Finally, Honda has brought its new Accord to India. Yes, finally. But this isn't just any Honda Accord. This is the all-new ninth generation Accord in its Hybrid avatar - which Honda claims is the ultimate Accord, the most refined, technologically sophisticated and the most fuel efficient hybrid model in its segment.
That's a tall claim, isn't it? It is. But Honda has the rights to brag about its luxury sedan as this time it has done its homework rather well. The greener Accord has the Toyota Camry Hybrid in its sight - its only competitor here - and considering the Camry Hybrid's popularity in India, Honda had to make sure it's got the upper hand in almost every department. And to make it happen, Honda claims it has put in a lot of segment-first technologies and features into this next-gen Accord Hybrid.
High-tech, huh? Surely it'll have an engine and a battery pack. So does the Toyota Camry Hybrid. That's right, the basic formula is the same, but Honda has a different take on this whole hybrid business. Apart from the basic petrol motor and a CVT, there's a two-motor hybrid powertrain - Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) or Sport Hybrid in Honda speak - that offers three drive modes\: EV, Hybrid and Engine. We sat through an intensive technical briefing and have been given a low down of how the hybrid system works. We would be happy to extend all the knowledge we've gathered on the way the battery, the propulsion motor and the gasoline engine work in tandem. But we suggest let's just keep it simple and concentrate on the basics of how the hybrid system works.
Thank you, much appreciated The pleasure is ours. Here's the simplified version. There are three components\: a petrol engine, a generator motor and a drive motor. The petrol motor is a 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine with 143bhp and 175Nm of torque that provides power to the generator motor, which in turn feeds power into the 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that finally sends power to the 182bhp, 315Nm propulsion motor that eventually drives the front axle. And when these components come together, a class-leading 212bhp of maximum power is sent to the front wheels via an electric CVT. We'll give you a moment to take that in.
Phew. What's an electric CVT? Since the petrol motor doesn't really drive the wheels directly, there's no need for a conventional CVT with a torque converter and a mechanical pulley or a belt. Instead, the E-CVT gets two motors; one for generating power and the second one for driving. This aids better driveability and improves efficiency as well.
Okay, so if I'm driving to work, making my way through thick city traffic, I'm only using electric power at city speeds, right? Not really. It's not as easy as it seems. Simply because the electric motors, in any given hybrid car, isn't meant to be driven in pure electric mode for an extended period of time. So, purely on battery power, the Accord Hybrid can do a kilometre or two at max. And once the batteries are depleted, the system automatically switches to hybrid mode and repeats petrol motor-generator motor-battery pack-propulsion motor cycle, the same one we explained earlier.
What if I'm on the highway? As we've experienced, it's best to leave the system in default hybrid mode and let it decide what's best as per the driving needs. However, if you feel the urge to take things on the fast lane, there are Boost and Sport modes that do spice things up, especially in the latter. And then there's also an Engine Drive mode, wherein the petrol motor powers the wheels once you've attained a cruising speed of 100kph. But remember, as mentioned before, under most driving conditions, the Accord Hybrid operates as, er, a hybrid car and the system seamlessly shifts between the three drive modes. So here's a thing, let's not delve deeper into how this hybrid system works and let's concentrate on how well it works in the real world. Shall we?
Sounds like a plan Okay. So, while driving sanely, the Accord Hybrid kicks off in EV mode and switches to hybrid mode as the batteries dry up or you pick up speed. The transition from EV to Hybrid is seamless and apart from a humming sound from the motor, it's difficult to know what the hybrid system is doing. However, once you prod the throttle pedal, the engine wakes up entirely, it rushes to its red line, sits there till you have the pedal pressed and it's here that the engine sounds extremely loud and stressed. The amusing bit is even at this moment, the engine isn't driving the wheels directly, it's still the propulsion motor, and it's here where you feel a bit of a disconnect between the engine roar you hear and the Accord Hybrid's performance.
