The 2021 Honda Accord Sport Makes You Slightly Less Boring
A better engine, bigger wheels, and a normal transmission makes this Honda sedan slightly more enjoyable.
Honda may not be the coolest car company out there, but it's still one of the best-selling, most reliable marques. As crossovers and SUVs dominate the U.S. market, Honda is still shipping tons of its Civic and Accord sedans, which remain the best-selling pair of passenger cars in any lineup. They may not be flashy, but Honda still has some of the most loyal buyers, so the brand is doing something right.
Recently I reviewed the updated Honda Accord in its hybrid trim, which boasted a full slate of subtle revisions inside and out, while recalibrating its driver safety systems. I thought it was one great package for the money, offering seriously high fuel economy in a well-equipped sedan. After testing the MPG hero in the lineup, I wanted to check out the Accord Sport variant, to see if it was any fun.
The Useful Numbers
Not known for its performance, the Accord Sport has two engine options. The standard one is the popular 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four, with 192 horsepower, but there's also a 2.0-liter turbo that's a K-Series motor swiped from the fantastic Civic Type-R's parts bin. While not packing all the power the Type-R features, the Accord Sport 2.0T gets 252 horsepower @ 6,500 RPM and 273 lb-ft @ 1,500 - 4,000 RPM. Gone is the slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission option, but the Accord Sport has a quick 10-speed automatic that helps it sprint from 0-60 MPH in just 5.5 seconds.
The Accord Sport is the base model in the lineup, but is distinguished from other Accord models with cooler gloss black exterior trim, styled 19-inch wheels, and a sport drive mode that quickens its response. Honda says this designation, look, and lower price makes the Accord Sport more attractive to younger buyers. At a base price of $32,110, the Honda Accord Sport comes loaded with features, and the only option added to this tester is Sonic Gray Pearl paint that you might recognize from the Civic Type-R. After a $995 destination charge, the Accord Sport I tested hit a total MSRP of $33,500.
The Practical Sedan
Color me surprised, Honda assembled a tidy, stylish, and well-equipped sedan in the Accord Sport. Sarcasm aside, I appreciate that Honda is smart with packing tech systems and its Honda Sensing safety suite into its models as standard equipment, as opposed to other manufacturers that offer safety systems as extra-cost options. With a revised infotainment system, the Accord Sport now has a clearer interface and standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the center console now has standard wireless mobile charging. Exterior updates to the 2021 Accord include LED headlights and a revised grille that better incorporates the radar unit.
As a daily driver, the Accord Sport is smooth and engaged enough with the road. It's not exactly exciting, but it definitely isn't boring as a bigger affordable sedan. Ride quality is great in the Accord Sport, with the suspension smoothing out bumps over city streets without being too numb on the freeway. Steering has a direct enough feel for a responsible sedan, but isn't too light or disconnected from the road.
I appreciate the extra power from the 2.0-liter turbo, allowing quick acceleration in any driving condition, while being tame if you're behaving yourself during your daily commute. Even though it has some quick acceleration figures, the Accord Sport still has reasonable EPA fuel economy estimates of 22/32/26 MPG. If you're more focused on fuel economy over fun, the Accord Hybrid I reviewed earlier this year cranks out 43 MPGs combined, which only costs a couple thousand dollars more.
Heated cloth seats are standard in the Accord Sport, with ventilated leather being fitted if you upgrade to the Accord's Touring trim level. A bit simple, the cloth seats still wrap around you nicely, without being basic appliances you get in other midsized sedans. Back seats are spacious enough for three adults--over short drives--and great for three kids. Honda added standard USB ports for the rear passengers, to keep them entertained and their devices charged on road trips. When you decide to take the Accord Sport on a longer journey, the trunk is downright massive, with loads of storage space for all your stuff.
I tested the Accord Sport during Monterey Car Week, driving it from Los Angeles to Carmel Valley, so I got to examine its long-haul functionality. Honda doesn't get enough respect paid to its driver aid systems. Not as flashy or published as some competitors' setups, Honda has a proprietary lane-keeping system that doesn't ping pong between the lane lines, its adaptive cruise control system does a great job of smoothly keeping you flowing along, and the collision mitigation system doesn't aggressively brake as you approach slower traffic. Over a 340-mile drive each way, the Accord Sport was fantastic as a road-tripper.
Is It Actually Sporty?
For being a sport model, the Accord is more of a dress-up trim level than a performance one. The engine--based on the same powerplant stuffed into the phenomenal Civic Type-R--is definitely a good feature, giving the Accord Sport plenty of quick response when you want to apply the throttle, and I appreciate that motor being stuffed under the Accord Sport's hood. If you want to have any fun at all in the Accord Sport, press the sport drive mode button to deploy Honda's revised throttle mapping while getting better braking response when you need to scrub off some speed. Surprisingly the Accord Sport doesn't exhibit any torque steer nor turbo lag, which is good for a front-wheel-drive sedan.
I still think ten forward gears is a silly number, making the transmission switch back and forth more often than I prefer, particularly when you want to pass slow motorists on the highway. I also understand the approach of transmissions that help keep engines in the power band when you're having fun while reducing emissions as you're cruising on the highway. Short shifts are the default when you're buzzing around in the normal drive mode, and the ECO mode will make those gear changes more frequent while slowing throttle response.
They may look cool on the Accord Sport, but the machined finish 19-inch wheels are wrapped with Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tires, which are definitely its Achilles Heel when you want to have fun. Understeer was amplified by this lesser tire, making what should be fun time in the canyons less enjoyable. Couple the lessened grip from the basic rubber with the same front and rear sway bars fitted to other Accord models, and Honda didn't put enough emphasis into improving this sedan's fun factor. I wish there was a summer tire option on this sportier Accord, and that the suspension received some upgrades to improve its handling. The Toyota Camry TRD might get your attention, with a sportier suspension, bigger brakes, racier body parts, and a significantly more powerful V6 that breathes out through a performance cat-back exhaust.
At 3,380 pounds, the Accord Sport is only 35 pounds lighter than the Accord hybrid model I reviewed earlier this year, and that one is packed with all the batteries and high voltage gear needed to give it the EV assistance. The curb weight and the compliant sidewalls combined to make the Accord Sport understeer pretty heavily when I tossed it around some of my favorite Malibu canyon roads, but I'm cutting this sedan some slack because I know it's not a true performance car.
It's A Good Sedan, But It's Not A Sport Sedan
Honda packs a good package into the Accord Sport, giving it a hint more style than its more basic trim levels, while supplying a great engine. As a bigger, affordable sedan, the Accord Sport is not exactly exhilarating over the more twisty routes. For drivers who want more performance from a practical Honda, deal with the boy racer looks, and go for the Civic Type-R. If you want an affordable, bigger sedan that supplies a bit more excitement than the usual midsized offerings, there are competitors--including the Toyota Camry TRD--to consider.
Should you want a reliable, no-fuss sedan that has clean styling and a massive selection of standard features, the Accord is still the leader in its class. My money on an Accord would be better spent on the hybrid model that still looks similar outside, has decent acceleration, but boasts way more fuel economy. The Accord Sport may not be the coolest car you can stick in your driveway, but it has great value, will be reliable and comfortable for years, and because of its slightly sportier looks, it might make you appear to be less boring.