Honda Accord PHEV

Styling

When Honda began selling the plug-in version of the Accord in January 2013, the model became the most popular passenger vehicle platform yet to offer a plug-in option. The market for plug-in vehicles so far has mostly focused on new and unfamiliar vehicles, such as the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi i-MiEV—or the rock star of EVs, the Tesla Model S.

These models feature some of the market’s most compelling features and benefits, but their novelty (and in some cases unconventional design) puts them on unfamiliar ground. It’s tough to sell cars that people don’t see everyday—or don’t view as attractive and accessible.

The Accord, on the other hand, is about as accessible as you can get. The Honda Accord is usually among the top five most popular passenger vehicles in America. It has a straightforward uncluttered design, spacious interior, and great overall reputation for quality. In short, it's everything a mainstream car buyer would want from a midsize family sedan—and with the plug-in version, it can now travel purely on electricity (essentially just like an electric car) for much of your local driving.

The Accord PHEV is based on the Touring trim level of standard Accord Sedan, and adds a few unique styling cues. The front fascia is enlarged with a turquoise chrome piece. It also features a pair of octagonal headlamps. Other features unique aerodynamic wheels—although a little bit plasticky looking—as well as a chrome and blue hybrid logo on the charging port door and rear bumper along with. The vehicle is available in three exterior colors, including two standard Accord shades (White Orchid Pearl and Crystal Black Pearl) plus a model-exclusive Burnished Silver Metallic.

Nobody will claim that the Accord has an edgy or sexy design. But you could call it intelligent and user-friendly, and those are the traits that most drivers want. This is arguably the most accessible plug-in hybrid vehicle to hit the market.

Honda Accord PHEV

Performance

Car and Driver magazine said the plug-in Accord’s system is smooth, efficient, and reasonably peppy, accelerating to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and covering the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 88 mph. “That makes the Accord the quickest PHEV on the market.” Even at that level, the performance will not exactly get your heart pumping. But it certainly is no wimp.

The handling is competent and the ride is smooth and quiet—but critics believe the steering has an overly numb and light feeling. The Accord Plug-in’s regenerative brakes are smooth, which is a step up from the grabby brake feel of many hybrid cars on the road today.

The powertrain features an I-VTEC 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine coupled with a two-motor hybrid drive system. The hybrid system uses a 124-kW electric motor powered by a 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Total horsepower is listed at 196, which beats the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Chevrolet Volt, and Ford Fusion Energi on power.

Honda engineers deserve kudos when you consider that despite the extra oomph, the plug-in Accord is rated above the competition for efficiency.

Efficiency/Range

The Accord-with-plug gets the highest EPA MPGe rating in its class with a 115 MPGe score. On a full charge, the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid has an all-electric EV range of 13 miles and a fuel-economy rating of 47/46/46 mpg (city/highway/combined).

The ability to enjoy a market-leading 115 MPGe while traveling on electricity—rather than the 47 mpg in hybrid mode (still impressive)—entirely depends on how long your commute distances are, and how often you can recharge.

If you can charge up overnight, banking enough energy for a daily commute of a dozen or so miles the next day, and then charge again at work for the return trip, you will likely experience triple-digit mileage—and little to no tailpipe emissions.

However, if you are frequently taking trips of 30 or 40 miles, or even more, then the plug-in hybrid Accord will operate more like a conventional hybrid, with only occasional breaks from using gasoline. In the latter scenario, average mileage from the midsize sedan could reach well into the 50-MPG range—although not the stellar efficiency of a car that operates more regularly on electricity.

Solo drivers of the Accord Plug-in Hybrid qualify for entry into California carpool lanes (if issued the appropriate decals).

Honda Accord PHEV

Charging

The Accord Plug-in’s relatively small 6.7 kWh battery might only provide about 13 miles on electric power alone. That’s the down side. But you should also consider that a smaller pack doesn't take as long to fully recharge.

Using a standard household outlet, an empty battery pack on the Accord Plug-in can fully recharge in around three hours. While a 240-volt home charging station is not entirely necessary, it can top up the Accord’s battery in one hour's time.