Okay, so it doesn't go as fast as it sounds? No, not necessarily. The Accord Hybrid can go fast, in fact we've managed to go past 150kph and it feels extremely confident at those speeds. And it gets there fast. It isn't rapid. But it's fast. It's just when you need instant acceleration, the Accord Hybrid feels a bit slow to react. Overall, in the performance department, the Accord feels quite positive.
So it can go fast, but does it float like a boat at high speeds? Negative. It's not as softly sprung as before, neither does it feel as enormous as the previous generation car. It's gone down in overall length by a tiny margin and that's helped the Accord's agility immensely. It's not outright sporty, not a corner craving machine, but the ride is sorted on most occasions. While there are times when the body tends to roll considerably around fast bends, but considering the size of the car, it's more than acceptable. And the steering feel too isn't unnecessarily light or dead around the centre. The best part is, the Accord doesn't feel cumbersome to drive - not in the city traffic nor out on the highway. And that's a huge plus.
More pluses, please.
Seat comfort, overall space and the cabin quality. You see, Accord was always known for being a comfortable car and this one doesn't disappoint. The front seats are well bolstered and offer good support. And the place where most owners are going to spend time in, are the rear seats, that's well designed too. The seat squab, the backrest angle, the materials used, the firmness of the cushion - it's near perfect. Even space for the rear passengers, despite the drop in overall length, is more than what you can ask for. Overall, it's a good place to be in.
In the pictures, the Accord looks quite attractive. Have you managed to find a spoiler here? Yes, there's a tiny rear spoiler, specifically for this Hybrid model. Sorry, couldn't resist that. Yes, you're right, it is an attractive looking sedan. It's been tastefully designed - the aggressive and busy front-end, the sharp creases, clean and crisp lines all around, it has a solid stance and those stylish 18-inch alloy wheels add a lot of sportiness to the design. And for the Indian in you to feel special, there's lots of bling, too. Add to that the extensive LED package - headlamp, brake lights, and fog lamps - and you have a smart looking 'green' sedan.And before you ask, we'll get you the inside story as well. It's superb, the cabin. There a good mix of colours and textures used and the horizontal theme goes well with the exterior styling. Top-drawer materials and the simple and clean design make it look plush.Thank you. What about the feature list. Expansive? You bet. As mentioned earlier, Honda wants to take on the Camry big time and is leaving no stone unturned and offering everything luxury car buyers will want their Accord to come with. Apart from the regulars in this segment, there's a new LaneWatch feature that uses camera to detect blind spots and display it on one of the two screens on the centre console, and a unique remote engine start option for owners to pre-heat or pre-cool. Quite useful stuff. It's quite high on the safety quotient, too. Six airbags, ABS, Vehicle stability programme and the like.
Okay, one last bit. What about the price? This can be a tricky one for Honda. The Accord Hybrid is taking the CBU route for its India-entry and this may push the Honda's flagship sedan closer to the Rs 40 lakh-mark. Plus, unlike the Camry Hybrid, which gets the Government's FAME scheme benefit (it's assembled in India), the Accord Hybrid will miss out on this additional price cut. And for this kind of money, it may not seem like a very attractive proposition. However, for what the hybrid system offers, its driveabiliy, ride and comfort, safety features and creature comforts, the new Accord Hybrid may have done enough to catch the fancy of Honda loyalists. Plus, it's the best looking sedan in its class, if that floats your boat.
Specs Petrol engine\: 1993cc, 143bhp, 175Nm, E-CVT, FWD Electric drive motor\: 182bhp, 315Nm Hybrid battery\: 1.3kWh, lithium-ion battery Hybrid system\: 2-motor hybrid system, 212bhp Kerb weight\: 1620kg, fuel tank\: 60 litres, fuel efficiency\: 23.1kpl (claimed)
Verdict Stunning looks, good driving dynamics, a sound hybrid tech and great overall comfort works in the Accord Hybrid's favour. What may not, is it's expected price of around Rs 40 lakh.