With more stringent fuel economy standards on the horizon, Honda has increased its commitment to electrification of its vehicles, including an expansion of its Clarity fuel cell line and, more immediately, a re-engineered edition of the Accord Hybrid for 2017.

Due in showrooms this spring, the revitalization includes upgrades to the Accord’s propulsion system, which entails a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle gasoline engine augmented by two electric motors.

One of the motors functions primarily as a generator, replenishing the system’s battery pack, while the other contributes to propulsion. However, in optimal situations -- steady state cruising at freeway speeds with a well-charged battery, for example -- both motors can participate in sending thrust to the front wheels, one geared directly to the differential, the other via a computer-controlled clutch.

Greater output

Although the design of the two-motor system is essentially the same as the previous Accord Hybrid, Honda reengineered the package for 2017 to make it smaller, lighter and more powerful. This time around, it develops 212 horsepower versus 196 for the previous Accord Hybrid. And despite the EPA’s new and more-stringent rating system, the official fuel economy ratings are a stellar 49 mpg in the city and 47 mph on the highway for a 48 mpg combined rating. Those figures make this green-tinged Honda the most powerful as well as the most fuel-efficient midsize hybrid sedan currently on offer in America.

As before, the new hybrid can operate for very short distances, at low speed, under electric power alone. But unlike the previous generation, a plug-in version isn’t in the plans. That part of the electrification strategy will be ceded to the 2017 Honda Clarity line, which will consist of midsize sedans similar in size to the Accord.

Also: See the New and Redesigned Cars of 2016

Smaller trunk

Honda refrained from releasing kilowatt-hour details about the lithium-ion battery pack, other than to say that it’s bigger. How that will affect curb weight remains to be seen, but Honda admits that the new battery does reduce trunk capacity by two cubic feet (to 13.5) and eliminates the option of expanding capacity into the rear passenger compartment: the rear seatbacks are fixed. Rear seat roominess, an Accord strong suit, isn’t affected.

Freshened for 2016, the Accord sedan lineup is a little more daring in terms of exterior styling, updates that carry forward to the hybrid. The gasoline-electric version is distinguished by LED headlamps with a bluish tint, model-specific aluminum alloy wheels, an aluminum hood, and hybrid badges.

Inside, Honda’s Display Audio system is available, and like the gasoline Accords, all secondary control functions are confined to a 7-inch touch-screen display -- no knobs or buttons. Also like the standard Accords, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity are available, and the Honda Sensing driver assist features are standard in all trim levels.

Three trim levels

The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid will roll into showrooms in in three packaged configurations. The base Accord Hybrid will open at $30,440, which is just $300 more than where the last-gen 2015 started. Stepping up to the leather-lined Accord Hybrid EX-L bumps the sticker to $33,740 while a loaded Accord Hybrid Touring commences at $36,830.

In addition to engineering updates, Honda has moved Accord Hybrid production from Ohio to Japan, a strategy rooted in better hybrid engineering expertise and hybrid-specific supplier sourcing. How or if this will affect pricing is unknown, but Honda anticipates increasing sales of the Accord hybrid to 28,000 annually. That’s not much by Toyota Prius standards, but it’s double the sales record of the previous model.


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