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2006 Honda Accord Hybrid

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San Francisco: It would seem to be the meeting of two great ideas, the quintessential Japanese midsize sedan with the popular hybrid power system. The Honda Accord Hybrid, however, disappoints, and itís not because of the quality, itís superb, as always. But the car simply doesnít save much fuel.

Thatís not surprising, really. The Accord Hybridís 3.0-liter V6 engine with electric motor assistance generates 253
horsepower and 232 lb.-ft. of torque, nine horsepower and 21 lb.-ft. more than the V6 in the regular Accords. Unlike most hybrids, whose sole mission is to be as thrifty as possible, this car promises midsize amenities with compact fuel consumption.

My Silver Frost Metallic tester was rated at 25 City and 34 Highway, just four mpg better than the standard V6 and about equal to the four-cylinder lower level Accord models. My actual recorded average mileage for the week was a mere 21.6 mpg. I did record one commute to work at 29.1 mpg, however.

The hybrid story, of course, is that by using an electric motor in tandem with a gasoline engine, fuel can be saved. This works particularly well when the petrol-drinking engine is reduced in size when the electric motor is added. The Accord, however, still keeps its big gas engine, so the main savings are at stoplights, when the car automatically shuts off in its Autostop mode. The extraordinary quiet is a little disconcerting at first, but you soon realize that the minute you take your foot off the brake, the engine fires right up and away you go. The Honda hybrids do not run on electricity exclusively, so the engine is always running.

The Accord Hybridís IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system is painless to operate, you simply get extra information on the dash that tells you whether the motorís battery is charging or discharging. You can tell by the little green stack of bars how your supply is doing. Every time you brake, electricity is generated to fill the battery back up. When you need extra power, the electricity kicks in and you see it right in front of you. With the IMA information, you can learn how to accelerate gently and drive more fluidly, helping to maximize the virtues of the hybrid platform.

Knowing that the high-tech gear to create a Hybrid would make the car a bit more pricey anyway, and that demand was high, Honda decided to release just one model, loaded, with another version that includes a $2,000 navigation system. What this means is that you get the bragging rights of a hybrid and the high performance of a healthy V6, but it doesnít save that much fuel and you have to pay a lot for the car.

But beyond this carping, the Honda Accord Hybrid, like all Accords, is an excellent vehicle. The design is modern without extremism, the seats are comfortable, the controls work exactly the way they should, and reliability, of course, is legendary. The inner door panels benefit from thick padding, and items like the console lid work with precision. Fit-and-finish is top notch in this made-in-Japan vehicle.

One real benefit of the hybrid platform is that the Accord Hybrid earns AT-PZEV emissions ratings from the California Air Resources Board, which is an extremely good ďnear zero emissionsĒ level.

All 2006 Accords benefit from a significant restyle, which tweaks the nose but completely redoes the tail. The new rear end is so much more attractive than the old one that you wonder why the car wasnít released that way in the first place. The clean, vertical taillamps and straight-across form look better integrated with the sleek design. New alloy wheels add fresh sparkle.

Inside, new seat fabrics, for the non-leather models, entice, while the steering wheel gets a redo and the instrument panel is restyled.

Honda Accords are available in eight sedan models besides the hybrids. Prices start at just $18,225 for the entry-level four-cylinder VP model, and range up to $29,300 for the best V6-equipped EX standard model with navigation. Hybrid pricing starts at $31,090, with the Navigation equipped version jumping to $33,090. Thatís approaching the entry-luxury territory, where corporate cousin Acura lives.

For real fuel economy, consider the worthy Civic Hybrid, completely redone for 2006, which advertises fuel economy of 49 City, 51 Highway, and which delivered an honest 38 mpg last spring for me. On one trip, I saw the IMA gauge show an even 50 miles per gallon after a long run of freeway miles. Now that felt like a hybrid.  By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  The Honda Accord Hybrid is an excellent vehicle
Topic: The 2006 Honda Accord Hybrid
Word Count:  824
Photo Caption: The 2006 Honda Accord Hybrid
Photo Credits:  Honda Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 63

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