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Driven: Honda’s novel hybrid Accord touches down

No plug: A petrol engine and a pair of AC motors motivate Honda’s mid-size Accord to sub 5.0-litre per 100km economy numbers.

Unique three-motor, no-gearbox Accord hybrid reinforces Honda’s engineering nous

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Honda logo16 Jun 2015

By TIM ROBSON

HONDA Australia has finally premiered the Accord Sport Hybrid in Sydney, two years after details were officially released, marking the start of a new wave of hybrids for the car-maker.

Since the Accord hybrid was revealed in June 2013, Honda Australia has been vague about its intentions for the petrol-electric sedan, but it confirmed the addition to the line-up in January this year when it revealed it had discontinued other hybrid models including the Jazz, Civic, CR-Z sportscar and Insight.

Speaking with media at the launch in Sydney this week, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said that while the Accord Sport Hybrid will act as the company’s flagship car, he does not expect it to add significantly to the company’s bottom line.

“This is not a volume car,” he said. “We haven’t set any sales targets for it.

It’s an important car that it showcases our new hybrid technologies. It’s all about quality, not quantity.”

Mr Collins also indicated that Honda would set up specialist hybrid dealers in five major cities around the country, including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.

“These five dealers will exclusively sell and service the Accord, as well as the NSX which arrives next year,” he said.

Honda’s Accord hybrid will sell for $58,990, before on-road costs, and Mr Collins said it will compete directly with the Lexus IS300h in the local market, which sells for $57,000, before on-road costs in base Luxury guise and sips 4.9 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle.

At its price point, it will also compete against range-topping models such as the Mazda6 Atenza diesel ($49,620) Peugeot’s 508 GT HDI ($58,490) and Ford’s Mondeo Titanium diesel ($47,490).

The locally made Toyota Camry Hybrid, which ranges from $30,490 to $40,440, is also a competitor and offers fuel economy of 5.2L/100km from its 151kW (combined) 2.5-litre petrol-electric powertrain.

The Thai-built Accord Sport Hybrid is now the only hybrid-powered car in the Honda fleet, following the demise of the aforementioned hybrid models and variants.

The innovative front-drive mid-size sedan does away with a conventional transmission, and features not one, but two, electric motors as well as a four-cylinder petrol engine, for a claimed fuel figure of just 4.6L/100km on a combined cycle, and a CO2 output of just 107 grams per kilometre.

A large 124kW AC motor works hand in hand with a 105kW 2.0-litre, single cam, four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol motor, while an AC generator provides a third source of power. The petrol engine and a regenerative braking system work together with the generator, constantly recharging a 1.3kWh battery array that is located under the boot floor.

The Accord Sport Hybrid operates in three modes electric, petrol and hybrid.

In EV mode, the car is propelled by the AC motor, which is fed from the battery array.

The car can be driven at speeds of up to 80km/h in EV mode, for a range of approximately two kilometres. In petrol mode, a single clutch engages the four-cylinder engine to add petrol-powered drive.

Hybrid mode sees the petrol engine power the generator, which in turn feeds energy into batteries that is then used by the AC motor to drive the car. The Accord will match engine revs with throttle position and road speed to replicate the sound and feel of a regular petrol drivetrain.

The only ‘transmission’ in the car, in essence, is a set of planetary gears between the three motors and a single clutch, known as an e-CVT. There are no sets of differing-size ratios to match road speed.

While the two power outputs add up to 229kW, the Accord Sport Hybrid's total power output is rated at 146kW, while its combined torque figure is 307Nm. This is also the torque number provided for the electric motor, which is available from zero rpm through to 3857rpm. The port-injection petrol engine’s torque figure is a relatively low 165Nm at a high 6500rpm, thanks to its Atkinson cycle configuration.

Many of the Accord hybrid’s systems are electrically powered, including the brake booster, air-conditioning system and water pump.

The braking system – which is electrically activated from the brake pedal to the e-booster, before using traditional hydraulics to all four wheels – also feeds energy back into the batteries via regeneration.

The Accord Hybrid also adopts other Earth Dreams innovations, including an aluminium front subframe structure, as well as a rear bumper beam, to offset the weight of the hybrid kit. At 1642kg, it actually weighs 35kg less than the V6L, but 70kg more than the four-cylinder VTi-L.

While the exterior is very similar to that of a non-hybrid Accord, there have been small tweaks applied to differentiate the car, including specific 18-inch rims, a blue accented grille, blue-accented LED headlight and tail-lights, and unique badging.

As well, Honda has fitted a new set of twin-piston dampers to the Hybrid’s MacPherson front/five-link rear suspension system. Known as Amplitude Reactive dampers, the non-adjustable units provide additional high-speed shock control via a smaller secondary piston. Honda has also increased the diameter of the anti-roll bars on the Sport, with a 19mm bar fitted up front and a 16mm bar in the rear.

The Hybrid loses some boot capacity it’s capable of carrying 415 litres (381+34 under the floor), against the standard car’s 457 litres. It also loses five litres of fuel capacity, with a 60-litre tank fitted as standard.

The Accord Hybrid’s spec level mimics that of the V6L, and incorporates a high number of active and passive safety features, including a high-strength steel body structure, front, side and full-length curtain airbags, vehicle stability assist with traction control, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, lane watch blind spot display, a multi-angle reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and a collision mitigation braking system.

Standard features include leather trim throughout the cabin, sunroof, keyless entry, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation, powered front seats, rear ventilation, active noise control and adaptive cruise control.

The Accord Sport Hybrid comes under Honda’s fixed-price service agreement, and the car’s battery is warranted for eight years. The hybrid version has not been tested under ANCAP, but the regular Accord's crash safety rating lifted from four stars to five last year.

So far this year, 410 Accords have found homes, representing a 48.1 per cent fall in numbers year on year. The Accord sis well below the sub-$60,000 mid-size segment leaders including the Camry (7824), Mazda6 (2320) and Subaru Liberty (1667), but is outpacing the Holden Malibu (311) and Kia Optima (376).

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