If there are any reservations among consumers about the overall worthiness of hybrid vehicles, the 2005 Honda Accord has done its part to end the apprehension.
The Accord hybrid — which joined the Civic and Insight hybrid models this year — is a high-performance, fuel-efficient, well-designed and spacious addition to the more than two-dozen available configurations of the exceedingly popular Accord.
The hybrid shares all of the upside attributes of the gas engine Accord. But it also features a surprisingly quick 255-horsepower three-liter, V6 engine. And, of course, it offers the benefits of substantially increased gas mileage via its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) and Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) electronic systems.
My test drive for the week was the four-door sedan that included every available Accord option, including leather seats, a navigation system and XM satellite radio. With its nicely toned silver pearl metallic exterior, perfectly complementary gray, leather interior, 16-inch alloy wheels and classic Accord body style, the hybrid is one sharp-looking sedan.
For years, Accords have received high marks in many design and functionality categories. The hybrid version only confirms the reasons for the praise. Its front and rear-seat room is plentiful and comfortable and its controls and instrumentation are attractive. The hybrid model does have 2.8 cubic feet less trunk space than other Accord sedans, but the available area is still adequate.
More impressive is the hybrid's performance. During my one-week's tenure with the car, I made many around-the-town treks in which the hybrid's quick acceleration, responsiveness and fuel-economy high ratings were readily apparent. The hybrid has a 7.5-second, 0-60 mph designation, for example. And at stop signs and stop lights, the engine's gas to electric transition idle stop function provides an appreciably quiet waiting period.
I also took the vehicle (and a friend) on a 180-mile round-trip trek from Sacramento to San Francisco, and that's where the vehicle performed particularly well.
In bumper-to-bumper traffic, while accelerating to change lanes or when reacting suddenly to an erratic driver's moves, the hybrid was in charge. It's quick, it steers with precision, and it provides a quiet, confident ride.
With its efficient, well-designed and easy-to-use navigation system and quality CD and satellite radio features, the Accord hybrid is matched well against its formidable competition, including the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
The Accord hybrid does not come cheap, though. The fuel-efficient option adds a $3,000 premium to the Accord's high-end base price and pushes the vehicle into the $30,000 price range. Its one option package is the navigation system and that adds another $2,000.
As a result, paying more than $32,000 for a Honda Accord warrants some additional hesitancy while comparison shopping.
But if the manufacturer's estimated yearly fuel cost of $842 and the estimated mileage averages of 29 (city) and 37 (highway) are reasonably accurate, the increased purchase price should be neutralized by a potential buyer with environmental concerns and with long-term ownership plans.
2005 Honda Accord Hybrid
Safety features — Driver and front passenger dual-stage front, side and side curtain airbags; ABS brakes.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 29 mpg (city), 37 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powerpack, 8 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
Base price — $30,140.00.
James Raia is a Sacramento, Calif. , journalist who writes about sports, travel and lifestyle topics as well as the syndicated automotive column, The Weekly Driver