2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. Hybrid CVT Automatic)
  • 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

    2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

    These fuel savers look a lot like normal cars. Mercifully. | December 16, 2013

55 Photos

Funky Fuel Savers Face Off

  • Comparison Test
  • 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Specs and Performance
  • 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Specs and Performance

In a desperate plea to make this the least boring of the many fuel-miser comparison tests in which it has competed, the 2013 Volkswagen Passat did the unlikely: It bettered the EPA's combined fuel economy estimate by 4.8 mpg.

Whether this is a result of unusually light editorial feet, excessive highway miles or straight dumb luck isn't clear. But one thing is certain: The Passat needed to bring its "A" game to beat the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid.

After all, the new Accord Hybrid recently won the gnarliest fuel-saver skirmish in the history of fuel-saving skirmishes: The Great Honda Accord Throwdown of November 2013.

So as you can see, this is an honest, no-nonsense comparison of utilitarian technologies — one proven and one an all-new take on a modern theme. Forget about vanity, frills and flourish. This is the pragmatic-man's comparison test and all it will deliver are the facts.

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If All You Care About Is MPG
Despite the Passat's EPA-besting success, the Accord Hybrid utterly dominated all aspects of fuel saving in this test. During the hundreds of miles covered in each, the Accord's 46.3 mpg handily trounced the Passat's 39.8-mpg average.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

The domination continued on our 116-mile test loop, where the Honda snubbed the Passat by 3.1 mpg (47.5 mpg vs. 44.4 mpg). The EPA, too, acknowledges the Hybrid's miserliness. At 47 mpg combined (50 city/45 highway) according to the Feds, there's little reason to think the 34 mpg combined (30 city/40 highway) Passat was going to equal that performance.

The foundation of the Accord Hybrid's powertrain is a 141-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that runs on 87-octane gasoline. In place of a conventional transmission are two electric motors. One motor acts as a generator to charge the battery while the other drives the wheels. When necessary (primarily at freeway speeds), the gas engine is locked to the drive wheels via the electric motor. A 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery resides in the trunk. Combined output of the gas engine and electric motor is 196 hp and 226 pound-feet of torque.

This novel approach to power delivery allows the Accord Hybrid to run in three modes: full EV mode up to 74 mph, series-hybrid mode where the engine is powering the batteries for the electric motor that is driving the wheels and gasoline-only mode for those long, steep climbs.

The Passat, for its part, delivers 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque from a thoroughly modern 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine lashed to a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

The only clue that there's anything unconventional about the Passat's powertrain comes on cold mornings when there's a slight delay between when you push the start button and the engine fires. From behind the wheel the Passat is quiet and torque-rich.

Do They Feel Like Fuel Misers?
You'll not want to rush either of these sedans onto the freeway in front of a charging tractor-trailer. However, should you find yourself in such a circumstance you'll be better served in the Accord, which hits 60 mph a full 1.6 seconds before the Passat (7.4 seconds, or 7.1 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip vs. 9.0 seconds [8.7 with rollout]). The lighter German (3,500 pounds vs. 3,569), however, closes the gap to 1.1 seconds at the quarter-mile. Its 16.7-second pass is off the pace of most four-cylinder gasoline-powered midsize sedans, while the Accord Hybrid is slightly better than average at 15.6 seconds.

As important as the outright speed, though, is the way both cars deliver power. There's plenty of midrange torque in the Passat, but it arrives only after turbo boost builds and the transmission finds the right gear ratio. It helps a little to drive the Passat around in Sport mode, which awakens the transmission to a small extent. Whichever setting you choose, it's a powertrain that's as smooth and quiet as it is forgettable in everyday use.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

In the Accord, however, there's an immediate response to throttle input that's both welcome and usable. The combination of instantly available electric torque and the lack of a need to downshift gets the credit here.

Handling tests were a virtual wash despite the Passat's larger 18-inch rubber. Only 0.1 mph separated the two in the slalom (Accord 63.7, Passat 63.6 mph), while the Passat eked out a small advantage in lateral acceleration at 0.85g to the Accord's 0.83g.

Similar Size, Different Feel
Though its wheelbase is 1.1 inches longer, the Passat is marginally shorter in overall length and narrower than the electrified Accord. Inside, both cars do an admirable job of accommodating even large passengers in either the front or rear seats. The Passat, though its measured interior volume is smaller, wins any comparison of perceived interior space. Credit here goes to the Volkswagen's less sculpted dash, pushed-back pillars and better legroom front and rear.