Electric car batteries are expensive, so from one perspective, it's good to use the full capacity of its batteries as much as possible—rather than spending a lot of money for a bigger pack that is infrequently utilized to its full capacity. Of course, this theoretical argument for an economic advantage does not bear out in terms of a cheaper sticker price the Accord Plug-in Hybrid.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The Accord platform gets high marks for an upscale well-made interior and a simple easy-to-use instrument panel. The sedan has heated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat. Not everybody will like the feel and look of the upholstery—what Honda calls Bio-Fabric. Check it out for yourself. But that's not the real problem of the Accord’s interior.

The big issue is lack of cargo space. Honda engineers filled the trunk with batteries, reducing the storage capacity from 15.5 cubic feet in the gas-powered Accord Touring model down to 8.6 cubic feet. The Ford Fusion Energi has even less trunk space at 8.2 cubic feet, but the Toyota Prius Plug-in manages to keep its 21.6 cubic feet of room. This limitation could mean trouble when it comes to trips to Costco, or loading up several suitcases on the way to the airport.

Honda Accord PHEV

The Honda Accord Plug-in comes standard with features like dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a multi-angle rearview camera, an 8-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging capability, push-button start, adaptive cruise control, the HondaLink multimedia and telematics system, a six-speaker CD audio system, a touch screen for the audio system, Pandora Internet radio capability and USB and auxiliary audio jacks.

Safety

The 2014 Accord PHEV is among the safest cars on the road. The Accord PHEV is earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and 5-Star ratings in federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests.

A standard but innovative safety feature is Honda’s LaneWatch system, which uses a camera mounted under the passenger side mirror to show the traffic in the right lane behind the vehicle using the car’s central 8-inch screen. The feature is activated when the right lane signal is turned on. It's a very effective way for the driver to compensate for any blind spots.

Other standard safety features include ABS brakes and stability control, as well as front-, side-, and overhead-airbags.

Price

The 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid starts at $39,780 (plus $790 in destination fees). That’s fairly pricey, but the federal tax credit is $3,750, with an additional $1,500 rebate offered in California. The Accord Plug-in Hybrid is also available for lease at $429 a month for 36 months; $2,499 total due at signing; option to purchase at lease end at $20,285.

The 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid’s starting price makes it more expensive than the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Fusion Energi and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

For comparison, the smaller four-seat Chevy Volt has been available at lease rates as low as $159 per month with $0 down payment, even though Chevrolet's standard three-year lease for the Volt is listed at $299 per month with $1,529 due at signing.

The other tough aspect of the Accord Plug-in Hybrid’s pricing is a comparison of the plug-in version versus a well-equipped conventional gas-powered Accord, which costs about six grand less. According to Car and Driver magazine, “If you drive 10,000 miles in 20-mile chunks, with a full charge between each one, the plug-in will save you about $750. At that rate, you'll break even after 80,000 miles. That rate of payback will have to improve before the plug-in becomes as mainstream as the rest of its Accord siblings."

Comparisons of Similar Cars

The Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid joins the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Ford C-Max Energi, Cadillac ELR, and Ford Fusion Energi in the plug-in hybrid market.

Given the size, and mainstream look of the Accord, we believe that its only real competitor is the plug-in version of the Ford Fusion. (Some consumers would also include the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, but the design of that vehicle is decidedly geeky, rather than middle-of-the-road like the Accord.)

Compared to the Fusion, the Accord Plug-in Hybrid is more efficient overall, but provides fewer miles of all-electric range. Whereas the Fusion Energi has a 7.6 kWh battery pack that offers about 20 miles of pure electric driving, the Accord and its smaller 6.7 kWh pack, only manages about a dozen miles pure EV driving.

Furthermore, as discussed above, the Accord is more likely too blend gasoline and electricity than the Fusion. At the end of the day, overall efficiency matters more, so the Accord is the winner for those most concerned about reducing energy consumption.

Keep in mind, though, the Accord is a more expensive vehicle, and is only available at dealerships in New York in California.

Purchase Process

Shoppers interested in the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid—and living in either New York or California—can use Honda's "Find a Dealer" tool to identify a local dealership offering the vehicle. The dealer locator is available on this Honda website:
http://automobiles.honda.com/tools/dealer-locator/

2015 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $40700
Est. tax credit: $3700
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 13 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 7 kWh
Charging rate: 6.6 kW


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