Honda’s flagship saloon, the Accord, is once again set to enter our market in its ninth generation form that was previewed at the 2016 Delhi Auto Expo. Honda earlier pulled the plug on the Accord in 2013 due to spiralling petrol prices and dwindling sales thanks to the diesel onslaught of segment competitors. However, this time around, Honda plans to take a different stand through its eco-friendly approach and introduce the new Accord Hybrid saloon to our market via the CBU route to compete with the likes of the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
We drove the new Accord Hybrid in Hyderabad and here are our first impressions.
There’s no big surprises here, and one glance is more than enough for one to suffice that the design cues of the Accord Hybrid has evolved from the earlier design. It is wider, sharper and bigger than the previous generation, and in profile reveals the prominent creases running along the body panels, the sleek steel-black combo alloys and the curvy roofline. Smart incorporation of cameras in the door mirrors relay the view of the lane on the screen when the indicators are in use, and gives a much wider perspective than what the mirrors tend to offer.
Move on to the rear portion of the Accord Hybrid and one will appreciate the simple yet elegant lines around the bumper and compact boot lid that has an integrated spoiler. A thick chrome trim is seen highlighting the section between the tail lamps and even the reflectors below are separated by a neat chrome strip. With so much chrome splashed across all ends, it lends an unmistakeable premium feel to the entire package.
The interiors of the Accord is characterised by a premium looking dual tone dashboard in black and cream, and silver trim bordering the air-con vents which are split apart by the infotainment screen. Above this is another display that depicts information on the various hybrid functions of this vehicle. Behind the chunky multifunctional steering that offers good grip is the digital instrument panel which prominently displays a large speedometer with battery levels and charging information.
While the seats up front have the right amount of contours and cushioning to offer great body support, the passenger seat does not have height adjust and is placed a little low. Inspite of there being ample legroom, a little more thigh support would have been great. Slide on to the rear seats and you immediately experience the brilliant thigh support and loads of knee room. Though head room for tall passengers is suspect, the cushioning and inclination on these seats make for an extremely comfortable experience.
In addition to the vents between the front seats is a long vents seen along the left side of the rear seats next to the door. Also, the bulging seat, protruding arm rest and wide transmission tunnel will not make the middle passenger feel comfortable. That said, the battery pack eats into the depth of the boot and as a result you get 424litres, however, it should not be a concern as this saloon is meant to be an urban commute.
On the features front, Honda’s Accord Hybrid gets LED headlamps, disc brakes all around, rain-sensing wipers, electric sunroof, remote pre-cooling and pre-heating function, and dual-zone auto air-con. There’s two screens, an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote start, six airbags, ABS, stability control, traction control and lane watch assist, to name a few.
Under the hood of Honda’s new Accord Hybrid is the 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle i-VTEC petrol motor that produces 145bhp and works in close association with a 1.3 kWh Li-Ion battery pack and two electric motors to make a collective power output of 215bhp. Power to the wheels from the petrol motor is governed by the electronic CVT and the system called Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) has three modes called ‘EV drive’, ‘Hybrid drive’, and ‘Engine drive’.
EV drive mode is where pure electric power helps the Accord Hybrid run like an electric locomotive for a maximum of 1km and it feels absolutely silent thanks to the petrol motor being dormant. As speeds pick up, the Hybrid drive mode is activated where the petrol motor starts up seamlessly and creates enough power for the generator to run the electric motor, and charge the battery. Shift into Sport mode here and one will relish the nice build-up of momentum as this saloon gains pace rapidly. Reactions to the throttle inputs are greeted by the powerplant with quick responses thanks to the electric motor’s extra feed, and one will find the performance to be more than sufficient for most situations.
Shift into engine drive mode and only the petrol engine powers the wheels between speeds of 70kmph and 100kmph, beyond which the system automatically kicks it into hybrid mode. As there’s only a relatively narrow speed range for the petrol motor to deal with (in isolation), the e-CVT transmission makes do with the equivalent of an overdrive gear. Thanks to the e-CVT gearbox, you get a nice and linear acceleration without any jerks making for a comfortable drive. But we noticed that there is the typical rubber band effect from this transmission when you floor the throttle. Here, doing this the engine revs stay high, but thankfully the cabin insulation does a good job of suppressing the noise. Nevertheless, part throttle is where the Accord Hybrid feels the best which makes it ideal for daily commutes. Although we expect this powerplant to be efficient we noticed the on board trip computer showing 19-20kmpl!
As far as chassis and suspension is concerned, Honda has confirmed that the rear suspension setup is identical to the earlier generation car. However, Honda a made a lot of changes to the front suspension and the monocoque to increase rigidity and to meet the American safety regulations. On the road, one will immediately notice that the Accord Hybrid’s suspension has been tuned more for comfort and this setup makes sure that the occupants get a soft ride but we did notice that the bigger bumps made the rear seat experience quite bumpy. At higher speeds there’s a constant up and down motion which is even more pronounced in the rear. On the other hand, the feedback from the light electric power steering is precise for legal speeds and weighs up appropriately as momentum rises. Although straight line stability is good we couldn’t judge the way this car might handle around twisty sections as roads around Hyderabad were mostly straight. That said, braking feel and feedback from the pedal was accurate and inspired confidence.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||215|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||315|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||60|
|Tyre size||225/60 R18|
|LED head lamps||Yes|
|Remote pre-cooling and pre-heating function||Yes|
|Dual zone air-con||Yes|
|Lane watch assist||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||215||205|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||315||213|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||60||65|
|Tyre size||225/60 R18||215/55 R17|
So there you have it, Honda’s luxury saloon is back and is better than ever before, offering loads of comfort, Honda’s peace of mind ownership experience, long list of standard features and impressive build quality. Since it now comes with that extra pinch of frugality thanks to the hybrid system which makes it even more alluring. So the main question mark that remains is the price. Though it will rival the locally assembled Toyota Camry Hybrid, we expect the Accord Hybrid to be priced much higher being a CBU. Come 25th of October, 2016, we will get a clearer picture of what’s in store for the Accord Hybrid.
Pictures: Ameya Dandekar