There's also 3.6 additional cubic feet in its trunk, which isn't burdened with carrying batteries. With this benefit comes a split-folding rear seat, too.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

But the small compromise the Accord makes in utility it gains back in style, quality and personality. Put plainly, the Passat isn't as nice inside. We applaud Volkswagen's use of three knobs (Honda uses buttons) to manage the Passat's dual-zone climate control, but its mix of wood and plastic is dull at best. Even configured without the wood trim, the Passat's sterile interior is no match for the Accord's finely finished materials and coherent style. Honda brings together soft-touch black plastic, leather and satin trim to elegantly finish the Accord.

Drive Them Both Before You Decide
When it comes to effortless efficiency in the daily task of moving people, both cars make a strong case. If your intended use includes disproportionate amounts of highway time, the Passat is very good. During one highway-heavy tank on this test we drove 128 miles and then noticed its range indicator predicted 623 miles still remaining. Few backsides or bladders will desire more miles per tank.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

It's in long, stopless road-trip legs that its diesel power plant shines most brightly, offering long-haul capacity coupled with virtually nonexistent noise and harshness. It's a diesel, but it's a quiet, smooth diesel.

If the Accord has a weakness it's on the freeway where its gas/electric transition — while cruising between 60 and 70 mph — results in a small but perceptible drivetrain surge. Though many buyers won't even notice, this will, for some, be an annoying deal breaker.

Still, if there's an athlete here, it's the Honda. Its steering is quicker and its response to inputs more welcome than in the Passat. And it offers these benefits without a corresponding deficiency in ride quality. What's more, in all-electric mode, you'll not find a quieter midsize sedan.

Cost vs. Benefit
Both cars in this test are feature-laden examples and include navigation, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, rearview back-up cameras, keyless entry and ignition as well as power front seats. Both offer leather seating, though the Passat adds suede inserts and a memory function that isn't present in the Accord.

But the Accord's feature list is more heavily stacked. It also offers LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system, front collision alert and Honda's Lane Watch, which displays the rear-quarter view on the center screen when the right turn signal is activated.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

Unsurprisingly, with this functionality and efficiency comes a higher price tag. At $35,695 the Accord Hybrid Touring cost $1,985 more than the range-topping Passat TDI SEL Premium, which tallied $33,710.

2nd Place
It's hard to condemn the Passat given its relatively impressive fuel economy, its admirable daily driver practicality and its substantial comfort and utility. But there's no denying that it falls short when compared to what's probably the best hybrid sedan in the world today.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

In the Passat we have a large, comfortable sedan with bladder-busting range, a family-size backseat and enough trunk space to accommodate multiple international-size suitcases. Its size and weight are a liability if you ever need to really hustle, but that's not a task we find ourselves needing often in midsize sedans.

Though the price difference is less than $2,000, you'd need 11.5 years with the Accord (assuming 15,000 miles annually) to save that much in fuel cost. That's longer than most people keep their cars and it's a solid reason to opt for the Passat. Plus, that's $2,000 you pragmatic folks can sink into your kids' college funds. Speaking of pragmatism, many will find comfort investing in proven diesel power and reliability over hybrid technology. Or maybe you just want to cruise at 80 mph for hours on end. If so, the Passat is your car.

Meanwhile, we'll drive the winner...

1st Place
It's not what the Accord Hybrid does that wins it this test. Rather, it's what it doesn't do. Finally, we have a sedan that fully embraces hybrid technology without boastfully displaying it in every detail. In fact, the nuances differentiating it from the standard Accord are subtle enough that only those in the know will notice. And that's a good thing.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

More importantly, from behind the wheel, the Accord is a hybrid that doesn't require a full restructuring of your expectations about how a car should drive. Sure, you'll notice its nuances if you're paying attention. But you don't have to. It's a hybrid you can drive like a normal car, should you choose. And if you're so inclined, the Accord provides sufficient indulgence to satisfy even the most fuel-pump-averse hypermiler.

