Honda’s newest Accord hybrid is a sleek, brawny beast
A typically boring sedan gets a trip to the gym, and the result is a lively, more efficient vehicle with a powerful hybrid powertrain.
You can barely throw a rock in America without hitting a Honda Accord. More than 12.5 million Accords have been sold in North America since 1982, and Honda says 98 percent of those were built in the USA. The latest iteration of Honda’s Accord is now available, and it packs in some new tech upgrades along with improvements to the hybrid powertrain.
Here’s what’s new under the hood, and what it’s like to drive it.
Solid lines, subtle updates
There have been ten previous generations of Accords, and this model kicks off its eleventh. The 2023 Accord is a product of Honda’s intention to amp up its hybrid sales. Honda is actively chasing a 50 percent sales target for the hybrid versions of the Accord, and of its six trims, only the two lowest of the bunch are offered with a gas-only, no-electric-motor option. It’s clear that Honda is checking a box for gas-only fans as a transition, while gently steering its customers away from the lesser trim levels.
And for good reason: While it looks and feels very familiar, the newest Accord hybrid has been to the gym. It’s pumped up with a strengthened core and tweaked powertrain that’s more efficient.
The freshest Accord in the stable is longer and broader than the previous generation, giving Honda’s cash-cow sedan a sleeker profile and a livelier front end that one might attribute to a sportier vehicle. That’s due, in part, to structural updates to the chassis with new brace bars that increase the rigidity of the ride; the result is a smoother ride that absorbs mild bumps in the road like a member of a top-tier college marching band glides across the football field at halftime.
The lineup starts at $28,390 for the gas-only Accord LX model. Then, the first hybrid skips over the EX (also a gas-only model) up to the Sport for $32,990. At the top of the lineup, the Touring trim is decked out with all the goodies, along with the hybrid powertrain, for $38,985 and up.
Engineered with electrification in mind
Behind the wheel, I expected a pleasant ride, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Accord hasn’t lasted for 11 generations for nothing, after all. It’s an all-around favorite, with solid fuel economy figures (44-48 mpg combined for the hybrid and 32 mpg combined for the gas-only trims) and plenty of value packed in for the price.
Testing out the new Accord Touring in each of its three main drive modes (Normal, Eco, and Sport), I found that Normal makes the most sense for the majority of the time. Reserve the Eco mode only for long highway drives when you’re already moving at a good clip, because the stunted acceleration is a bummer otherwise. Sport mode was the most exciting, with a zip that made it easy to pass and merge from highway ramps onto the freeway. It also adds a weightier feel to the steering, which firms up the driving experience.
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Honda opted to equip the hybrid models (Sport, EX-L, Sport-L, and Touring) with an all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with the same two-motor hybrid-electric system that debuted in the 2023 Honda CR-V. Together, the Accord hybrid is good for 204 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. Gas-only models may be cheaper, but they sacrifice horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency in the exchange.
The two-motor hybrid system includes an electric generator motor, which supplies power to the battery; an electric propulsion motor to drive the front wheels; an Atkinson-cycle gas engine that feeds power to the battery and propulsion motor; a new, smaller intelligent power unit that protects and controls the battery; and a power control unit that acts as the brains of the hybrid system.
There’s a prominent button on the console with an “e” printed on it in stylized script, and pushing it notifies the Accord to maximize your electric drive mode as much as possible, defaulting to electric over gas.
“[Pressing the button] doesn’t necessarily make the vehicle more efficient,” says Chris Martin, a communications manager with American Honda. “Let’s say you are trying to pull quietly out of your driveway or out of your neighborhood. You have to manage the throttle carefully to avoid activating the gas engine, and by pushing this button the car is going to require you to give it a little bit more throttle before it engages the gas engine. Kind of like a quiet mode.”
What’s different about the 2023 Accord hybrid system?
Previously, Honda situated the two motors in-line longitudinally, with the generator motor connected directly to the engine and the propulsion motor connected to the front wheels. Engineers for the new Accord hybrid nestled the two electric motors side-by-side instead (in the same configuration used in the new CR-V) allowing for the propulsion motor to be bigger and stronger. Honda eschewed heavy rare-earth metals for this system, which contributes to a higher top speed. The new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine brings a promise of reduced emissions, with 22 percent less nitrogen oxides and 24 percent less total hydrocarbon emissions.
Martin says the entire core package has been improved in many ways, with an eye on improving handling and making the car quieter, smoother, and safer. The Accord chassis itself is responsible for many of the improvements that improve the drive versus the prior model.
While Honda’s hybrids don’t claim one-pedal driving—the brand calls it “one-pedal like”—the Accord hybrid comes close. (One-pedal driving allows the driver to use just the accelerator without moving their foot to the brake, as the car slows or even stops as soon as they lift their foot off the accelerator. That’s a big benefit in stop-and-go traffic, when a light tap to the accelerator is all you need to move forward.) The new Accord features paddle shifters on the left and right side that control the amount of braking regeneration up to six levels; on the maximum regeneration setting the vehicle will slow considerably when you take your foot off the accelerator. The four-wheel disc brakes are slightly squishy, so prepare to press down a little further than expected.
On the technology front, the new Accord receives over-the-air software updates, making it easy for Honda to push out updates and plug any potential problems. Honda gifted its sedan with a camera offering a 90-degree field of view in the front, which is nearly double the amount on the previous Accord. And the radar was relocated behind the Honda logo on the grille, which bumped up its field of detection from 50 degrees to an astonishing 120 degrees. This, combined with updated driver-assist technology, helps to avoid collisions and more easily discerns objects from people and signs, for example.
Honda uses a Google built-in system that’s standard on the top Touring trim, including Google Maps and Google Play enhanced by a speech-to-text service that also controls interior functions like climate control.
Tip-toeing into the EV age
Much like Toyota has been saying for several years, as well as supercar makers like Lamborghini, Honda is not rushing headlong into the EV age with the purpose of being first. The brand seems content to take it slow. Honda has said publicly that it’s committed to 100 percent electric vehicles by 2040. The pathway to get them there, though, is not just to start selling all EVs right now, Martin says. Their first EV will be the Prologue in 2024, which Martin refers to as a “toe in the water for the next generation of EVs.”
Last year, Honda launched the CR-V hybrid and hoped to incentivize customers to make the switch with attractive two-year lease deals. That stopgap allows the brand to hold onto electric-hungry customers, marking time until the all-electric Prologue SUV is ready for its debut.
“We’ve got more than the Prologue coming,” Martin says with a wink in his voice. “We haven’t announced a lot of things, but obviously as we’re going to be selling a hundred percent [EVs] by 2040 there are a lot of other products in the pipeline.”
In the meantime, car buyers can climb into the muscular 2023 Accord and enjoy both the legacy this sedan offers plus all of the new technology and engineering Honda brought to the table.