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Photography by Vishnu. G. Haarinath
Honda has waited a long time to get the Accord back to India. The previous generations impressed us with the Accord’s comfort, space and performance, but the rising yen played villain in the Accord’s success here. It is a flagship sedan for Honda so compromises couldn’t be made in terms of features and equipment, pricing the sedan out of competition. Since Honda realises that this situation isn’t going to change, the new generation Accord takes a different approach – small numbers, exclusivity, hybrid powertrain and a high price. We’ll come to the price in a bit. Here are our first impressions of the luxury sedan after a short drive on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Internationally, the ninth generation Accord that is currently on sale has been around since 2012. It got a facelift earlier this year and that’s the car coming to India. This new Accord looks a lot tighter skinned than its predecessor, that was known to be a bulky sedan. While the design is an evolution and the Accord styling carries forward, everything from front bumpers to the fenders to the rear haunches and the tailgate seem to be penned with restraint, and that makes the Accord look a lot sportier now. The full-LED headlights are the highlight of new Accord though. Whether turned on or off, they look stunning and give a sense of richness to the design. The 18 inch aluminium alloy wheels are also well designed and the lip spoiler on the trunk is a nice touch. A blue accent in the headlight is the signature hybrid element and there are a bunch of hybrid badges at various locations to remind you of its green credentials.
Honda didn’t just plug in an electric motor and a battery to the standard Accord. Instead, the carmaker built a new 2-litre 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle (Atkinson-cycle engines aim to deliver more efficiency instead of power) petrol motor to work with two electric motors for this application. The new petrol engine because it was designed for much lesser load, focusing more on efficiency than anything. It makes only 143bhp and 175Nm and all the power and torque is made higher up the rev band. It may seem like the hybrid then is underpowered but it isn’t. The main role of this engine isn’t to send power to the front wheels. It instead almost all the time sends its power to run the electric generator motor. The electricity that this motor generates is sent to a propulsion motor that in turn drives the wheels. A 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery in the boot has a mere 1km range in full EV mode. It is essentially enough to get out of driveways in perfect silence, but soon enough, the petrol motor kicks in to charge it as you drive. The battery is charged and discharged constantly leading us to believe that it could impact its life during ownership but Honda says that the battery’s life cycle is equal to the car’s itself. The propulsion motor that runs the front wheels makes 181.5bhp and 315Nm. The combined output is 212bhp. Yes we know it doesn’t add up but that’s because peak power and torque for both motors aren’t made at the same engine speeds. The petrol engine and the electric motors are commanded by the CVT transmission. During start/stop conditions and initial acceleration, only the EV mode is used and then the petrol motor kicks in for more power. You also get sports mode in the Accord Hybrid that keeps the petrol engine on at all times.
Comfort and features
Honda is known for maximising occupant comfort and the Japanese carmaker has always excelled at good ergonomics. The Accord is no different. Every control falls well in place, the seats all-round are very comfortable, the front seats are electrically adjustable and the driver’s seat also has memory function. On the features front, there are two screens on the centre console, the lower one for your multimedia display. It also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The upper screen is used for i-MID, Honda’s multi-information display that can be controlled from the steering mounted controls. It doubles up as the display for the reversing camera and blind spot camera located under the left rear view mirror. You can keep the blind spot camera on at all times with the help of the switch on the indicator stalk or it turns on automatically when you turn left. Even the air conditioning adjusts itself to the side of the car that receives more sun.
With 213bhp on tap and torque from zero rpm, the Accord isn’t a slow car. It weighs a fair bit at 1620kg so don’t expect it to pin you in your seat in full bore acceleration runs but the performance is enough to maintain good pace on the highway.
Fun to drive?
A large 1.6 tonne sedan that’s built with efficiency in mind can’t be expected to be a lot of fun. The Accord Hybrid goes about its duties, gives you enough power when you need to get quickly off a traffic light and that’s about the extent you will have with it. The fun of driving the Accord Hybrid is increasing the efficiency of the car by altering your driving style if that’s what gives you kicks.
Ride quality is very good as it is set up on the softer side. A series of undulations can unsettle the car though so it is best to drive it in a relaxed manner. The electric steering doesn’t offer any feedback but it’s light enough to require absolutely no effort in turning the car. A large family car with a hybrid powertrain is expected to focus on ease of driving over the thrill of driving and that’s what the Accord Hybrid does.
We’re afraid not. The Accord Hybrid will be sold as a CBU so it won’t qualify for the tax exemptions under the FAME scheme. It is expected to be sold at a 10 lakh premium over the locally assembled Toyota Camry Hybrid, which should translate to a Rs 40 lakh ex-showroom price, and that means Honda dealerships are going to have a tough time justifying the price tag of the Accord Hybrid. That’s Mercedes-Benz C-Class money.
evo India rating
The Honda Accord Hybrid deserves a higher score for the complete package that it is. It’s comfortable, luxurious, kitted to the gills, looks expensive, and rides well, everything you want in a luxury car. But as a CBU, it slots itself into the fringes of the luxury car segment. Prices aren’t out yet so let’s hope for a pleasant surprise from Honda.