by: HONDA AMERICA MOTOR COMPANY - The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid features next-generation technology.Honda has reinvented the hybrid with the 2014 Accord Hybrid. Now longer is "almost drives like a normal car" the standard against which hybrids will be judged. The Accord Hybrid drives better than a normal car — that is to say, better than a conventional gas-powered economy car. Better even than some not-so-economy minded cars. And better than such competitors as the Toyota Prius, which made hybrid a household word.

The secret to the Accord Hybrid's success is its unique engine/transmission set up. All hybrids switch power between a gasoline engine and an electric motor to maximize mileage. But they also deliver that power to the drive wheels through conventional transmissions, including Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT) which do not have shift points.

In contrast, the Accord Hybrid uses the electric motor as the transmission. This is what all-electric cars like the Honda Fit EV, Nissan Leaf and Chevy Spark EV do. Because all of the torque from an electric motor is instantly available, they accelerate rapidly off the line. And because electric motors run by spinning faster and faster until they reach their maximum speed, the acceleration (and deceleration) is smoother than even a CVT.

During a week of test driving, we found the 2014 Accord Hybrid to be quick and quiet, much more like an all-electric car than a hybrid. In fact, the set up is similar to the Chevy Volt, which is a battery-powered bar that uses an onboard gas-powered generator to supply the electricity when the power runs low. Chevy has gone out of its way to label the Volt an "extended range vehicle," not a hybrid, however.

Honda calls its system Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) featuring Earth Dreams Technology. Although that may be pouring it on a little thick, Green Car Reports just gave the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid its Best Car to Buy Award. Among other things, the eco-friendly rating service noted the Accord Hybrid gets about the same mileage as the Prius while being a whole lot more fun to drive.

And better looking, too. Honda completely redesigned the Accord in 2013, making it shorter and leaner on the outside, but roomier and better designed on the inside. And Honda has borrowed a trick from Kia, which has designed the Optima Hybrid to be the sportiest looking of the various versions. Our silver Accord Hybrid can with sharp-looking polished alloy wheels and a rear spoiler that made it look more like Mercedes sedan than an affordable family car.

Of course, like all hybrid, the new Accord Hybrid costs more than an equivalent gas-powered Accord — about $5,000 more, based on a similarly-outfitted Accord with the base 2.4-liter engine we recently tested. The hybrid version gets significantly better mileage, an EPA estimated 47 miles per gallon average compared to 30 with the base engine. That's still a big cost difference, however, one that might never be erased in fuel savings unless the price of gas increases significantly.

But the driving experience is so different between the two versions, direct comparisons aren't really fair. We recently tested a similarly-equipped Accord with the base engine and found it to be a very good car. But the Accord Hybrid might better be compared to the more powerful (and more expensive) 3.5-liter V6 version. And even then, some people will likely find the hybrid version more fun than the V6 — something we never thought we'd say about any hybrid.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2014 Accord Hybrid.

• Manufacturer: Honda.

• Class: Midsize sedan and coupe.

• Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive.

• Style: Two and four-door car.

• Engines: 2.4-liter inline 4 (185 hp, 181 ft-lbs); 2.4-liter inline 4 (189 hp, 182 ft-lbs); 3.5-liter V6 (278 hp, 252 ft-lbs); 2.0-liter inline 4 and electric motor (196 hp, 226 ft-lbs).

• Transmission: Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive.

• Fuel Economy: 24/34/28 (2.4/M); 26/34/29 (2.4/CVT); 18/28/22 (3.5/M); 21/23/26 (3.5/A); 50/45/47 (Hybrid).

• Price: Starting at around $21,000 ($35,835 as tested).

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