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With such high gas prices, hybrid is worth every penny

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 12th, 2005

The criticism most people have about hybrid cars is that they cost too much over their gas-powered siblings, and the fuel savings don't justify the cost of ownership. Most of all, they say hybrids are not very powerful.

The Honda Accord hybrid answers those criticisms with some authority.

First of all, at about $37,000, the Accord hybrid is about $1,900 more than a similarly equipped Accord V6. And since the Accord hybrid is based on a V6 engine, it produces 255 hp and that makes it the most powerful Accord in production, so no one can accuse this hybrid of lacking power.

So, does the powerhouse hybrid still give you hybrid worthy fuel economy?

Oh yes, it sure does. It is so good on fuel in fact, I had to wait four days to see the fuel light come on, and that was during a week I spent too much time stuck in traffic jams.

The end result was an average of 8.3 litres of fuel consumed every 100 km. That might not sound the best, but these are real world figures, and to me, that was impressive enough. Anyway you look at it, getting 610 km from 48 litres of fuel is quite impressive.

Also impressive is the acceleration on the highway, and the stability at high speeds. Couple that with an interior that is beautifully made, and very quiet, and you have a perfect family car.

Almost perfect since this is not the prettiest car. It appears to me the front- and the back-end were designed by different people. The end result is a car that is quite ugly. That doesn't seem to bother too many people though, since you see a lot of Accords on the road.

The interior, however, was designed by someone who knew what they were doing. The interior is comfortable, well made, and practical. The only practicality this hybrid model loses out on, is the fold down rear seats, since that is where the batteries for the electric motor lies.

That electric motor is an assist motor (called IMA for Integrated Motor Assist), rather than a pure form of propulsion. The theory is, that to aid acceleration, the electric motor takes some of the stress from the gas engine, and thus reduces emissions. I had my doubts about this system, but it seems to work well in practice.

The only annoying bit about the Accord's hybrid system is the Auto Stop feature. What this does is, when the system thinks the car is coming to a stop, it shuts the engine off. So every time you get your foot off the brake pedal, the engine fires up again. This progress is quite jerky and will probably get worse as the car gets older. The drive away from a full stop is quite slow due to that. Even though the climate control is always working, the starting and stopping of the engine can get to be a bit annoying. Still, I can learn to live with that.

This is one of those cars you can live with very easily, do the job at hand, and be largely trouble free.

Despite its minor annoyances, I like this car, I liked it much more than I thought I would. So, if you are in the market for a $37,000 family car that gives above normal fuel economy, this one I would recommend.

Well done Honda, well done.
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