The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are two cars that have created a small, but devoted customer base. Never-fail Japanese engineering combined with the space and backseat experience expected of far more expensive luxury is a pleasure that the sensible and value conscious Indian customers find very appealing. Over the years, both models have solidified a reputation for offering reliability, space and luxury. Now, there’s one more trait in the kitty – efficiency.
The two models you see here belong to a rare breed in India - hybrid luxury sedans, with the Accord being the newer of the duo. Being a CBU, the the Honda costs a mid-sized hatchback/compact sedan more than the locally assembled Camry. But, if you are looking for luxurious experience in a sensible package, can the Accord outdo the Toyota despite the heavier price tag?
Drive up to any hotel in either car and the valet will immediately reach for the rear door. Both have strong road presence and give you the sense that the deep-pocketed owner sits in the back. But while the Camry looks simple and restrained, the Accord looks new-age and sporty. Sleek LED headlamps, immediately sets the Honda apart. The Accord looks like it was milled out of a single block of metal, thanks to its clean lines and curvy contours. With its low-slung bonnet, aggressively styled 18-inch alloy wheels and coupe-like roofline, its design feels more athletic too.
The Camry is bulkier in comparison, but save for its height, it’s actually smaller than the Accord in all other dimensions. It’s also more understated and while the car is easy on the eyes, there’s no drama or wow factor. The car you see here is the last hurrah of a model that was launched 5 years ago. Evidently, it doesn’t look as futuristic as the Accord, nor does it grab as many eyeballs, but it doesn’t look dated either. Where the Accord aims for sportiness, the Camry delivers a stately air.
But, when it comes to pleasing the senses, the Accord has an advantage. When you pull the Honda’s doors open and the satisfying thunk with which they shut gives the Accord a sense of premiumness that feels a rung above this class. The Toyota’s build quality is good, but the door shut feels light in comparison.
Let’s begin in the back shall we? For starters, ingress into the Accord is a little easier since the you have to kind of drop down into the Camry’s seats. Once inside, you’ll also find that the seats are not only more comfortable and supportive, but feel more plush thanks to the premium upholstery and the great cushioning. A nice touch is that the rear row sits a little higher than the front seats and the dashboard sits low too, giving you a better view of the road ahead.
However, it’s the Camry that offers better rear seat headroom – something that you will find lacking in the Accord if you’re over 6ft tall. The higher roofline gives the Camry’s a greater sense of space. However, the seat base isn’t angled in a way to tuck you in like the Accord, resulting in a slightly knees-up position. Both cars get the boss button i.e. the front passenger’s seat can be electrically-adjusted from the back to free up more rear seat leg space.
But when it comes offering more creature comfort for the rear passenger, the Camry comes up on top. The Toyota gets reclining seats, an armrest with audio and air-con controls, sun-blinds at the sides and a motorised sunblind at the rear (also controllable from the armrest). It also gets 3-zone climate control (Accord gets 2-zone at the front only). In the Honda, on the other hand, apart from rear AC vents and an armrest with cupholders, the Sethji doesn’t get much to play with.
A nice touch in the Camry Hybrid is the front passenger headrest that drops forward. However, even so, the low seating position means you’re almost looking up at the dashboard. Additionally, the Camry’s comprehensive armrest seems to work against it, as it doesn’t sit flush in the backrest, making middle seat occupant comfort a weak point. We won’t go so far as to say the Accord is a great 5-seater either, but it just does a better job at it.
Where the Accord really kicks things up a few notches is quality. The choice of trim material exudes luxury and it feels like you’re in a German luxury sedan. This is a department where the Camry lets you down. Even after paying over Rs 40 lakh, it just feels like you’re sitting in a big Corolla.
The place where this difference gets more apparent is the front row. The Accord’s layout is cleaner and the only buttons on the centre console are the ones for the climate control. In the Camry, there’re far too many buttons and the layout comes across as too busy. Importantly, Honda has shown more attention to detail. So everything from the plastic panels to the wood trim and silver bezel around the infotainment system reek of upmarket value. You don’t get the same sense sitting in the Camry and the wooden panels, in particular, just feel tacky. Even the gear lever feels like something straight out of the 1990s. these small details underline the Camry’s age, which is now nearing the end of its lifecycle.
