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2020 Honda Accord Hybrid Test Drive Review
No compromises are required when you choose the 2020 Honda Accord Hybrid over its traditionally powered siblings—or its contemporary competitors.
In the past, choosing a hybrid over its conventional counterpart meant sacrifice. Typically, hybrids cost more, offered less, and drove slowly to extract every last mile out of every last drop of fuel. Now, that’s no longer true, and the 2020 Honda Accord Hybrid might be the best example proving the case that hybrids can deliver efficiency, practicality, style, and performance at an affordable price.
Look and Feel
You might need to squint to tell the difference between a 2020 Honda Accord Hybrid and the other models in the Accord lineup. The only visual cues that this version is the one rated to get 48 mpg in combined driving are the “Hybrid” badges on the fenders and trunk lid and the aerodynamic 17-inch aluminum wheel designs.
Honda is smart to take this approach. Often, the hybrid versions of mainstream vehicles adopt odd design cues that can easily discourage as many buyers as they encourage. That’s not the case here, so if you like the way the current Accord looks (and I do), then you’ll like the way the Accord Hybrid looks (unless you want big wheels).
Four trim levels are available: Hybrid, Hybrid EX, Hybrid EX-L, and Hybrid Touring. Prices start at $25,620, and in Hybrid, Hybrid EX, and Hybrid EX-L trim the hybrid powertrain is a $1,600 upgrade over the standard Accord LX, EX, and EX-L. Get Touring trim, and the hybrid version ($35,290) is actually $960 cheaper because the Touring’s standard engine is a high-powered turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Thus, my Hybrid Touring test car’s price came to $36,070 including destination charges.
The one I’d recommend, though, is the Hybrid EX at $29,520. This trim level gives you all of the Accord’s driver-assistance and infotainment technologies, plus a 12-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and heated side mirrors. If you want leather and an impressive 10-speaker premium sound system, upgrade to the Hybrid EX-L for $32,020.
While I’m a fan of cloth seats, I must admit the leather inside the Accord Hybrid sure is nice. In combination with the simulated matte-finish wood trim, it gives the car an upscale look and feel, especially in the Gray and Ivory colors that provide significant contrast against the black dashboard, carpets, and door panels.
Speaking of carpet, the floor mats are like Velcro for pet hair. I’ve got a white cat and a white dog at home, and even our overpriced Dyson vacuum had trouble sucking up whatever we brought into the car from the house.
If you drive like your parents and spend lots of time creeping along in traffic with EV mode engaged, you might achieve the EPA’s estimate of 48 mpg in combined driving. For testing purposes, I drove the Accord Hybrid like I drive every car, and in its default Economy driving mode, my result was 42.6 mpg during a week of driving.
On my testing loop, the car returned 44.1 mpg during the city and suburban portion of the route. At the end of the test, after using Sport mode for a rousing romp across the Santa Monica Mountains (and forgetting to turn it off for the freeway driving part of the examination), the car had averaged 41.2 mpg.
Before disappointment furrows your brow, think about this. Without trying, the Accord Hybrid—with its huge interior, giant trunk, and affordable price—got better than 41 mpg. Compared to the less-powerful 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that comes standard in most Accords, my real-world result represents an 8.2-mpg improvement for every gallon of gas bought. And that presumes the turbo 1.5-liter achieves its EPA rating under identical conditions. More likely, the spread is something like 10 mpg.
Yes, I said the standard engine is less powerful than the hybrid's. The turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder whips up 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, while the Hybrid’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and two-motor hybrid powertrain supplies 212 combined horsepower and 232 lb-ft of instantaneous electric-motor torque. There is, however, a 200-ish-pound weight penalty with the Accord Hybrid, helping to erase any potential improvement in acceleration times.
Nevertheless, the Accord Hybrid is plenty speedy, scooting to 60 mph quickly enough to lead the typical pack of commuters away from a traffic light and down a freeway on-ramp. This is especially true if you engage the Sport driving mode, which makes the Accord Hybrid instantly more responsive to inputs. The downside to a heavy foot on the accelerator pedal is a loud and steady drone from the car’s electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT). Still, given the gas mileage, this racket is easier to accept than it would be in a traditional car.
The Accord Hybrid’s extra weight also reveals itself when ripping down a favorite back road. While the added mass helps lower the car’s center of gravity and give it a road-hugging feel, this car lacks grace in certain situations.
Make no mistake: Honda’s engineers have tuned the Accord Hybrid to provide predictable ride motions, a flat-cornering attitude, faultless steering, and faithful regenerative brakes that feel entirely natural underfoot. But on undulating pavement with mid-curve whoops and dips, this car loses some of its otherwise unflappable composure. In fact, over one rise in the road, the front right suspension fully extended, something I’ve yet to experience in any other test car.