Yes, it costs more than the 2013 Volkswagen Passat, but in every area except cargo space and range, you get more. And if fuel economy is the main priority in your next vehicle it's hard to do better. The bottom line is that the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid is as impressive as a fuel-saving sedan as it is as a family sedan. And we can't ask for more than that.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Vehicle
Model year2014 Honda Accord Hybrid
Year Make Model2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid Direct Drive
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 5-passenger sedan
Base MSRP$35,695
As-tested MSRP$35,695
Assembly locationMarysville, Ohio
Drivetrain
ConfigurationTransverse, front-engine combined with electric motor(s), front-wheel drive
Engine typeAtkinson-cycle inline-4, gasoline with auto stop-start
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,993/122
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDouble overhead camshaft
Compression ratio (x:1)13.0
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)141 @ 6,200
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)122 @ 3,500-6,000
Fuel typeRegular unleaded
Hybrid typeSeries
Electric motor rating (kW)124
Combined horsepower (hp @ rpm)196
Combined torque (lb-ft @ rpm)226 @ 0-3,857
Battery typeLithium-ion
Battery capacity, rated (kW-hr)1.3
Transmission typeDirect drive electric motor coupled to gasoline engine
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-assist rack-and-pinion steering
Steering ratio (x:1)13.36
Tire make and modelMichelin Energy Saver A/S
Tire typeAll-season, low-rolling resistance
Tire size225/50R17 94V M+S
Wheel size17-by-7.5 inches front and rear
Wheel materialPainted alloy
Brakes, front11.5-inch ventilated disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Brakes, rear11.1-inch solid disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)3.1
0-45 mph (sec.)4.8
0-60 mph (sec.)7.4
0-75 mph (sec.)11.0
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.6 @ 88.8
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.1
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.1
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.9
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.4
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)11.0
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)15.6 @ 88.9
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.1
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)31
60-0 mph (ft.)115
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)63.7
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON62.4
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.82
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.83
Sound level @ idle (dB)36.8
@ Full throttle (dB)67.7
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)63.5
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsTraction control on or off, it would be hard to find a more consistent car. Acceleration to 60 mph between the four runs differed by just 0.04 second. Overlapping brake and throttle fired up the gasoline engine, but didn't alter acceleration times one bit. We started the runs with the battery power two bars below full.
Braking commentsTypical hybrid brake wonkiness (in full-ABS stops only): The pedal goes almost to the floor with each stop and has a strange, dead feel to it. That said, the stops were fairly consistent and reasonably short and the car tracked straight. The first stop was shortest at 115 feet. The sixth and final stop was longest at 123 feet.
Handling commentsSlalom: Unlike the gasoline Accord, the Hybrid version's stability control can't be fully defeated. Instead, it has what appeared to be a slightly more lenient state than full-on. It was pretty enthusiast-driver-friendly, in fact, allowing me to go to full throttle (although it managed the throttle for me) before the last small cone and through our final gate. It definitely feels heavier than the non-hybrid four-cylinder, but pretty well-composed anyway, with a reasonable amount of grip from the tires. Skid pad: The stability system wasn't quite so intrusive to the point that you could just keep the throttle pinned all the way around (almost), so you still needed to modulate. Since the system can't be fully defeated, it was much the same in the partial stability control off setting. Lots of understeer of course, and it feels rather appliance-like as the stability control keeps adding brakes/cutting throttle, etc. Despite the extra pounds and low-rolling-resistance tires, the hybrid exhibited more grip than the non-hybrid Accord.
Testing Conditions
Test date10/29/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)56.88
Relative humidity (%)62
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.81
Wind (mph, direction)3.0 cross
Odometer (mi.)3,954
Fuel used for test87-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)33/33
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)47 combined/50 city/45 highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)46.3
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)15.8
Driving range (mi.)711
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo description360-watt, 6-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD stereo with subwoofer
iPod/digital media compatibilitySingle USB input, aux input
Satellite radioStandard XM with three-month trial subscription
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard phone and audio
Navigation systemStandard with 8-inch display screen
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition doors
Parking aidsStandard back-up camera
Blind-spot detectionStandard
Adaptive cruise controlStandard
Lane-departure monitoringStandard
Collision warning/avoidanceStandard
Driver coaching displayStandard
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,550
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,569
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)60/40
Length (in.)192.2
Width (in.)72.8
Height (in.)57.5
Wheelbase (in.)109.3
Track, front (in.)62.4
Track, rear (in.)62.7
Turning circle (ft.)38.1
Legroom, front (in.)42.5
Legroom, rear (in.)38.5
Headroom, front (in.)39.1
Headroom, rear (in.)37.5
Shoulder room, front (in.)58.6
Shoulder room, rear (in.)56.5
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)12.3
