Honda Accord Hybrid — The best of the best

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It's the best of times for people shopping mid-sized family sedans. They have a wealth of choices. In fact, it's hard to go wrong when finally reaching a decision with worthy candidates from virtually every manufacturer selling cars in the United States. All of them have numerous redeeming traits. That makes build quality, reliability and resale value even more important, and Honda has excelled with the Accord.

Perhaps most important Honda has improved such unseen things as strengthening structure reinforcements, tuning up the suspension for better handling, and reworking the transmission in 2017 Accord to deliver more performance. And, perhaps best of all, the Accord Hybrid returns for 2017 after a one-year hiatus with notable improvements including more power, improved fuel economy and a new assortment of standard driver safety features.

The revised 2.0-liter gasoline-electric powertrain in the Hybrid now generates a stout 212 horsepower and returns slightly better fuel economy checking in at 48 mpg in combined driving despite more stringent EPA guidelines for 2017. There's also a physically smaller lithium-ion battery pack this year without compromising performance.

Total system EPA numbers for the Hybrid are 49 mpg city, 47-highway and 48 overall, delivered to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. These are astounding numbers when you figure that you can drive this car like any other sedan — no need for hypermiling skills. We achieved an overall average of 46.8 driving with our normal rambunctious driving style.

At the same time, the Accord Hybrid is no slouch on the road with the capability of reaching 60 mph in 7.2 seconds with a quarter mile time of 15.8 seconds at 89 mph. That's faster than virtually all four-cylinder family sedans, giving the new Honda a very satisfying on-road demeanor. One notable trait — brake pedal feel has been sorted out and is outstanding compared to typical hybrid.

But the usual hybrid bugaboo comes into play with the Accord — does the increased gas mileage overcome the extra cost of the car over a comparable gas engine model especially in our current state of relatively low gas prices? The price difference isn't too extreme with the Accord. For instance, our loaded top-of-the line Touring Hybrid test car came in with a bottom line of $36,790 while the loaded Touring with the potent V-6 came at just a thousand dollars cheaper.

As good as the hybrid has become, buyers on a budget will find excellent gas mileage and solid performance from the standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine making 185 horsepower. We found the continuously variable transmission CVT to be as good as any in the segment with well designated simulated shifts. Gas mileage is measured at 27-city, 37-highway and 31 overall. The bottom line here is that most people won't know — or care — they are driving a CVT, but will be impressed with solid performance measured at about 7.5 seconds from 0-to-60.

And we discovered the top-line V-6 Touring model might be just the ticket for people who prefer power and luxury offering virtually everything found in entry level luxury vehicles including a quiet cabin, a well-mannered ride, the performance of an upscale luxury car and the creature comforts associated with Lexus, Acura and Infiniti at a no-options-necessary bottom line price of about $35,500.

The real heart and soul of the Touring is the lusty 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 278 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission. It's satisfyingly quick, measured at 5.7 seconds from 0-to-60, the fastest sedan in the mid-sized segment. At the same time gas mileage is exemplary, rated at 21 mpg city, 34-highway and 26 combined. We simply couldn't ask more from a family sedan.

The Accord's styling was upgraded in 2016 getting a more sharply creased and contoured aluminum hood replacing the steel version on earlier models that meets up with a brighter, more pronounced front grille. The new more expressive face of Accord is complimented by a sharply sculpted rear bumper fascia and new LED taillight design.

Such niceties as leather upholstery, driver-seat memory functions, heated front and outboard rear seats, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, a seven-speaker sound system, an outstanding rearview camera, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integrated into the Display Audio system are all included in the package of standard features. And the Honda Sensing package is also part of the Touring trim level. It includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning and intervention with automatic braking.

If you are intrigued by the fuel efficiency and performance of the hybrid, it starts at a well-equipped $33,740 including destination charge for the EX-L sedan.

Base price: $33,740; as driven, $36,790
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 2 electric motors
Horsepower: total — 212 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque:  232 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 194.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,483 pounds
Turning circle: 38.2 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 49 city, 47 highway, 48 overall
0-60: 7.2 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Camry hybrid, Hyundai Sonata hybrid, Ford Fusion hybrid

The Good
• Best-in-class fuel economy
• Abundant standard safety
• Excellent acceleration for a hybrid

The Bad
• Touchscreen can be frustrating

The Ugly
• No fold-down rear seat