and features and practicality to virtually assure it a whole heap of awards. And for 2013, we see the return of the hybrid Accord—conspicuously absent last time, it joins the lineup among four total drivetrains: a four-cylinder, a V-6, and plug-in hybrid. For fuel sippers, the plug-in hybrid here comes first and fully-loaded, with a 500-mile range and the ability to drive with nothing but pure, clean, charming electricity. If you drive around town for short bursts, diligent with recharging discipline, and are blessed with a small commute, you may find yourself rarely needing a gas station. What's New This time around, there will be two Accord flavors: a plug-in hybrid with the ability to drive 15 miles on electricity only, and a conventional hybrid to follow in a few months. Honda chose the Accord Plug-In Hybrid to debut an entirely new two-mode hybrid drivetrain, infused with what it calls "Earth Dreams" goodness. It's 196 horsepower in total, pairing a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a 124kW electric motor and 6.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack underneath the rear seats.
And from the outside, the Accord is completely redesigned; it's shorter from the last model, which ballooned to full-size classifications. But due to clever packaging, Honda made the new Accord slightly more spacious with more trunk space, and it's even lighter to boot. The Accord Hybrid distinguishes itself from the regular Accord with—erm—unique styling, including blue LED accents on the front, a leering grille that extends to the lower bumper (taken from the Hyundai Sonata school of huge hybrid grilles), and 17-inch black/aluminum wheels that look like blender blades and can best be described as "efficient," instead of "attractive." At least you'll pick it out on a dealer lot. Engines and Drivetrains The electric drivetrain of the Accord Hybrid allows forward movement in electric-only, hybrid, or gasoline propulsion. In electric-only mode, the Accord hybrid can drive somewhere between 10 or 15 miles; with a full tank, it has a total range of over 500 miles—final figures have not been released yet. That's achieved in part with a fuel efficiency equivalent of over 100 MPGe—again, final figures and all that. Charging? With a household 120-volt port, Honda says that the Accord Hybrid can go from empty to full charge in 3 hours, and with the heavy-duty 240-volt charging station, it will take just one hour. HondaLink telematics will show how much range you'll have left, and with the smartphone app, owners can decide how to take advantage of charging times, when they'll need to charge, and where the nearest charging station is. Our Thoughts If buyers can get past the—ahem—jack-o-lantern styling of the front grille, they'll find that the Accord Hybrid sacrifices little for its drivetrain: everything else is still pure Honda, and pure Accord at that. The Hybrid will be available in the top of the line Touring trim, which basically includes all of the features we detailed here. It won't be cheap, in comparison to the rest of the lineup. But before the traditional hybrid comes out, this proof-of-concept of a mainstream plug-in should be a rational choice for the eco-minded. What's more mainstream than an Accord?