2023 Honda Accord Hybrid Review: Bucking Trends

  • Hybrid drivetrain is smooth and efficient
  • Handsome styling inside and out
  • Solid levels of tech and safety equipment
  • No all-wheel drive option
  • Don't expect a sports sedan

American drivers may not be buying sedans at the same rate as they used to, but we're still a long way from the death of anything that isn't a crossover, SUV, or pickup. Instead, it just means that what's left in the four-door segment has to raise its game to prove its worth, and that's a lesson Honda's 2023 Accord has clearly taken to heart.

Now in its 11th generation, the Accord has had plenty of time to refine its offering. While Honda may be Japanese, the 2023 car is undoubtedly attuned to the sensibilities of its American audience. U.S.-built, with an eye on economy and usable technology, this latest Accord doesn't do anything that might undermine its recipe of comfortable, attainable refinement.

That includes the further embrace of electrification. While we might bemoan the absence of a plug-in hybrid Accord — and let's not even mention a full EV, conspicuous by its absence for now in Honda's line-up as a whole — the 2023 Accord Hybrid seems happy to acknowledge that, for a lot of American drivers, that's all they're really comfortable with for now.

A sober new look

The Accord's new lantern-jawed, slab-sided aesthetic wasn't especially convincing in Honda's early images of the new sedan. Happily, the sheet metal is far more successful in real life. Up front, the squinting LED headlamps and trapezoidal grille channel "'70s clockwork robot" chic — which, to be clear, I'm saying is decidedly a good thing — while the swooping roofline picks up the understated shoulder creases.

At the rear, a trunk-spanning light bar plays conservatively with an element that a lot of automakers have run head-first into, and which I suspect will age more gracefully as a result. Honda has shown similar reticence with chrome trim, saving it for a few emphasizing touches around the glasshouse.

The result is clean and solid, not to mention more imposing than you might expect from the 2023 Accord's price tag. The cost of entry for the Accord Hybrid is $31,895 (plus destination), but if you don't mind going gas-only it kicks off at a mere $27,295 (plus destination). This top-spec Accord Hybrid Touring comes in at $37,890 with its standard 19-inch wheels.

Hybrid is the way to go

Go for the cheaper Accord, and it's Honda's 1.5-liter turbocharged gas engine under the hood. That's good for 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, and rated for 29 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 32 mpg combined. Back in our Accord first drive, we found it to be a somewhat underwhelming, ending up at the conclusion that buyers should cough up the extra for the hybrid.

A longer period with the Accord Hybrid Touring only solidified that stance. Honda combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine with a pair of electric motors, for a total of 204 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. The latter arrives from 0 rpm, however, lending the sedan that "instantly perky" feel that quickly gets addictive in electrified vehicles.

No, the Accord isn't going to wow you with its blistering speed, but neither does it feel lacking either in urban driving or on extended highway jaunts. Honda has used a continuously variable transmission (CVT), unsurprisingly, but it's programmed to pretend to be a regular, stepped transmission. Its slurred changes are almost imperceivable, and even more impressive, it doesn't leave the powertrain whining or droning.

It's also capable of being considerably more frugal, rated for 46 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway, and 44 mpg combined in Accord Hybrid Sport or Touring form. Bear in mind you may need to drive conservatively to hit that: after some extended highway time, the onboard computer was claiming low-30s. The EX-L is capable of even better on its smaller, standard 17-inch wheels, at 51 mpg city, 44 mpg highway, and 48 mpg combined.

Hints of Civic in the cabin

Honda's cabin is a pleasant place to spend time, too, albeit a fairly sober one in Touring form. Black leather is standard — the EX-L Hybrid trim can be had with Gray leather, too — and the glossy black trim on the dashboard doesn't do much to lift things (apart from fingerprints). Still, I can't really fault Honda's materials, with everything from the plastic and hide, to the dash-spanning mesh grille behind which the air vents lurk, feeling sturdy and premium.

Physical controls haven't been forgotten, with easy-to-use knobs and buttons for the HVAC. Honda's air vent adjustment levers manage to both look good and work easily, and the controls for drive mode — including the EV mode which locks out the gas engine for brief, lower-speed periods — are easily accessed. There's a dedicated volume knob, too, though it's weirdly small.

The same can't be said for the Accord's 12.3-inch touchscreen, though it's only standard on the Hybrid: lesser LX and EX trims get a far smaller 7-inch version. The former has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; the latter is wired. Amazon Alexa support is also baked into the Accord Hybrid, though only the top Touring trim gets a wireless phone charging pad.

Flagship trim gets luxury treats

That's not the only privilege reserved for Accord buyers spending the most. Touring is the only trim with heated rear seats and ventilated front seats; EX, EX-L, and Sport-L get heated front seats only. The flagship trim is the only one to get a 6-inch head-up display, too, though all trims have a 10.2-inch driver display rather than traditional gages.

The Bose Premium Sound System — with a dozen speakers — is exclusive to the Touring, with most of the other trims having a 180 W 8-speaker version.

Honda's steering wheel controls are straightforward, even if the toggles for volume and cruise control speed are atypically small, sharp, and cheap-feeling in their action. The steering wheel paddles, meanwhile, shift the hybrid through different levels of regenerative braking. That way you can quickly go from one-pedal driving in the city to coasting smoothly on the highway whenever you lift off the accelerator. It's a neat sense of involvement, in a category where "sensible" is often the most obvious conclusion from behind the wheel.

Room for improvement

Could the 2023 Accord Hybrid be improved? The absence of an all-wheel drive option remains a frustration, Honda resolutely sticking with its front-wheel-drive platform. If you want an "H" on the hood and the extra traction that AWD brings, you'll need to look to a crossover or SUV such as the CR-V Hybrid or, bigger still, the Pilot.

The manual transmission, too, is absent. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Honda retired that along with the tenth generation car — and it's not like stick shifts and EVs go together all that often — but it was a nod to driving engagement that seems ever more rare these days.

What I wish this switch to electrification had brought was a larger battery. The Accord Hybrid's dinky 1.3 kWh pack is a lightweight thing, which is useful for dynamics and economy, but it means the Honda's electric-only range is under a mile at best. Even then, you'll need an exceptionally light foot on the accelerator, in order to avoid rousing the gas engine again.

2023 Honda Accord Hybrid Verdict

Overall, though, the pluses well outweigh the minuses in the 2023 Accord Hybrid. Honda's aesthetic may be sober and restrained, but the sedan's blend of smooth engineering and pitched-just-right comfort helps it stand out, even in a reduced crowd of competitors.

The question many will have is whether the price premium of the electrified drivetrain is worth it, over the standard turbo engine. Honestly, I think the answer there is yes. For a start, it's a more rewarding experience from behind the wheel, but even accountants focused on cold, hard cash should be interested to see that the greater initial outlay is covered by fuel savings. Based on typical use, the EPA says the Accord Hybrid costs $400-500 less each year in gas, versus the non-hybrid version.

Nice as the Accord Hybrid Touring is, I think the wise money is on the EX-L Hybrid trim. At $33,540 (plus destination) that balances equipment and price nicely: you still get leather and the bigger infotainment screen. Beyond that, though, Honda's latest sedan is a reminder that — for all the talk of the death of a category — a good car can transcend trends.