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Plug-in Accord makes gas station visits rare

| Friday, July 25, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

The 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid sedan doesn't amaze and daze with its mainstream looks, nice cloth seats and pleasant ride. Its “wow” factor is, simply, how few times a driver may need to stop at a gasoline station in a year.

This most fuel-thrifty Accord four door — the first with an electric plug — is propelled by stored electric power on most short trips of up to 13 miles.

It carries along a 141-horsepower, four-cylinder engine for when trips go longer. But even on the longer trips, the engine and regenerative brakes help replenish the onboard electric supply for short spurts of electric-powered driving and supplemental acceleration.

As a result, emptying this Accord's gas tank can be a challenge.

For example, even with some long trips added, the test car averaged 54.1 miles per gallon with a mix of all-electric driving plus city/highway on the gasoline engine. In fact, the federal government's www.fueleconomy.gov website estimated the tester would only need to stop at the gas station about nine times in a year if driven at its current pattern.

New for 2014, the Accord Plug-in Hybrid competes against other plug-in hybrid models such as the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion Energi.

But the Accord's longer size — it's more than 16 feet long from bumper to bumper — and generous interior set it a bit apart.

Its high price does, too. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid is $40,570. This includes a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that a driver operates like an automatic transmission.

Note the “regular” Accord Hybrid is rated by the federal government at a combined 47 mpg for city/highway travel, while the Accord Plug-in's ratings are 115 mpg-equivalent on all-electric short trips and 46 mpg for city/highway travel with the gas engine.

The Accord Plug-in also has a higher starting retail price than the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi, which starts at $35,525 with plug, leather seats, rearview camera and dual-zone climate control.

The federal government rates the 2014 Fusion Energi at 98 mpg-equivalent in all-electric mode and 37 mpg for city/highway travel on the gas engine.

Electric power is stored in a lithium-ion battery pack behind the rear seatbacks. This limits trunk space to 8.6 cubic feet.

Ann M. Job is an Associated Press contributor.

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