2017 Honda Accord Hybrid first drive

The Honda Accord Hybrid was an impressive car when it launched as a 2014 model, but supply constraints frustrated buyers, and the hybrid mid-size sedan actually skipped the 2016 model year.

For 2017, it’s back in the lineup, with a slightly improved hybrid system and a host of updates made to the Accord lineup last year.

The hybrid 2017 Accord is EPA-rated at 49 mpg city, 47 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 48 mpg.

DON’T MISS: 2016 Honda Accord – review

As Honda points out, revisions to the EPA’s 2017 ratings calculations mean that if the latest Accord Hybrid had been rated the same way as the 2014 model, it would have hit 49 mpg combined and the magic 50-mpg mark for the city cycle.

Among 2017 hybrid sedans, however, the Accord Hybrid remains at the top, with higher fuel efficiency than the hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry.

The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, however, the highest-rated car for 2016, hasn’t yet received its 2017 ratings, so it’s unclear how it will compare to the 2017 Accord Hybrid.

We drove Accord Hybrids for much of a day through the rolling hills of California’s Napa Valley last week, and rediscovered the model’s virtues after a two-year hiatus from driving one.

Green Car Reports named the Honda Accord Hybrid its 2014 Best Car To Buy, and we still think it’s among the best of the hybrid mid-size sedans.

It’s less clearly at the top of the list, though, given how good the Malibu Hybrid is. Despite cheap gas and the rush to SUVs among buyers, it promises to be an interesting sales contest between the two vehicles.

ALSO SEE: Green Car Reports’ Best Car To Buy: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (Nov 2013)

Honda has moved production of the Accord Hybrid to Japan, where all its hybrids are now manufactured.

The carmaker says it can now sell up to 30,000 of the model each year in the U.S. if there’s buyer demand, a vast improvement on the 14,000 sales logged for the previous model in its best sales year (2014).

It has made numerous incremental changes to boost the efficiency, power, and electric running capabilities of its second-generation two-motor hybrid system.

Those include a new and more energy-dense lithium-ion battery cell, a motor with denser electric windings that is 23 percent smaller and lighter but increases its power output by 14 percent, and a new exhaust-heat recovery heating system.

Ratings for the 2017 Accord Hybrid powertrain are a combined 212 horsepower between the 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder engine and the electric drive motor, which itself is rated at a maximum output of 135 kilowatts (181 hp).

The 2017 Accord Hybrid itself has improvements to its sound insulation and body structures, to reduce noise in conjunction with active sound control to cut engine noise still further.

CHECK OUT: Is Honda Accord Hybrid Gone? Yes, For A Year–But It’ll Be Back (Jan 2016)

Other changes applied to last year’s conventional Accords include suspension, braking, and steering improvements, the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the optional suite of Honda Sensing electronic active-safety systems.

On the road, the 2017 Accord Hybrid remains a solid, reasonably agile, and mostly quiet mid-size sedan with remarkable fuel economy ratings.

Over a couple of short drive legs, we saw trip-computer ratings of 48.5 mpg through some twisty mountain passes—presumably with engine-off operation on many of the downhill stretches—and 40.5 mpg when running back to base on fast-moving San Francisco Bay Area freeways.

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