We'll be the first to admit that we don't readily associate ''Honda'' and ''hybrid.'' Sure, Honda was first to the market with its quirky 1999 Insight, but it wasn't long before it was passed by Toyota and its dominant Prius. Plus, almost every automaker now seems to have a hybrid sedan. So is the all-new Honda Accord Hybrid anything special?
Appearance: The hybrid model looks like the Accord. The only hint of what's under the hood are some discreet touches of blue in the grille slats, headlight bezels and small ''Hybrid'' badges. The wheels are 17-inch blade-like alloys that help with aerodynamics, as does the integrated deck-lid spoiler.
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Price: $29,945 hybrid base start, $35,695 as tested
Powertrain: 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder, motor powered by lithium-ion battery, electronic continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive
Horsepower: Combined 196 hp
Torque: 226 pound-feet at zero-3,800 rpm
Curb weight: 3,602 pounds
Fuel economy: 50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
Safety features: Forward collision warning, lane departure warning, vehicle stability assist, traction control, airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, adaptive cruise control
Performance: The first thing that draws your attention is the EPA-estimated fuel mileage: 50 mpg city, 45 highway. Those numbers are among the best in midsize hybrids, but you likely won't see such averages in real-world driving. Lead-foot Lyra got a less than 40 combined for her time with the car, which was heavy on highway driving. City commuters like Peter and more conservative drivers likely can get figures in the 40s. The Accord is powered by Honda's new hybrid system. The system pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine with two electric motors, one for propulsion and one for recharging. In lower speeds, the electric motor drives the car, with great acceleration from a stop. At highway speeds, the gas engine powers it. The engine changeover was hardly noticeable. We also couldn't detect any difference in pedal feel — no mushiness or excessive grabbiness — from the regenerative brakes. We liked the electronically controlled steering, which Lyra called ''delightfully effortless.'' Overall, the ride felt composed and comfortable, although the low-friction tires aren't as grippy as those on a regular Accord.
Interior: As with the regular Accord, the spacious cabin is well appointed, with high-quality materials and only the occasional plastic to remind you that this isn't a luxury sedan. Overall, the appearance mirrors the exterior, which doesn't play up the fact that the car is a hybrid. (The speedometer is flanked by ''coaching bars'' that change from blue to green depending on how efficiently you're driving.) There is plenty of head- and legroom both front and back. The leather seats are soft and supple, yet offer excellent support. The Accord comes with lots of standard features, including a rear-view camera, Bluetooth and USB port. Our loaded Touring trim came with a lot of electronic safety features: forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and LaneWatch passenger-side camera. But alas, no blind-spot monitor. One thing to note: The trunk space is smaller than the regular Accord because of the battery.
The bottom line: A great combination of comfort and efficiency. If fuel mileage is your priority but you need the roominess of a midsize sedan, the new Honda Accord Hybrid should be at the top of your list.