Until now, hybrid automobiles have been driven by a thirst for fuel economy, in a green movement spearheaded by the purpose-built Honda Insight and original Toyota Prius. Evolution of the species lead to the Honda Civic Sedan offering a hybrid model with a gasoline-electric powertrain enabling impressive real-world economy while approximating the street performance of the midlevel LX four-door. The 2005 model year has brought the next phase, marrying efficiency with performance, and the Accord is the harbinger of this new breed. Accomplishing a series of firsts, this variant of one of America's best-selling cars sees hybrid technology applied to a V-6 for the first time, one with cylinder-deactivation and greater horsepower than the available gasoline-only V-6. Best of all, this enticing powertrain is surrounded by a well-respected car fitted with the full brochure's worth of features.
The stately seventh-generation Accord does not flaunt its hybrid status; instead it blends in to the traffic, with little more than a diminutive badge to announce its "greener than thou" presence. Other exterior distinctions include a standard rear decklid spoiler and distinct AM/FM/XM radio antenna. A lightweight aluminum hood and slightly larger 215/60VR16 tires on exclusive five-spoke wheels are less overt. The Accord matches its nemesis, the Toyota Camry, in nearly every exterior measurement. While the Prius is classified as a midsize car, the Accord is larger, stretching 14.5 inches longer, 3.6 inches wider, and yet an inch lower.
From within the cabin, the Accord Hybrid looks and feels like the transition point between a volume-selling sedan and the near-luxury Acura TL. Leather upholstery and trim creates a good first impression, supported by attention to detail throughout. Like all Accords, this sedan has a simple-to-operate , yet artfully layed out, cabin, with the Hybrid benefiting from redundant illuminated steering-wheel-mounted switches. It also features a digital display to monitor the energy stored in the onboard battery pack. Our test model had the optional navigation system. Uplevel niceties include dual-zone automatic climate control, HomeLink, external temperature gauge, cruise control, and 120-watt AM/FM/XM/CD stereo system with a six-disc in-dash changer. This Accord also touts a feature shared with the Odyssey Touring, but more commonly associated with luxury cars, Active Noise Control (ANC). To nullify inherent noise created when the V-6 is operating on three-cylinders, thanks to the fuel-sparing Variable Cylinder Management system, ANC monitors interior sound intrusion and smartly counters it to create a quiet environment. Another unseen technology is the unique air conditioning system, which draws both engine and electrical power to effectively cool the interior and minimize impact on fuel economy.
Front passengers are treated to comfortable, supportive bucket seats that provide generous head, leg, hip, and shoulder room. The driver seat has eight-way power adjustment, and both places are heated. The well-padded rear bench is nearly as comfortable as the prime front positions. A good seat-back rake and ample head- and legroom make the body-contoured outboard seats quite comfortable. There is adequate room for three-across seating. In total, near every passenger dimension measures greater than those in the Camry and Prius, with many boasting a one-inch advantage. At 102.7 cu ft, the Accord interior boasts a negligible one foot advantage over Camry and a noticeable 6.5 cu ft edge over the Prius. However, the concession to fitting the battery pack to the Accord reduced its normal 14.0 cu ft trunk down to 11.2 cubic feet, about five cubic feet less than the Toyotas. The large, wide Accord opening makes access easy, and its 32-inch depth is quite serviceable. Because of the battery pack, this model does not have a fold-down rear seat.