Tom Crosby: Touring model is star of Honda’s hybrids

Ever since Honda began selling the first hybrid in the United States 15 years ago, Toyota and Honda have fiercely competed in improving hybrid technology in bigger sedans with more horsepower and better mileage. Virtually unchanged from when it was introduced in 2014, the top-of-the-line mid-size Touring hybrid model remains the shining star of Honda’s hybrid line-up (there are also hybrid Civics, CRZ-Sports and Insights). It battles head to head with Toyota’s Camry XLE hybrid.

The Accord tallies 50 miles per gallon EPA estimate in city driving, which is 7-mpg better than the comparable Camry, and Honda says it is the best mileage for any four-door sedan. Our Honda Accord Touring test-drive needed no safety, luxury or performance options. Therein lies the price competition and driver desire for deciding which popular sedan to buy.

The Honda was loaded with safety features often available only as options by most competitors and included Accord’s exclusive Blind Spot Lane Watch, which shows via camera on the dashboard what is on the passenger’s side of the vehicle when making a right turn or switching to the right lane with blinker on, or just pushing the end of the blinker stalk.

While it can be momentarily distracting, it shows what you may not see if side mirrors aren’t properly adjusted and you don’t look. Slightly bigger than the Camry hybrid, the Accord is comfortable inside and the ride is composed and smooth riding on 17-inch wheels linked to a Macpherson front strut, long front stabilizer bar and a multi-link rear suspension. The high torque can squeal wheels and sudden power requests while underway create some engine whine, but also surprisingly responsive acceleration — very little engine lag.

Appearance-wise, the Accord won’t turn heads, looking fairly similar from the side like a 2014 Kia Optima hybrid or 2015 Camry. Today’s most popular sedans often look almost like twins from the side with high beltlines, spiffy alloy wheels, raked windshields and wraparound headlights. 

HondaLink pairs with the knob-controlled intelligent Multi-Information Display on the 6-inch dashboard screen for SMS text messaging, Pandora interface, Bluetooth, voice-activated music and social media. It can be somewhat busy and challenging to use. The 8-inch navigation screen above is ergonomically and intuitively friendly, but was unable to provide detailed directions to a small town. The trunk is smallish, a trade-off for more interior room, and rear seats don’t fold down. Overall crash test results produced received top safety scores from industry and government testing.

LIKES: Mileage, comfort, ride, power
DISLIKES: Nav detail, engine whine
BOTTOM LINE: Popularity will improve with mileage and performance
Base price w/destination fee as tested    $35,845
Curb weight                     3,559 lbs.
Wheelbase                        109.3 inches
Length                        191.4 inches
Width                            72.8 inches
Engine specs                    2.0-liter, inline 4 cylinder, DOHC
Horsepower                        278 hp at 6,200 rpm
Torque                        252 ft.-lbs. at 4,900 rpm
Transmission    Continuous variable automatic
EPA Rating                        50 city, 45 highway
Range                            17.2-gallons, regular
Performance                    0-60 in 7.5 seconds

<em>Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years. View more reviews at<a href=“http://www.nvdaily.com/columns/tom-crosby”> http://www.nvdaily.com/columns/tom-crosby/</a></em>