Jul 302017
 

Despite predictions to the contrary, gasoline-electric hybrids have carved a niche in the automotive industry. According to hybridcars.com, the first to market in the United States in this segment was Honda with the 1999 Insight. Since then, the Insight has come and gone, twice, but Honda continues to bring hybrids to the lineup. I spent three months in the 2017 Accord Hybrid Touring for Latino Traffic Report and the most important thing to know is that this hybrid saves gas, in fact it’s the best in the segment.

Long-term test drives beg for a car to be driven, so I did, more than 5,000 miles over Texas highways, to small towns, like Burnet and Bryan, and big cities, like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. It’s a comfy ride over the long haul and nimble enough to scoot through traffic.

While its fuel economy is stellar, the hybrid’s styling also deserves a mention. Redesigned for 2016, the Accord took on a more sculpted, angular appearance, Marking the Accord’s fortieth anniversary, Honda introduced its sibling, the hybrid that benefits from the Accord’s new look while adding enhancements under the hood.

At the heart of its fuel saving ability is its two-motor hybrid system combined with an ultra-efficient 2.0-liter i-VTEC Atkinson Cycle engine and matched to an electric continuously variable transmission. It achieves a peak-combined output of 212 horsepower, the highest of any midsize hybrid sedan.

Initially, the test model proved to be more fuel efficient in cities than on highways, which is as is should be according to its EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 49 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 47 mpg on the highway. Over time, however, fuel economy on the highway also improved, especially with cruise control engaged. I averaged about 48.5 mpg in three months—city and highway combined. When it comes to cost, I spent more than $300 on gasoline.

I engaged the Econ button that can be used at all times, as well as an EV button that operates the hybrid on electric power for small distances, to maximize efficiency. For more power, I pushed the Sport mode button that gave the hybrid better acceleration.

Displays in the instrument cluster and center stack, including a seven-inch touchscreen, helped me maintain gas saving driving habits, like coasting and accelerating smoothly from a stop. While I found them to be helpful, they also raised a little anxiety when the fuel economy slipped.

All Accord Hybrids come with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety features with advanced technology like forward collision warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control that allows the driver to set a distance behind a vehicle that cruise control maintains, automatically.

I never grew accustomed to Honda’s LaneWatch camera, also standard, that can be engaged with the turn signal to view the blind spot on the right. The picture wasn’t that clear, especially at night, and focusing made it distracting. A blind spot monitor, available on other Honda models, would be preferable.

Creature comforts included Ivory leather seats, with heated seats in the front and back, navigation, dual-zone climate control (Honda seems to have addressed the air conditioning system’s habit of fading at stops in previous hybrids), a moonroof, and a multi-view back-up camera. I got used to the lack of knobs for volume control and put the CD player and the MP3 USB port to good use on several road trips.

Pricing for the Accord starts at $30,480. Pricing for the as-tested 2017 Accord Hybrid was $36,790.

Sí: The Accord Hybrid Touring achieved what’s expected of a hybrid, it saved gas, but it also came in a handsome package with nice creature comforts.

No: Honda LaneWatch just doesn’t have the intuitiveness of a blind spot warning system and the lack of clarity on the screen is distracting.

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