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The latest Accord Hybrid slipped in quietly through a side door last April, about six months after the rest of the 2018 North-American-Car-of-the-Year Accord generation made its debut.

Jeremy Sinek

This one kind of flew in under the radar. There have been hybrid versions of the Accord since 2003 – three years before the rival Toyota Camry – but their presence has tended to be intermittent and discreet.

In keeping with that tradition, the latest Accord Hybrid slipped in quietly through a side door last April, about six months after the rest of the 2018 North-American-Car-of-the-Year Accord generation made its debut. Little fanfare was made.

The latest edition remains a full-hybrid, featuring the third generation of Honda’s version of hybridism that actually debuted in the 2017 Accord. A hyperefficient 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine is paired with a 181-hp electric motor to relay a combined 212 horsepower to the front wheels through a continuously-variable transmission.

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The shrinking of the 1.3-kWh battery pack let Honda move it from the trunk to beneath the rear seat, so now the Hybrid retains the same fold-down seats, and generous trunk space, as other Accords.

In Canada the Hybrid is offered in base and Touring Trims for $33,490 and $40,190 respectively. Even the lower trim is decently well equipped, with LED (low-beam) headlights, dual-zone climate control, Smart entry with push-button start, a multiangle rear-view camera, 12-way power driver’s seat, 10-speaker premium audio and the comprehensive Honda Sensingâ suite of advanced safety and driver-assist technologies.

Nonhybrid Accord pricing starts at $28,190 for the LX, which makes the hybrid premium roughly $5,000 – rather steep, though the latter does include some extra amenities including remote engine start (shame on you if you use it) and a better, more-speaker audio than the LX.

Even the lower trim Accord is decently well equipped.

Jeremy Sinek

Like most hybrids the fuel consumption advantage is greater in city than highway driving. Official figures credit the electrified Accord with a stingy 5.0 L/100 km in both modes, versus 7.9 city (58 per cent thirstier) and 6.3 highway (26 per cent thirstier) for the most economical non-Hybrid Accord. The Honda’s 5.0 L/100 km combined is also right in there with the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which incidentally starts about $2,000 lower.

Based on the official combined fuel-consumption, and assuming gas at $1.20 per litre, the Hybrid would save roughly $500 over a 20,000-kilometre driving year. Higher gas prices and/or higher annual mileages would obviously accelerate the payback. Or vice versa.

We had the Accord for a not-unusually-cold week in February, and even given that our driving was almost entirely on freeways, we expected better than the overall 6.8 L/100 km we measured (though that was still better than the 7.0 L/100 km reported by the trip computer). Even at freeway speeds the powertrain regularly slipped into EV mode, which makes the overall fuel-consumption all the more surprising.

Perhaps more representative was the 5.9 L/100 km we saw over one 150-km day of suburban, rural and highway driving. Certainly, more city driving would have better showcased the Hybrid’s frugality advantage

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But even our mostly-highway 6.8 average over the full week was significantly thriftier than you’d expect of a mid-size sedan in mid-winter. Combine that economy with the hybrid’s sweet powertrain refinement and quicker-than-most four-cylinder acceleration, plus all the other assets that made the Accord a worthy 2018 North American Car of the Year, and you have quite a compelling package.

Tech specs

Base price/As tested: $33,490-$40,190

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder/181-hp electric motor

Transmission/Drive: Automatic/Front-wheel

Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 5.0 city/5.0 hwy.

Alternatives: Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Prius

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Looks

We think the Accord is one great-looking sedan, and the hybrid is little different. A fastback profile is standard wear for mid-size sedans these days, but the Accord’s interesting rear-pillar treatment sets it apart.

As long as you don’t mind a somewhat low-slung driving position the inside story is all good.

Jeremy Sinek

Interior

As long as you don’t mind a somewhat low-slung driving position – or can tolerate less thigh support if you need to set the 12-way seat high – the inside story is all good. Sightlines are unobstructed, the gauges are bright and crisp, and secondary controls are logically shared between hard buttons and knobs and the 8-inch touch-screen, all positioned for easy access and minimal diversion of your attention from the road. And the rear seat is as comfortable as it is roomy – very, on both counts.

Performance

Like most hybrids the Accord has one of those continuously-variable transmissions that can cause unexpected random surges of engine revs in routine driving, and pegs the engine at a constant high-rpm frenzy on wide-open throttle. In this case, however, the annoyance factor is minimized because the gas engine is so exceptionally refined – even when it is running, which some of the time it isn’t. Maximum-effort acceleration delivers the 0-100-km/h benchmark in the mid-7-seconds range – quicker than most four-cylinder mid-size sedans, and in the ballpark with its own 1.5T sibling (though emphatically outrun by the 2.0T). And even on winter tires the Hybrid preserves a large measure of the athletic handling that makes the Accord our favourite midsizer.

The gas engine is exceptionally refined – even when it is running, which some of the time it isn’t.

Jeremy Sinek

Technology

The standard Honda Sensing driver-aids suite includes forward collision warning, collision-mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, LaneWatch and traffic-sign recognition. The 8-inch display audio includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Pandora, SMS Text Messaging, HondaLink telematics and a multiangle rear-view camera. The Touring adds, among other items, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, navigation, head-up display, HD Radio, Sirius XM and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Cargo

The 16.7-cu.-ft trunk is cavernous, though the cavity itself, and the pass-through aperture, are somewhat irregular in shape.

The verdict: 8.5

Never mind the hybrid part – this is simply a very fine sedan whichever way you look at it.

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