Honda is expanding its eco-friendly motoring lineup with the early 2013 release of the 2014 Honda Accord plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Although the public release of the vehicle is still several months away, I was lucky enough to get behind the wheel of a prototype Accord PHEV last month in California.

 

Honda hosted a media preview event in late August at the Bacara Resort and Spa in Goleta, California. My first glimpse of the Accord PHEV came during the opening dinner reception. The Accord PHEV was sitting alongside the newly redesigned 2013 Honda Accord Coupe and Sedan and in my opinion, the PHEV was by far the sportiest of the three vehicles. Yes, even more sporty looking than the two-door coupe.

 

I love the style of a sedan so perhaps I’m a little biased in my opinion but honestly, when you look at the lines of the PHEV combined with the blue-tinted headlights, spoiler and 17” forged aluminum wheels, sporty has got to be one of the first words that comes to your mind.

 

However, styling isn’t the main draw of a plug-in hybrid vehicle; consumers are after top-notch fuel efficiency. Although the vehicle is not quite at its full production trim, Honda expects the 2014 Accord PHEV to achieve a fuel efficiency rating in excess of 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).

 

Drivers can expect an electric only range of between 10 and 15 miles with a top speed in EV mode of around 70 to 75 miles per hour. A full tank of gas will deliver a range of approximately 500 miles, depending on driving conditions. These figures are based on the prototype, though, and may change once the Accord PHEV reaches production status.

 

On paper, the numbers look good but the big question is, “How does the Accord PHEV drive?” My quick and dirty answer would be, “not bad.” Remember, the vehicle I drove was a prototype but I definitely see some potential based on my 40-mile ride and drive from the Firestone Winery in Los Olivos, California back to the Bacara Resort.

 

During the first leg of our journey, I rode shotgun as Amir Iliaifar from DigitalTrends.com took the wheel. From the passenger’s perspective, the ride was fairly smooth, albeit a bit noisy. There was plenty of legroom but as Amir pointed out in his review, the biofabric used in the PHEV doesn’t have the luxurious look or feel of the leather used in the non-PHEV Accords. Will this matter to eco-conscious buyers, though? Only time will tell.

 

After a quick stop to switch drivers, it was my turn to put the engine to the test. A good portion of the first half of my drive was uphill. The car effortlessly climbed the hill, even passing slower cars with ease, but the engine sounded like it was working extremely hard. The accelerator was only slightly depressed and the engine was responsive but very noisy, sounding as if it was at the redline. However, this was a prototype and the engine noise issue may be resolved by the time the vehicle makes its way to dealerships.

 

Another issue I had was specific to the regenerative braking system, however that was more of a personal issue than a concern with the vehicle itself. The regenerative braking system felt a little stiff but if I had more time behind the wheel of the car, I believe that I could have adjusted to the nuances of a regenerative braking system, thus negating this concern.

 

The 2014 Honda Accord PHEV has the potential to be a great car but as is the case with all of the plug-in vehicles on the market or in production, it’s a special kind of car for a special kind of buyer. In this case, a buyer that wants great fuel efficiency, lower tailpipe emissions and a sporty sedan look.