The Accord is quite apparently the more modern package. Its dual screen layout is a highlight and adds to the ease of use. The 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system on the centre console and the 7.7-inch multi-information display (MID) that sits on the dashboard work well together to execute a smooth information split. It’s particularly useful for the navigation system, wherein you get turn-by-turn inputs on the MID and the grid view on the touchscreen. This makes it easier to use navigation without taking your eyes off the road. The infotainment system even supports HDMI and is Wi-Fi ready, which enables web surfing through the browser app (like in the Honda City facelift).
Yes, the Camry gets a touchscreen infotainment system too, but the Accord’s offers better touch-sensitivity, richer graphics and is easier to use on the move as well. Oh yeah, it’s also the only one to support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay!
While it falls back in terms of back seat features, the Accord is the only one to offer a sunroof. It also features LaneWatch i.e. a camera mounted in the left wing mirror that engages every time you use the left indicator or hit the toggle switch and relays the feed to the upper screen. It’s very handy during the daytime, and while it isn’t does get grainy at night it makes it much easier to spot any bikers or cyclists trying to sneak up on the inside while turning. We do wish Honda offered the Camry’s motorised steering adjuster and ventilated seats. The latter is particularly useful in our country. The Camry also gets a full-sized spare tyre and while Honda says it will provide a spare tyre, it’ll be strapped to the boot floor, which reduces the usable boot space.
On the outside, the Accord Hybrid comes equipped with a full-LED lighting system, which includes the fog lamps, daytime running lamps (DRLs) and cornering lamps. The Camry gets LED headlights and daytime running lights, along with LED brake lights. Both cars get passive keyless entry, but the Accord’s key comes with a party trick. If the car’s been parked under the sun, you can remotely start the air-conditioner before you enter the car to avoid sitting in an oven! Just press the lock button and the hold the button marked ‘Hold’ on the key fob and you’re good to go.
Additionally, the Accord features Active Noise Cancellation, which uses microphones to pick up ambient noises and then through the speakers, emits sounds at the right frequency to cancel them out – something that definitely seemed to work its magic during our drive.
The Camry’s tech setup is more about ticking the basics. Apart from the convenience feature mentioned earlier, with its latest update, it even gets a wireless charger. A great touch, provided your phone is compatible with the technology.
Here, we simplify the hybrid systems of both cars and explain how they’re different.
Accord Hybrid (215PS/315Nm)
Honda uses a system called Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD). The system uses 4 main components – a 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery, an electric drive motor, an electric generator motor and the 2.0-litre petrol engine. Unlike traditional cars, there isn’t a gearbox as the power is sent to the wheels either through the electric drive motor or directly from the engine with just one gear to speed things up.
Camry Hybrid (205PS/270Nm)
Before anyone tells you otherwise, yes, driving a hybrid isn’t the same as driving a conventional petrol or diesel car. The first difference is at start up. Unless the battery is low on charge or the engine needs to warm up, both cars will start in EV mode. This means they behave like pure electric cars and resultantly, there’s no engine noise to tell you they’re ready to drive. Your only indication is the display on the instrument cluster. Simply release the brake and both will creep ahead at a steady pace on pure electric power and pedestrians nearby won’t even realize there’s a car around until you pass them.
Get a bit heavier on the throttle and the Accord is a little quicker to switch to hybrid mode. What’s really amazing is how seamless the transition feels. Unless you’re looking at the display on the instrument cluster, it’s hard to tell when the engine kicks in at city speeds. In the Camry, there is a strong surge when you get a little heavy on the accelerator. It’s not as smooth to pick up the pace as the Accord, but the difference isn’t stark.
Dab the throttle further and the Accord Hybrid is noticeably quicker and feels lighter on its feet. In the 0-100kmph sprint, it managed a time of 8.57 seconds – over half a second quicker than the Camry. However, don’t take this to mean it’s an enthusiast pleaser – it simply isn’t. Go hard on the pedal in either car and the engines get quite loud and there’s a sense of drama, but the amount of noise is greater than the rate at which you gain speed. Both produce in excess of 200PS, but that power is focused lower down to ensure good performance at city and cruising speeds.
