February 10, 2014
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Greg Wilson
Recently rated the most fuel-efficient mid-size hybrid sedan in Canada by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the all-new Honda Accord Hybrid has the potential to dethrone the bestselling Toyota Camry Hybrid in the mid-size hybrid sedan class. (Toyota sold 3,132 Camry Hybrid sedans in 2013 according to GoodCarBadCar.com). According to NRCan, the 2014 Accord Hybrid sedan is rated at just 3.7 L/100 km city/4.0 L/100 km hwy. That’s equal to the Toyota Prius hatchback, and better than both the Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan (4.0 city/4.1 hwy) and Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan (4.5 city/4.9 city/hwy). In fact, the 2014 Accord Hybrid’s fuel economy is not far off the subcompact Prius c hatchback, which has an NRCan rating of 3.6 city/4.0 hwy.
The secret to the new Accord Hybrid’s miserly fuel economy is an all-new hybrid powertrain that’s different from the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) used in the Civic Hybrid, Insight and CR-Z; the latter is a ‘mild’ hybrid system that uses an electric motor to assist the gas engine (thus saving gas) but can’t run on battery power alone. Honda’s new Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) is a ‘full’ hybrid system similar to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive that alternates between electric drive power (EV mode), combined electric and engine operation (Hybrid mode), and engine power alone (Engine Drive) – switching from one mode to the other automatically as commanded by a sophisticated electronic controller.
Like the Camry Hybrid, the Accord Hybrid offers regenerative brakes to help charge the battery when braking and an EV mode that allows the driver to manually select electric-only mode, as long as there’s enough charge in the battery. Both cars have an Eco mode button that improves fuel economy at the expense of some performance, and both cars have an auto-stop system that automatically shuts off the engine while the car is stopped at traffic lights and restarts it when the driver removes their foot from the brake pedal.
But there is a key difference between Honda’s i-MMD and Toyota Camry’s Hybrid Synergy Drive: Honda’s system has two electric motors, a generator to charge the battery and a propulsion motor to drive the front wheels. In ‘Hybrid Mode’ the Accord’s engine powers the electric motor/generator, which charges the battery that powers the propulsion motor that drives the front wheels. Whereas in the Camry Hybrid, the engine/electric motor drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. But in a strange twist, the Accord Hybrid’s ‘Engine Drive’ mode (which operates in medium- to high-speed cruising) transfers power directly to the front wheels through an electric clutch lock-up mechanism that connects the generator and propulsion motor.
Another important difference between the two hybrids is the size of their engines: though both hybrid powertrains produce about the same net horsepower (196 vs 200), the Accord Hybrid has a 141-hp 2.0L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine while the Camry Hybrid has a 156-hp 2.5L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine. And while the Camry Hybrid has a 105-kW electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery, the Accord Hybrid features a 124-kW electric propulsion motor and lithium-ion battery pack.
We wanted to see how these traditional Japanese rivals compare in a week of real-world driving. Is the new Accord Hybrid really more fuel efficient? Which offers the better driving experience? Are they priced comparably? For these answers and more, read on.
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid & 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
Pricing and features
The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid and Toyota Camry hybrid models are each offered in two trim levels, the Accord in base and Touring trims and the Camry in LE and XLE trims. Both manufacturers’ base models are well equipped with features like dual-zone air conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, large centre screen with fuel economy information and rear-view camera. But there’s a difference in the way Honda and Toyota package their standard and optional features, particularly in the top trims.
The base Accord Hybrid ($29,590) is priced about $1,800 more than the base Camry Hybrid LE ($27,760), but it includes more standard features: these extras include 17-inch alloys instead of 16-inchers; eight-way power driver’s seat instead of a four-way manual driver’s seat; heated front seats; a larger eight-inch dash screen (not a touchscreen) with separate dial controller; separate touchscreen for the audio system; bilingual (English/Canadian French) Bluetooth phone voice recognition; driver and front passenger vanity mirrors, multi-angle rear-view camera; active noise cancellation; and auto-down front passenger window.
However, the base Camry Hybrid LE does have some features that the base Accord Hybrid doesn’t, notably a split folding rear seatback with a small opening to the trunk, larger trunk size (370 L vs 360 L or 348 L Touring); a temporary spare tire instead of a tire inflator kit; more interior storage space; and four more airbags, two front knee airbags and two rear side airbags.