Auto focus

Accord Hybrid delivers on its green promise; could be weighed down by the import tag

S Muralidhar | Updated on March 12, 2018

BL21_Auto2_Accord11

BL21_Auto2_Accord10

Test_drive

Honda is finally bringing back its flagship sedan in its hybrid avatar. And it looks very promising

The last time Honda brought a hybrid to India, it was a bit early for its times. The fully imported Civic Hybrid was inevitably overpriced for a model whose fossil fuel cousin was almost half the prevailing price then. Honda had to settle for a distress sale of the remaining Civic hybrids before the model itself was discontinued from the Indian market.

The market scenario has changed since, and hybrids are now coming into their own. More and more buyers are choosing hybrids, probably in an attempt at ridding themselves of some of the guilt as polluters elsewhere in their lives. But, importantly, they are buying hybrids even if they don't qualify for incentives under the FAME (faster adoption and manufacturing of electrics and hybrids) scheme.

That is still good news for Honda which is planning to launch the new Accord Hybrid here later this month. This ninth generation Accord's hybrid version will be an import and will not qualify for the FAME scheme incentive. But, Honda is probably better off launching the hybrid rather than the regular petrol Accord given that the competition in the ₹20 lakh plus price segment is so intense. The Hybrid Accord's novelty factor will give it an edge.

Design

Ever since our love affair with the Honda CR-V ended with that odd rear end of the current generation, the Accord has been our favourite. Even the previous generation Accord had an air of sophistication and plushness to it, though it was not exactly the most aerodynamic or exciting in its class. But, the new, ninth generation Accord's design is quite a change. It has more character and is more aerodynamic with more than just an intent to capture efficiencies.

The 2017 Accord Hybrid is the top of the line in the model range and it gets even more equipment. Acres of chrome trim and lots of LEDs make sure you'll identify its rank in the portfolio. And the blue tinged lamps are intentional give aways which point to its hybrid heart. The entire front design of the Accord Hybrid features a more sculpted look, and the grille is bolder with a chunkier front grille in chrome. Arrays of LEDs in the headlamp, daytime running lights (DRLs) and the fog lamps give it a futuristic touch.

The waistline of this new generation Accord has been lowered and there are more than the usual (for Honda) number of body side lines giving it a sleeker profile. The rear features an integrated trunk spoiler and more sculpted panels. Tail lamps with LED tubes and more chrome boost the rear-end's design appeal. 18-inch wheels fill out the wheel arches nicely. Since the quality of the surface is relatively poor, the India-spec Hybrid gets regular road tyres with some low-resistance features, versus the American spec which sports tyres with special compound for ultra low rolling resistance.

The interior of the new Accord Hybrid is a step up from the interior of the previous generation Accord. Leather upholstery in a pleasing ivory shade, and faux wood inserts on the dashboard and the steering wheel boost the general air of plushness in the cabin. The centre stack has a 7-inch touchscreen display audio system, but there is another intelligent MID positioned on top of this. To add more futuristic touches for the hybrid, the analog instrument cluster gets the addition of a digital white-on-black display for driver information.

The seats are comfy and supposedly feature a design to secure the driver while cornering and reduce the risk of neck injuries. The level of room in the Accord has always been good and this new one didn't disappoint us. The rear leg room is good (up 15mm compared to previous gen) and the soft, cushiony armrest is perfect for long drives. The boot is not as big as the regular Accord, because the battery pack is positioned right behind and under the rear seat. But, trunk capacity is not too bad at about 14 cubic feet.

Performance

This 2017 Accord Hybrid follows the same essential principle of the previous generation's two motor hybrid powertrain featuring intelligent multi-mode drive (i-MMD). This is not a plug-in hybrid, but the other big difference with the Accord hybrid is the fact that the petrol engine behaves like a generator to charge the battery pack or to power the electric motor directly.

The three main components of the hybrid system are the two-litre, 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine, the electric generator and the electric motor. The 1,993cc engine alone generates only 145PS of peak power and 175Nm of peak torque. But the combined engine and propulsion motor's output can be as high 215PS and 315Nm of torque. The i-MMD uses three operating modes, which Honda calls EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive. The petrol engine operates as generator for most of the drive cycle, where the car is operating in hybrid drive mode. So, the engine is supplying electric power to the lithium-ion batteries and the electric propulsion motor is powering the front axle. The EV mode is when the batteries are solely powering the motor and that is usually when you start the car and gradually accelerate. EV drive mode range is barely two kilometres. During high-speed cruising the Accord can operate solely on petrol power, while the engine is decoupled from the drivetrain to reduce friction while in EV mode. Rated fuel efficiency is 23.1 kmpl.

The choice of transmission is also unique with the Accord Hybrid. The E-CVT (electric continuously variable transmission) works in coordination with the intelligent power unit to operate the entire system of motors, generators and engine. That is a lot of mumbo-jumbo to say that the most optimum operating mode is chosen to provide motive power to the wheels from either of the two sources - battery or engine. Proprietary algorithms that are matched constantly based on available battery charge and driver inputs will be used to decide the amount and source of power. There is of course regenerative braking for capturing efficiencies and recharging the battery pack during deceleration. Since the engine is used exclusively only during high-speed cruising, it doesn't need the conventional 5 or 6 speed gears, it simply gets one top gear.

Bottom Line

We test drove the Accord Hybrid earlier this week in Hyderabad. There is much to like about its exterior design. The cabin is comfy and much improved over the predecessor conventional fuel Accord, which has sold over 27,000 units in India. Yet, the perceived premium of competitor Toyota Camry Hybrid's interior may still be a bit higher.

The Accord Hybrid's overall refinement levels are excellent, including one of the quietest cabins not just in EV mode, but also while you are gradually accelerating into high two-digit speeds. In fact, often it is quite even outside to a point where Honda engineers have installed a sound emitting device under the bonnet to warn pedestrians. But, under hard acceleration, the i-VTEC engine does tend to get noisy. It also sounds a bit odd since there are no gear changes. Apparently, there is an active noise control system in operation through the audio system.

The steering is expectedly over-assisted at slow speeds, but though it is lacking in feedback at high speeds, it is quite precise. Ride quality is good with a fairly dynamic and firm suspension set up. There is a whole bunch safety features including six airbags, stability control, brake assist etc. There are a number of other automatic functions that have now become quite common in entry luxury cars.

The two features that Indian buyers will love are remote engine start and the blind spot camera. Honda calls it 'LaneWatch', and it offers the driver a view of the blind spot on the left either automatically every time the turn indicator is engaged or even by manually flicking a button on the stalk.

We expect the 2017 Accord Hybrid to be priced in the ₹33 to ₹35 lakh range. It is likely to be launched with just one trim level. The Camry Hybrid finally gets some serious competition.

Published on October 20, 2016

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

null
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor