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[Test Drive] Honda’s hybrid tech mixes best of engine, motor

Japanese automaker to unveil brand experience center in Korea this month, seeking to turn around sales

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : April 22, 2024 - 00:00

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Honda CR-V Hybrid (left) and Honda Accord Hybrid (Honda Korea) Honda CR-V Hybrid (left) and Honda Accord Hybrid (Honda Korea)

Honda has long been known for its top-level hybrid technology in the global auto sector.

As hybrid vehicles take the spotlight with the electric vehicle market having entered a slump, the Japanese automaker is looking to make the most of the opportunity in Korea.

The Korea Herald had a chance to drive the Honda CR-V Hybrid 4WD Touring and Honda Accord Hybrid Touring. Each ride covered about 57 kilometers, taking place in southern Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday.

Before the test ride began, Honda presented its fourth-generation hybrid technology that enables the vehicle to offer a seamless transition between EV drive mode, hybrid drive mode and engine drive mode, emphasizing the brand’s intelligent Multi-Mode Drive, or i-MMD, system determines how to use fuel and electrical energy in the most efficient way.

“The point that differentiates us from other automakers is that the response (between the three drive modes) is very quick,” said Yasuhiro Motohashi, power unit development leader at Honda’s automobile development center.

“We are developing more advanced-than-ever hybrid systems because people want this in markets where there are not enough (charging infrastructure) or the price range is not desirable. We think that doing well with hybrid vehicles now is laying a solid foundation for the EV direction we are pursuing in the end.”

Honda CR-V Hybrid (right) and Honda Accord Hybrid (Honda Korea) Honda CR-V Hybrid (right) and Honda Accord Hybrid (Honda Korea)

The driving experiences on the Honda CR-V Hybrid 4WD Touring and Honda Accord Touring included urban streets, highways and winding roads. The former, a sports utility vehicle, and the latter, a sedan, offered pretty similar experiences throughout the test ride.

Both vehicles offered comfortable driving dynamics. They felt stable and close to the ground even when driving at a high speed. On winding roads at a relatively high speed, the cars were nimble and sure-footed.

The EV drive mode was activated during a slow start from a standstill or low-speed driving, giving smooth feelings as if they were EVs. On the highway, the sound of the internal combustion engine was loud and clear, an provided responsive and powerful acceleration.

The Honda CR-V 4WD Touring logged fuel efficiency of 14.6 kilometers per liter. The Honda Accord Touring posted an outstanding fuel efficiency of 19.3 km per liter.

Honda Korea plans to bolster marketing this year as the Japanese automaker looks to turn its ailing sales around.

According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association’s data, Honda Korea sold 1,385 vehicles last year, down 55.9 percent on year, despite launching five new models throughout the year.

But other Japanese brands have shown growth is possible here. While Honda declined, Toyota sold 8,495 units and Lexus sold 13,561 units, up 36 percent and 79 percent on year, respectively, to take up about 94 percent of all Japanese cars sold in Korea last year.

In line with strengthening marketing tactics, Honda will open a brand experience center named “the go” on April 27 near Jeongja station in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. The new facility, which will be the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region, will be operated as a cafe that shows Honda’s brand features and offers test drives for visitors.