Honda Accord Sport Hybrid road test
THINK back about 15 years and things were vastly different in the automotive landscape.
The new gadgets in vogue were air-conditioning, power steering and central locking. Then there was Honda blazing a new-age trail.
Honda stormed into the hybrid scene with its Civic Hybrid, being the first brand to bring the concept to Australia.
Not long after we saw Honda's hybrids evolve, including the sexy little CR-Z which earned the title of Wheels Car of the Year.
But nothing from Honda has taken hold with Toyota Prius-like success, not helped by a range of financial and natural disaster challenges, and while the marque is now expected to begin exploring plug-in hybrids and hydrogen power, this Accord Sport Hybrid has arrived to maintain a green edge in Australia.
Pitched at the high-end luxury market with a price-tag just short of $60,000, Honda has set the sedan a big challenge.
"It's an old person's car…" The eight-year-old's assessment of the cabin is probably not one for the brochure.
The evaluation was due to the large well-labelled dials, various screens and benign woodgrain styling across the dash.
Working in its favour is the ease of cabin use, with a touch-screen for stereo functions while sitting above that is an eight-inch screen for sat nav and various other functions which you navigate through via a circular dial.
Perhaps showing my mature nature, the layout became likeable for its common-sense operation, and the driver has a great, concise speedo.
Across the back pew there is enough space for three adults. Most will find the head, leg and knee room generous.
On the road
Falling short of its "Sport" nomenclature when it comes to pure acceleration, the Hybrid remains a responsive drive.
Generating a variety of sounds, ranging from a Jetsons-like whirl to the traditional combustion engine, it performs with impressive all-round ability.
From start-up and under little acceleration load, it will remain in full electric drive with pure battery power, but it then shifts seamlessly into "Hybrid Drive" when the electric motor and petrol engine (that drives the generator motor) combine efforts. Then there are occasions when it operates completely on engine power.
How it all works is sophisticated and brilliant technology, but most importantly for the driver it requires no input other than normal driving. You are rewarded for gentle driving, with light acceleration and regenerative braking all helping make the most of hybrid modes.
The Accord Hybrid doesn't mind a corner either, and you can throw it at bends with confidence. Steering feel is pretty good, although the turning circle is large and we often needed a couple of goes at parking while our traditional U-turns became three-point turns.
The ride is extremely good, doing a great soft of soaking up potholes and sharp intrusions such as railway tracks.
What do you get?
There is no shortage of kit, including 18-inch alloys, leather trim, rain-sensing wipers and automatic lights, active cornering lights which point the direction you steer, push-button start, sunroof, full Bluetooth connectivity and sat nav.
Last time we drove an Accord we were disappointed with all the safety gizmos and were critical of their use in real-world driving. Not so on this occasion as the outstanding array of passive and active equipment worked seamlessly.
The blind-spot camera which shows vision on the left-hand side of the vehicle when the indicator operates is excellent, lane-keep assist stops your straying from the lane, radar cruise control works beautifully and the collision mitigation system first sends warning if a frontal crash is imminent via alarm and yellow flashing light within the instrument binnacle.
The key competition comes from the larger Lexus ES300h Luxury ($60,500), but possibly from the electric-powered BMW i3 ($63,900), and also from non-hybrids like the Mercedes-Benz C200 ($60,900), Hyundai Genesis ($60,000) and Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Ambition ($57,100).
The battery located behind the rear seat does encroach on boot space. You still get a reasonable 415 litres (34 of those are under the floor) but the rear seat-backs can't fold.
Notching more than 500km for our test, we still had more than half a tank left. Getting 1000km between trips to the bowser is absolutely achievable and you don't need to drive like a grandfather on valium.
Capped-price servicing is available, but when it comes to depreciation the Hybrid may not fare as well as stablemates.
While based on the petrol variant, the Hybrid gets some additional external treatments. Riding on 18-inch wheels, it has a blue-accented upper grille, blue-accented headlights and tail-lights, and the lower rear fascia is designed for aerodynamic advantage.
The Accord Hybrid cuts a fine figure, particularly with its chiselled lines in profile.
There is so much right about the Honda Accord Hybrid.
Offering efficiency and brilliant technology, a strong specification list, luxurious finishes and brand credibility, the only area where it suffers is pricing.
At nearly $60,000 you're in prestige territory, and it's hard to see buyers overlooking some offerings from Mercedes-Benz, Audi or BMW to get the hybrid technology.
What matters most
What we liked: Impressive drivetrain, specification list, cool safety gizmos.
What we'd like to see: Pricing slashed to broaden appeal, improved turning circle, drop-down rear seats.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty (battery has an eight-year warranty). Capped price servicing is available for 100,000km at an average price of $309, servicing intervals are 12-months/10,000km.
Model: Honda Accord Sport Hybrid.
Details: Four-door five-seat front-wheel drive hybrid sedan.
Engine: 2.0 litre in-line four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle petrol generating 105kW @ 6200rpm and peak torque of 165Nm @ 4000rpm, a 124kW electric motor and a supplementary generator motor, paired to a 1.3 kWh Li-Ion battery delivering total output of 146kW and 307Nm.
Transmission: Electronic continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 4.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: $58,990.