Honda has been stalwart in its attempts to appeal to auto buyers with a hybrid version of the Accord, going back to 2004 for the 2005 model year, which was then described as the “world’s first V-6 powered hybrid vehicle,” a car that then-American Honda executive vice president Tom Elliott described as “the first hybrid vehicle that combines superb fuel economy with truly exhilarating performance.”
It is almost quaint to look back at the EPA estimated fuel economy numbers for that model: 29 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. You can buy a 2018 Accord with a 1.5-liter turbo that will return 30 mpg city and 38 miles highway—no hybridization involved.
Be that as it may, Honda has launched a new Accord Hybrid, which uses a 2.0-liter four that’s mated to an electric motor, for a total system output of 212 horsepower. This contemporary take on what may be thought of as “exhilarating performance” must be at the basis of the Honda claim that it is the “New Benchmark Among Midsize Hybrids,” because the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which is certainly the arch-rival in this segment, as both the Accord and Camry are all-new for the model year (unlike the midsize hybrids available for the likes of Hyundai, Ford and Chevy aren’t), has 208 hp.
But the Camry Hybrid has an estimated fuel economy of 51/53/52 mpg (city/highway/combined) and the Accord Hybrid returns an estimate 47/47/47 mpg.
So the question is, what’s more important to the midsize hybrid sedan buyer: 4 horsepower or 5 mpg? Both are fairly minor all things considered, but chances are someone who is going to buy a mainstream hybrid wants the miles per gallon more.
A word about the Accord-Camry competition. Although the Accord won the 2018 North American International Car of the Year award and a trophy case full of other honors, in the 2018 sales race, it is lagging well behind Camry.
According to Autodata, through February there have been 37,430 Accords sold, which is down 12.9 percent compared to the same period in 2017. Meanwhile, Toyota has delivered 55,503 Camrys, up 16.1 percent.
Yes, there are differences in the amount of fleet sales and incentives involved, but at the end of the spreadsheet, there is that minus 12.9 and that plus 16.1.
And another word about hybrids.
Certainly, Toyota has come define the word vis-à-vis cars and crossovers. Given comparatively low gas prices—to say nothing of improved fuel efficiency of conventional cars, as noted in the second paragraph above—hybrid car sales aren’t doing well. For example, Prius sedan sales through February, 7,900 units, is down 22.4 percent compared to the same period in 2017.
However, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid sales of 7,159 units are up 17.3 percent.
It may simply be the situation that people are interested in hybrid crossovers just as they’re evidently increasingly interested in crossovers of all types compared with cars.
This may not be the ideal time for Honda to be launching the Accord Hybrid. But credit to it for trying.