2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid vs 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid vs 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid vs 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid . Click image to enlarge

Quiz by Jacob Black, photos by Jacob Black and Jonathan Yarkony

What if you want a fuel-efficient, eco-cred–heavy hybrid but can’t get excited about a Prius? What if you enjoy driving a conventional-looking sedan as well as the loving embrace of Mother Gaia? Thankfully, Honda and Volkswagen have been keeping your desires sated with their own twists on the hybrid.

In the Volkswagen corner, Jetta comes in with a turbocharged 1.4L Atkinson-cycle petrol engine and an electric motor with a combined output of 170 hp at 5,000 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque, all of which is available from 1,000 rpm.

Honda’s contender is a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle petrol engine mated to two electric motors for a combined output of 195 hp. There is 122 lb-ft of torque available at 4,500 rpm from the petrol engine, and Honda claims a whopping 226 lb-ft of torque is available from its electric drive motor at 0 rpm. Yes, zero, zilch, nada. Then again, the Accord Hybrid is heavier, weighing in at 1,636 kg compared to the Jetta Hybrid at 1,505.

Now, we realize they don’t technically fall in the same segment, but the Jetta is a honking big compact, each is the company’s sole hybrid sedan and when these two landed in our garage simultaneously, we couldn’t resist pitting them against one another.

Both go about their mission in slightly different ways, yet both are two of the best “conventional” hybrid cars available. So which one is the right one for you?

Question 1: Do you like to play games?
A: Yes, give me a target and I’ll smash your high score!
B: Yes, but I don’t get too competitive; just tell me how I went at the end.

If you answered A: “Gamification” is not just a corporate buzzword, it is something many of us do to make our lives (and our drives) more interesting.  The handy blue line of the Volkswagen Jetta’s “E-Max” meter nestled into the TFT screen in the dashboard tells you when you are using electric energy, and also shows you the threshold when the petrol engine has to kick in. The secret to this game? Keep the little blue line as close to “max” as you can without crossing it and see how long you can stay in e-drive.

2014 Volkwagen Jetta Hybrid Highline2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
2014 Volkwagen Jetta Hybrid Highline & 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring. Click image to enlarge

If you answered B: In fairness, the Honda Accord does have some neat tricks to let you know how you’re doing on the fuel-economy front, such as the glowing ring around the speedo that tells you how you’re going with graded colours – but it doesn’t have anything as direct and usable as the Jetta’s system. The result is a much more vague sense of how efficiently you’re driving (aside from the column of frustrated drivers behind you as you ‘race’ a Prius to see who can accelerate more slowly).  Honda’s neat trick is the leaf display at the end of your drive that gives you a graphic report card on how you went. (I went badly).

2014 Volkwagen Jetta Hybrid Highline
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
2014 Volkwagen Jetta Hybrid Highline & 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring. Click image to enlarge

Question 2: I like to carry…
A: Lots of stuff
B: Lots of people

If you answered A: With 348 L of cargo space compared to the Jetta’s 310 L you might think the Honda Accord is the best bet for you; but wait. What’s this? Jetta has a split-folding rear seat that collapses to increase boot size, the Honda Accord has… a solid wall. Sure, the opening is only about 20 cm high, but if you want to carry anything with a bit of length to it – like skis – you’ll appreciate the additional versatility of the Jetta.

If you answered B: Nothing can replace pure interior volume when it comes to passenger comfort, and the larger mid-size Honda Accord has that in its favour. At 71 mm wider, (1,849 vs 1,778) the Accord has interior volume of 2,854 L, easily eclipsing the 2,665 L of the Jetta.

Question 3: What really grinds your gears?
A: Nothing, mine are well managed, tight and under total control.
B: Nothing, I don’t have any bro.

If you answered A: You’re a pretty cool cucumber hey? Well so is the Jetta’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. What’s the next best thing to a manual?  A manual with two clutches bolted to it alongside an automatic shifter, that’s what. The Jetta’s DSG box is crisp, responsive and feels like something out of a sports car.

If you answered B: Like a song by Sade, you’re a smooth operator – and so is the Honda Accord with its unique “no transmission” transmission. It’s called a CVT in the sale brochures, but really it isn’t. Not in the belt-and-pulley sense at least. Instead the electric motor is connected to the wheels via a set of fixed gears, and the engine is allowed to join in when needed via a wet clutch – at other times the engine is either off, or is powering the generator which powers the propulsion motor. The result is a smooth-feeling transmission, albeit with some odd noises as the petrol engine revs and wheel speed rarely correlate to each other. Simple, right?

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