Rest assured that such behavior occurs only at the car’s limits. Most people, most of the time, will never experience something like that. They will, however, enjoy traditional Honda driver engagement thanks to a deft blend of ride, handling, and communication from the road surface.
In short, you’ll like driving this car. Except when you’re accelerating hard and enduring the momentary eCVT drone.
Form and Function
You won’t compromise passenger space or trunk room in order to benefit from the Accord Hybrid’s fuel-sipping nature. This electrified version of the car has the same full-size interior and trunk that make the standard Accord such an appealing family sedan.
Given the Accord’s massive backseat, complete with exceptional thigh support, rear air-conditioning vents, and available USB charging ports, it’s a shame Honda doesn’t provide more front-seat track travel. I wear 33-inch inseam pants, and I fit fine, but only with the driver’s seat moved all the way back. Anyone taller could have trouble getting comfortable.
Front passengers might also be disappointed in the lack of height adjustment for that position. You’re not sitting on the floor, and the cushion does supply decent thigh support—both good things. But you can’t raise it to improve the hip point and ease entry and exit, which isn’t helpful for people with grumpy hips or knees.
In any case, the seat cushions are mighty comfortable, front and rear. And with Touring trim, they include front heating and ventilation and rear heating.
Interior storage space is generous, and the 16.7-cubic-foot trunk is larger than what you’ll find in the competition. It’s deep enough that you can load four full-size suitcases on their sides, leaving plenty of room for backpacks and other smaller items. All that’s missing is a grab handle on the inside for closing the lid without putting your hands on the dirty paint.
As for utility, I hauled seven plastic folding chairs in the Accord Hybrid’s trunk, stacked lengthwise. And Honda provides a 60/40 split-folding rear seatback for when you need the car to swallow longer items. It sure would be terrific if the Accord had a hatchback design, wouldn’t it?
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with satellite radio, HD Radio, basic HondaLink services, and quick-charge USB ports. With EX-L trim, the system adds the previously mentioned premium sound system. Touring upgrades the setup with navigation, HD digital traffic data, a wireless smartphone charger, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, a WiFi hotspot, and expanded HondaLink service plans.
HondaLink highlights include in-car delivery of Amazon packages, a Find My Car function, a stolen-vehicle locator, and smartphone remote locking, unlocking, and engine starting. Several safety features are also included, such as automatic collision notification, emergency calling capability, enhanced access to roadside assistance, and alerts related to vehicle speed and geo-fenced boundaries.
While the voice-recognition technology could be improved as far as natural language recognition is concerned, the infotainment features work well and naturally integrate with daily driving. Touring trim also includes a useful head-up display (HUD), which remains visible when you’re wearing polarized sunglasses. Honda ought to make HondaLink more widely available, though.
Every Accord Hybrid includes Honda Sensing, a collection of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that help to make every journey easier and safer. It includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, traffic-sign-recognition technology, and a road-departure-mitigation system that will try to keep the car on the pavement if you’re headed off it.
In use, Honda Sensing is smoother and more refined than it was in previous iterations. Especially when it comes to the adaptive cruise control, the speed- and distance-control functions exhibit greater sophistication than you’ll find in many Honda products.
All Accord Hybrids also have automatic high-beam headlights, a multi-angle reversing camera, and SmartVent front side airbags designed to reduce the potential for injury when occupants are not properly positioned during a side-impact collision. Choose EX trim or higher if you want a blind-spot-warning system with rear cross-traffic alert.
In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Accord gets the highest possible ratings, but only Touring versions with LED low- and high-beam headlights earned a Top Safety Pick designation in 2019. The car also gets 5-star crash-test ratings across the board from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Based on EPA ratings, if gas costs $2.50 per gallon and you drive 15,000 miles per year, you’ll save $355 annually (almost $500 in a high-cost state like California or Hawaii). That means it will take 4.5 years for the Accord Hybrid’s powertrain to pay for itself (3.2 years in Cali or the Aloha State). And if you choose Touring trim, you’ll actually save yourself $960 from the get-go and then $355 annually.
That’s a compelling value equation unless you’re leasing the car. Since Honda doesn’t offer cut-rate deals on the Accord Hybrid, you should stick with the standard turbocharged 1.5-liter (or turbo 2.0-liter with Touring trim) if you plan to lease.
Powertrain premiums and fuel costs aside, the Accord Hybrid provides value with just a couple of dynamic downsides. The moaning and groaning during acceleration and the way the added weight can affect handling under some circumstances are the only trade-offs when choosing this vehicle. And frankly, unless you’re really hustling on rumpled and uneven pavement, the handling issue is likely a non-factor.
Essentially, then, there are no real compromises when choosing the Honda Accord Hybrid over a traditionally powered version of the car. And in the long run, it will prove itself the more cost-effective choice.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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