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2006 Honda Accord Hybrid Credit: Honda

Honda/Wieck

Although it can't be classed as a runaway success, Honda's Accord Hybrid was a harbinger of things to come.

Sold in Canada from 2005 through 2007, it was the first V-6-propelled hybrid vehicle put into production by the Japanese company and, according to Honda, it signified "a significant shift in drivetrain technology."

In this case, that translated into better performance. With 255 horsepower on tap, the Accord Hybrid accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in the seven-second range, which made it a smidgeon quicker than the regular V-6, not exactly a slouch in the pedal-to-the-metal department.

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In fact, the Accord Hybrid seemed to be as much about performance as fuel economy and lower emissions. Utilizing a slightly modified standard-issue Accord V-6 engine and a beefed-up version of the same powertrain setup as the Civic Hybrid, it featured Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, which consisted of a thin electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission.

This arrangement supplied 10 per cent more supplemental horsepower than its Civic counterpart and 26 per cent more torque. And like the Civic and original Insight hybrids, the whole setup essentially acted as a boost when more power was required - during hard acceleration and hill-climbing, for example. Although more powerful, the Accord Hybrid's nickel metal-hydride battery pack was actually smaller than that of the Civic Hybrid.

Like most hybrids, the Accord "harvested" electrical power during braking and recharged itself when the vehicle decelerated.

The electric motor had different power intervals than that of the Civic and Insight, and used different magnets and filaments, but was essentially the same unit.

Interestingly, the Accord Hybrid also had a hybrid air conditioning system - two separate compressors provided the cooling power; one connected to a small electric motor, the other running off a conventional drive belt. The idea was to provide instant relief when the vehicle was parked outside on a hot summer's day, or cool air if you were sitting in traffic with the engine not running.

As far as fuel economy was concerned, the Accord Hybrid's IMA system shut the engine off at idle or any speed below 13 km/h, and automatically restarted it when the brake pedal was released.

It also featured Honda's then-new Vehicle Cylinder Management (VCM) system, which shut off the rear bank of cylinders when the vehicle reached cruising speed and during "mild" acceleration. This setup was, and is, virtually identical to the system found in the Odyssey minivan.

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Over all, the Accord Hybrid delivered 8.3 litres/100 km in town and 6.1 on the highway, which was comparable to a non-hybrid Civic equipped with an automatic transmission, and a 28-per-cent improvement over the regular Accord V-6. It also gave the Accord Hybrid a range of more than 1,000 kilometres.

Visually, it looked about the same as its stable-mates. A badge on the rear deck, slightly different front-grille treatment and a small rear spoiler and roof antenna were all that distinguished it.

Behind the wheel, an LCD display below the speedometer kept the driver up to speed on the activities of the IMA system, and there was an average fuel economy meter and a set of bars to indicate the battery's level of charge. Otherwise, the interior was virtually identical to the regular Accord V-6, which seemed to be the general idea.

There's just one safety recall to report from Transport Canada. It involves a suspect fuel pump that could fail and result in the vehicle not starting or stalling suddenly. This flaw also applies to a range of other Honda products equipped with V-6 engines.

The U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has this glitch on file, too, as well as 10 additional problems, most of which concern possibly faulty airbags or aftermarket headlights and exterior lighting.

Surprisingly, perhaps, NHTSA has but one technical service bulletin for the Accord Hybrid, and it has to do with the battery pack. In cases of extreme ambient temperature, according to NHTSA, the batteries can be affected. Again, this potential problem applies to all Honda hybrid models, including the original Insight, Civic Hybrid and Accord.

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Over all, Consumer Reports likes the Accord Hybrid, with just one trouble spot concerning the electrical system and a couple of warnings for the fuel system. Otherwise, it's all good, with top or near-top marks in virtually all areas, and the used-car verdict from this organization is the best they can bestow.

Market research company J.D. Power, meanwhile, doesn't appear to distinguish between the regular V-6 and Hybrid models, but does give this vintage of Accord "better than most" ratings in all areas but one. Apparently, they're put off by the vehicle's styling. Otherwise, it receives top marks in dependability.

Depending upon the year, you can expect to pay anywhere from $17,000 to $26,000 for an Accord Hybrid, which is pretty decent, considering it cost just under $40,000 when new in 2005.

globeauto@globeandmail.com

*****

2005-2007 HONDA ACCORD HYBRID

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Original Base Price: $36,990-$40,590; Black Book Value: $17,770-$26,525; Red Book Value: $16,925-$25,450

Engine: 3.0-litre V-6 with integral electric motor

Horsepower/Torque: 255 hp/232 lb-ft

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 8.3 city/6.1 highway; regular gas

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Alternatives: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, Saturn Aura Green Line

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