The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Proves That Basic Isn't Bad
A light refresh outside and a full slate of updates make this midsized sedan better to drive.
The Honda Accord is one of the most simple yet good cars, even if it won't make you the coolest person when you walk back to it at the end of the workday. To stay attractive to buyers, particularly with crossovers surging in sales volume, Honda has had to continually improve the Accord.
For 2021, Honda gave the Accord Hybrid's exterior a little work with the scalpel rather than a machete. Underneath, the Accord Hybrid's drivetrain is tuned to be more fun for those drivers who still want to get massive fuel economy while driving something that doesn't resemble an appliance on wheels. After reviewing the Honda CR-V Hybrid crossover recently, I wanted to give the 2021 Accord Hybrid a good test too.
The Good Numbers
The 2021 Accord Hybrid Touring is powered by the combination of a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a two-motor hybrid unit, giving it a decent 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft (315 Nm) of torque. These figures give the Accord a slight horsepower advantage, but give the Accord significantly more torque over the top hybrid trim levels of its Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata competition.
To increase efficiency, the Accord Hybrid is driven by a CVT, which I don't love in general, but Honda makes a good one. As opposed to most hybrids, the Accord Hybrid is actually quicker in its 0-60 sprint than its non-hybrid models. With help from the hybrid batteries, the Accord Hybrid gets a whopping 18 more city MPGs than the non-hybrid Accord, with 44/41/43 (city/highway/combined) EPA estimates, which is just slightly less than the Camry and Sonata.
Pricing for the Accord is just less than the Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE and slightly more than the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited, with an MSRP of $37,345. What surprises me is that this is basically the same price as the non-hybrid Accord Touring 2.0-liter turbo model, which does boast a bit more power and a proper 10-speed automatic.
Great As A City Commuter
You expect a Honda to be a good daily driver, and in the case of the 2021 Accord Hybrid, it's definitely enjoyable. Honda tweaked the 2021 model to have sharper steering, more natural throttle response, and nicely tuned adaptive dampers to make the total package more enjoyable than you'd expect from a midsized hybrid sedan. Honda's electric-assist steering makes low-speed inputs effortless to get the Accord Hybrid to maneuver, and the adaptive suspension calms the bumpiest downtown streets.
If you're not concerned about slower acceleration and throttle response, hit the economy mode button to crank up the MPGs around town. Being an enthusiast driver, I had to go no slower than the normal mode, which didn't sacrifice any meaningful fuel economy. So long as you're light on the go pedal, you can go about a mile in the fully-EV mode, with the EV system kicking in whenever you're idle or coasting, to crank up your economy.
Inside the Accord Hybrid is a no-fuss, super intuitive cabin. Honda gives the Accord plenty of buttons on the steering wheel, and all the center stack's controls are placed right where you want them. The Accord Hybrid gets wireless charging paired with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which aren't available in the Camry and Sonata offerings.
Surpringly Good To Toss Around
You wouldn't expect a hybrid midsized sedan to be enjoyable to drive, but Honda made the Accord Hybrid reasonably fun. Thanks to normal V-rated rubber, rather than the low resistance compounds most hybrids are stuck with, the Accord gets a set of Goodyear Eagle Touring tires that sport the perfect amount of sidewall wrapped around 19-inch wheels--which happen to be bigger than the wheels on the hybrid Camry and Sonata.
Honda's adaptive suspension does a great job of adjusting to any fun driving you put the Accord Hybrid through, and body roll is greatly diminished thanks to those dampers. Throttle response quickens up a lot in sport mode, with the shortest pedal input sending the Accord forward in a manner you'd never expect in a hybrid.
Being a hybrid midsized sedan, I won't knock the lack customizable drive modes, which could tame the sport mode's over-boosted electric-assist steering. I do appreciate the small-diameter, thick-rimmed steering wheel that fits my hands like the setup you'd get in a sportier car. Honda gave the Accord Hybrid steering wheel paddles that--rather than controlling shifts--assist in energy regeneration.
I didn't complain when a dust storm blew in while I was shooting the Accord during golden hour.
The Good Bits
For a hybrid sedan, the Accord's body styling looks great. The 2021 Accord gets a wider grille, a more tidy integration of the radar sensor, full LED headlights, and an attractive set of multi-spoke wheels finishes the look perfectly. Proportions are great, and the overall lines are clean, with the appearance of a long wheelbase met with short overhangs.
Cushy leather seats have just enough bolster to keep you from feeling like you're in your uncle's Buick, and I appreciate that Honda gives the Touring spec heated and ventilated front seats. Boasting more passenger and cargo volume than the competition from Toyota and Hyundai, the Accord doesn't feel like a massive sedan. Back seat passengers will appreciate class-leading legroom in addition to heated seats and extra USB ports to charge their phones.
Not So Wonderful Things
Even though it's a good midsized sedan, the Accord does have a couple tiny drawbacks. Honda's infotainment system, despite having wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is quite dated. The Accord's touchscreen is only seven inches wide, and the old button setup has been around for several years.
Having wireless charging is great, but my iPhone 12 Pro's metal backing tricked the Accord into thinking I unintentionally stuck metal between the charging pad and my phone, so it would pop up an error message and stop charging. I also experienced my phone losing its wireless CarPlay connection--before reconnecting a minute later--several times during my week-long test.
To upgrade the interior's class, Honda gives the Accord Hybrid Touring some faux wood trim, but it looks a bit cheap, and the raw finish isn't great to the touch. While they save space along the center console, the Honda's gearshift buttons take some getting used to.
It's A Good Hybrid Sedan
Honda is doing something right with the Accord, as 80% of its buyers are repeat owners, and over the past 50 years, the Honda Accord has been the best selling car in America, with nearly 14 million units delivered.
Ditching the usual associations with hybrid sedans, the Honda Accord is a good option. I wouldn't worry too much about being called basic for getting an Accord Hybrid because it's reasonably fun to drive, is seriously well-equipped for the money, and has better looks inside and out than its competition.