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Hybrid/battery8 years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles per state of purchase/registration.
Vehicle
Model year2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI
Year Make Model2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl turbodiesel 6AM)
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 5-passenger sedan
Base MSRP$33,710
As-tested MSRP$33,710
North American parts content (%)40 percent
Drivetrain
ConfigurationTransverse, front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4, diesel
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,968/120
Block/head materialCast iron/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)16.5
Redline, indicated (rpm)5,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)140 @ 4,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)236 @ 1,750
Fuel typeDiesel
Transmission typeSix-speed automated manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=3.46, II=2.05, III=1.3, IV=0.90, V=0.91, VI=0.76
Final-drive ratio (x:1)I=4.12, II=3.04
Differential(s)Mechanically open with electronic differential lock
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)16.4
Tire make and modelContinental ContiProContact
Tire typeAll-season front and rear
Tire size, front235/45R18 94H M+S
Tire size, rear235/45R18 94H M+S
Wheel size18-by-8 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, front12.3-inch ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear10.7-inch solid cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)3.0
0-45 mph (sec.)5.6
0-60 mph (sec.)9.0
0-75 mph (sec.)13.8
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)16.7 @ 82.2
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)8.7
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.6
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)9.7
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)14.6
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)17.0 @ 81.6
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)9.2
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)30
60-0 mph (ft.)118
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON63.6
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.85
Sound level @ idle (dB)44.8
@ Full throttle (dB)67.9
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)63.3
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,050
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsBetween the DSG twin-clutch transmission and turbo, there's some definite hesitation off the line. It just sits there when you initially go from foot on brake to foot on throttle. Using the Sport transmission mode alone netted a half-second, and then overlapping throttle and brake at launch (power-braking) to raise the revs netted another 0.2 second. This Passat does not have a traction control off button. The transmission accomplishes shifts super-quick, but since this is a turbodiesel it only revs to about 4,400 rpm. Car can be manually shifted via console lever (pull back for downshifts), but it still upshifts for itself anyway. Blips throttle on manual downshifts.
Braking commentsNice, reassuringly firm pedal during panic stops, and pretty much zero side-to-side wiggling. Stable. Pedal stayed consistent throughout. First stop was 117.9 feet, shortest stop was the seventh stop at 117.7 feet. The third stop was the longest at 124 feet.
Handling commentsSlalom: The stability control cannot be disabled, but it's reasonably nonintrusive. The Passat TDI feels heavy and softly sprung, yet it's a willing handler with excellent communication back to the driver. Even though the car flops around a bit, you always feel in control. The steering has a nice intuitive feel. Skid pad: Again, the amount this car rolls over on the outside front tire is shocking, yet it returns a decent grip number. The steering is communicative, pretty easy to keep right on the arc.
Testing Conditions
Test date10/29/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)59.3
Relative humidity (%)61.0
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.81
Wind (mph, direction)1.44
Odometer (mi.)9,361
Fuel used for testUltralow-sulfur diesel
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)33/33
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)34 combined/30 city/40 highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)39.8
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)18.5
Driving range (mi.)740
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionFender premium audio
iPod/digital media compatibilityMedia device Interface with iPod cable
Satellite radioStandard with limited subscription
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemStandard
Smart entry/StartStandard
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,459
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,500
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)59.7/40.3
Length (in.)191.6
Width (in.)72.2
Height (in.)58.5
Wheelbase (in.)110.4
Track, front (in.)62.1
Track, rear (in.)61.0
Turning circle (ft.)36.4
Legroom, front (in.)42.4
Legroom, rear (in.)39.1
Headroom, front (in.)38.3
Headroom, rear (in.)37.8
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.)57.0
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)15.9
GVWR (lbs.)4,652
Payload, mfr. max claim (lbs.)1,193
Ground clearance (in.)5.4
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenance3 years/36,000 miles

Most Recommended Comments

By shatner
on 12/17/13
5:03 AM PST

Diesel is more expensive than premium in my area. It can run 50 cents or more a gallon over regular. With that considered the Accord saves close to 400 bucks a year in gas vs. the Passat. The Accord pays for the price difference in 5 years, and it is better equipped.

Recommend  (72) (40)

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By quadricycle
on 12/16/13
11:51 PM PST

Good job Honda, this is a hybrid I wouldn't mind getting to know!

Recommend  (17) (11)

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By shepski
on 12/17/13
10:46 AM PST

Since only one of them can be had with a manual, there's only one choice for me.

Recommend  (14) (7)

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid in VA is:

$123 per month*
* Explanation
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