Remember, neither car has a traditional gearbox with fixed ratios, so they don’t shift through gears. Driving hard means holding the engines close to the rev limit – something rarely experienced in regular cars because you have to work your way through multiple gears. Simply, high speed overtakes aren’t as smooth in the Camry as they are in the Accord and there’s more planning involved.
The Accord has an advantage here. While its petrol engine makes less power than the Camry’s, the electric motor is a full 41PS more powerful. So at highway speeds, when you have to brake and get back on the accelerator, the Accord’s electric motor helps get it back up to speed a little quicker and in a smoother fashion.
All said and done, these are efficiency-focused hybrids and work best when driven with a light foot. We were staggered by the Accord’s city efficiency of 18.54kmpl and highway figure of 22.67kmpl. The Camry, while still impressive at 14.29kmpl and 18.30kmpl in the city and highway respectively, is thirstier thanks to its greater dependency on mechanical power. Bear in mind that if you push them to the limit, they will drain their fuel tanks fast. Hybrids reach high revs with ease, so they will gulp down fuel that much quicker if you keep them there.
There is, another noticeable difference - and that is in the noise levels. There’s quite a bit of ambient noise, especially road noise that filters into the Camry’s cabin. Even the battery cooling vent (located to the side of the rear row backrest) is quite audible. The Accord’s cabin insulation is far better, but its engine note is relatively louder, though not an irritant.
Both cars are targeted at chauffeur-driven owners, so ride comfort takes precedence over all else. At low speeds, the Camry offers a more comfortable drive, owing to its softer set suspension. It deals with bumps and potholes better than the Accord, which is noticeably stiffer. Take one of those deep-seated manhole covers at 20-40kmph and you will definitely feel it more in the Accord than in the Camry.
However, that soft nature also results in the Camry being slightly bouncy. So while the Accord won’t be as graceful while going through a pothole, it settles immediately. The Camry, on the other hand, has a noticeable amount of vertical bobbing after exiting a rough patch. This nature continues on the highway, wherein the Camry doesn’t feel as settles as the Accord at high speeds. Take a long curve quickly and there’s more body roll and it lumbers through the turn as well.
Neither one of them are engaging to drive, but the Accord has the better responses for enthusiastic driving. The Honda’s steering is more responsive and is more communicative than the Camry’s steering, which just feels vague in comparison. Particularly through corners, there’s a lot more corrective steer needed in the Toyota.
The Camry scores on practicality as it manages to tackle speed breakers just a bit better. In the Honda you need to go over oddly shaped speed breakers with just a bit of care to keep the belly from scraping. However, one place where the Camry really disappoints is the brakes. Depress the pedal and there’s a lot of softness in the feel and serious braking only kicks in when you press down harder and the system resorts to the mechanical brakes to slow things down. When there finally is enough stopping power, it isn’t delivered progressively and kicks in too sharply. Contrarily, the Accord’s brakes offer consistent bite and the transition between e-braking and the mechanical brakes is smoother. The numbers agree and the Accord went from 100-0kmph in 44.87 metres, compared to the Camry’s 46.98 metres.
Let’s get straight to the hard truth. As a car, the Accord Hybrid is easily the more desirable option. It’s better built, feels more luxurious, makes a bigger statement with its radical styling and it is the more modern car here too. It’s also more efficient by a big margin and offers better driveability in the city or on the highway.
For all it offers, it does justify a price premium, but it's not the amount in question here. On the road in Mumbai, the Accord Hybrid (Rs 52.77 lakh) costs over Rs 10 lakh more than the Camry Hybrid (Rs 42.64 lakh)! Honda directly imports the car from Thailand, which makes it face the full wrath of our taxation system and it does not get the benefits of the government’s FAME India (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India) scheme either.
Additionally, if you try to buy one now, you’re looking at a wait of 6-8 months. The biggest drawback, though, is that it’ll be difficult to even check out the car in-the-metal at a showroom, let alone test drive it, since Honda dealers won’t maintain a ready stock for such a low volume car (Just over 30 have been sold since its launch in 2016 – it’s rarer than some exotic cars!).
We maintain that the Accord Hybrid is the better car, but you can’t deny that the Camry hybrid offers a better balance of comfort, efficiency and performance while equipped with more convenience features too, that too at a considerably lower price. Sensible luxury, the Camry is.
|Variants||*Ex-Showroom Price New Delhi|