Sep. 6, 2013 at 3:04 PM ET
In the battle for high mileage bragging rights, Honda has landed a solid blow: The 2014 Accord Hybrid now delivers an EPA-certified rating of 50 mpg in city driving.
That’s three miles per gallon better than the previous king-of-the-fuel-economy-hill, the 47 mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid. The Toyota Camry Hybrid comes in at 43 mpg, while the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid clocks in at 40 mpg.
Put in perspective, the 2014 Accord Hybrid gets about 10 percent better fuel economy around town than the original Toyota Prius, a dedicated gas-electric model that used all sorts of tricks, including a super-aerodynamic, ultra-light body to maximize mileage.
As with other hybrids, Honda’s latest is likely to appeal to motorists doing a lot of stop-and-go driving, where its batteries routinely get recharged to boost fuel efficiency. Gas-electric vehicles tend to be less efficient on the open road because the batteries aren’t recharged as often -- the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid gets 45 mpg on the highway, giving it a combined EPA rating of 47 mpg.
The closest any competitor comes in the midsize sedan segment is the Ford Fusion, which also delivers a 47 mpg combined rating, and 47 on the highway, for a distinctive 47/47/47 rating. The classic Toyota Prius hatchback still leads the pack at 51 city, 48 highway and 50 combined, while the Camry Hybrid is rated 43/39/41.
"Even before it hits showrooms this fall, the Accord Hybrid is already surpassing the competition and claiming segment leadership," said Mike Accavitti, senior vice president of auto operations at American Honda. "For customers looking for a 50 mpg rated four-door sedan, there is no other choice than the 2014 Accord Hybrid."
Honda completely redesigned the Accord last year but waited for the 2014 model-year before launching the updated hybrid as it finished development of a trio of new gas-electric drivetrains. Replacing the original Integrated-Motor Assist, or IMA, system, the 2014 Accord Hybrid adopts a new, two-motor electric drivetrain that is paired with 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four-cylinder gas engine. Honda calls it the Sport Hybrid Intelligent Multi Mode Drive.
(The maker also has a new, lower-cost, single-motor system for the Civic and other entry-level models. It is also developing a three-motor hybrid that will provide and electrified version of its older, gas-powered Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive drivetrain. Look for that system in hybrid versions of the Acura MDX crossover and RLX sedan, as well as the luxury division’s reborn NSX supercar.)
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While Honda’s latest hybrid body resembles the conventionally powered Accord, there are visual cues to alert friends and passersby that you’ve gone green, including the Hybrid model’s LED daytime running lamps, blue-accented grill and headlight lenses, the rear spoiler and more efficient wheel design.
What sort of difference does the 50 mpg rating mean for consumers? City mileage numbers for hybrids – and highway numbers for conventional vehicles – are as much for company bragging rights as they are for drivers who spend all their time in traffic. Otherwise, the combined city/highway figure is what matters. For the typical American motorists clocking 15,000 miles a year, that means the new Accord Hybrid would suck down about 319 gallons of fuel.
With its 30 mpg rating, the regular Accord would need 500 gallons. At $4 a gallon gas, the Hybrid model would yield savings of around $724 annually, or $3,620 over five years.
Honda has not announced pricing, but gas-electric models typically carry a premium that can run $2,000 to more than $5,000. The base car comes in at $21,995 before shipping and handling charges, while the maker also offers a more advanced plug-in hybrid that starts at $39,780.
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