HONDA ACCORD HYBRID IS ULTRA ECONOMICAL

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Though Honda was the first company to import hybrid vehicles Australia, way back in 2001, it has been a bit on and off in this high-tech fuel-saving field in recent times. That will change in a big way with the eagerly anticipated arrival of the Honda NSX petrol-electric supercar due to be launched in late this year.

To capitalise on the interest in the NSX Honda Australia is importing hybrid versions of its Accord large sedan.

We have just spent a full day road testing the big Accord sedan and have come away impressed with its fuel efficiency. Official fuel consumption is listed as just 4.6 litres per hundred kilometres – and we must admit to being somewhat sceptical about this number. Until we saw 4.6 on the trip computer for several stages during our test period.

The fascinating thing is that the 4.6 litres was obtained during drives on hilly, twisty stretches of road in the areas around Bowral in the Southern Highlands area of NSW. While this may sound contrary to common sense, hybrids work well in this sort of country because the energy they spend in climbing hills is regained when they go down the other side.

Electricity is put into the Accord’s battery pack as the car is slowed by the CVT automatic transmission selecting lower ratios, and even more so when the brakes are used.

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Put simply, instead of the brakes turning energy into wasted heat as in a standard car the Accord Hybrid stores the energy ready for the next hill.

Contrarily, the worst fuel consumption on our test drive was when sitting on 110 km/h on the motorway heading south to Bowral. There it sat in the low sevens most of the time. No slowing down, no downhill stretches worth talking about so the hybrid was simply running on petrol with no assistance worth talking about from electricity after the first few kilometres. Indeed, the extra 70 kg of the hybrid over the standard Accords is probably a hindrance to efficiency.

In a long, slow, suburban peak hour drag from Honda’s NSW office in Auburn to the motorway the fuel consumption was in the six to seven litre range. Impressive for a large five-seat saloon.

Honda Accord is a large sedan with good interior space for four adults, with the space for a fifth in the middle of the back seat with no real shoulder rubbing. However, there’s barely enough legroom for my six-foot frame in the front passenger seat, I couldn’t stretch my legs right out. To counterbalance that there’s very good legroom in the back.

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The interior is finished to a high standard, with quality materials and a pleasant design that makes it almost European limo-like in its feel.

As well as the aforementioned added weight of the Hybrid, there’s another downside. The boot volume is trimmed by about 25 per cent to make space of the lithium-ion battery that sits between the back seat and the boot. Senior project engineer, Isukasa Aiba who flew to Australia to present the Accord Hybrid to the media looked embarrassed when he told me the car can only carry three golf bags, not the four that the four-cylinder and V6 Accords can manage. The Japanese do love their golf…

Honda likes to call its hybrid Accord Sport, explaining that the instant torque offered by the electric motor gives it a sporty feel off the line. While this is certainly the case – and our favourite feature in any electric car – if you’re looking for a true sports sedan you should possibly shop elsewhere.

If you belong to the majority who are interested in smoothness, comfort and quiet travel ahead of everything else then this high-tech Honda Accord should certainly be on your shopping list.

At $58,990 plus on-road costs the Honda Australia sees the Lexus IS300h hybrid as being the Accord Hybrid’s chief competitor. We see the Honda as being a size up on the Lexus – we suggest you make your own test drives then make your call.

In a similar price range and size is the new Honda Genesis, a car with the same sort of quality and attention to detail as the big Honda. The Hyundai is relatively thirsty for what it is and fuel consumption will often be double that of the Accord Hybrid Sport.

Blue coloured light trims signifying blue skies are the most visible difference in Honda’s just launched hybrid version of Accord.

Honda is setting up specialist hybrid sections with trained personnel in chosen dealerships in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in preparation for the launch of the NSX supercar. In the meantime these specialists will handle the Accord Sport Hybrid.

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