2021 Honda Accord Review

2021 Honda Accord - Nearly perfect, Accord hybrid sets the standard in the midsize sedan segment.


Just in case you have been living under a rock for the last 45 years, Accord is a midsize 5-passenger sedan. It is offered in with gas and hybrid powertrains and competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat. Changes for 2021 include new front-end styling, a revised trim lineup and the addition of wireless support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

Trim levels range from the $25,000 LX to the $37,000 Touring. Engine options include a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 192 horsepower, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that produces 252 horsepower, and a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder/electric motor combo that makes 212 total horsepower. The turbo 1.5-liter four and hybrid models mate to a continuously variable automatic transmission. The turbo 2.0-liter four mates to a traditional 10-speed automatic. Gone for 2021 is the manual transmission option.

Available driver-assist technology includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, rearview camera with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high-beam headlights.

With three engines on tap, Honda offers an Accord for just about any buyer. The base 192-horsepower turbo provides adequate motivation for most buyers -- as it should. The engine can feel sleepy off the line, but power builds nicely. Foot-to-the-floor, the base engine will push Accord from 0 to 60 MPH in about 7.5 seconds. Slightly quicker than most competitors' base offerings. Sadly, the syrupy CVT favors economy over performance, which lowers the excitement level.

Stepping up to the 2.0T engine brings a lot more exhilaration. The hot-rod motor comes from the Civic Type R and brings along 252 horsepower and, more importantly, a true 10-speed automatic. Combined, the combo drops the 0 to 60 MPH time to 5.5 seconds. More importantly, there's a jump off the line and impressive passing response that's not found with the base motor/CVT combo. Shifts are crisp, but the transmission isn't the smoothest automatic in the class.

Accord Hybrid models strike a performance/economy balance that closely matches the base engine, but with a bit more punch off the line. That's due to the instant torque from the electric motor, no doubt. Still, the engine runs out of steam as speed increases. Hybrid operation is flawless, and most would never know it's constantly switching between gas, electric and combo mode. As with the base engine the hybrid gets the CVT automatic.

EPA estimates range from a low of 22/32 MPG for the 2.0T to a high of 48/48 MPG for the hybrid. The most popular model with the base engine nets ratings of 30/38 MPH. Those numbers are better than most competitors by a MPG or two. Hybrid models can easily average 45 MPG in routine suburban commuting. Gas models get a fairly conservative 14.8-gallon fuel tank and hybrids get an even smaller 12.8-gallon tank.

Though some competitors offer all-wheel drive, the Accord is offered only with all-wheel drive.

Accord has set the standard in the class for driving dynamics for so long, it's almost laughable. Competitors try and try, but can't quite match Accord's blend of comfort, control and athleticism. Regardless of model or trim, Accord rides comfortably and is one of those rare cars that seems to shrink about the driver as the steering, suspension and brakes all act in harmony.

LX and EX-L models get 17-inch wheels while all others get 19-inch wheels. As you'd expect the 17s provide a bit more ride comfort, but even the Sport with its 19-inch wheels and sport-tuned suspension have plenty of impact absorption for Chicago's frost-heaved pavement. There's also a subtleness in the suspension geometry that quells ancillary motions, resulting in a controlled ride over badly broken roads.

Accord drivers need not shy away from twisty roads. Dynamically, the car feels balanced and athletic. Yes, there's typical front-drive understeer at the limit, but Accord feels quite neutral when traversing bending highway on ramps and in quick transitions. The precise steering can be a trifle light at low speeds, but firms up nicely on the highway. Brakes get improved pedal feel for 2021, and that's most noticeable when coming to a stop. Still, hybrid models suffer from a slight hiccup as they transition from regeneration to friction braking.

Interior noise levels are appropriate, perhaps not the lowest in the class. Engine noise is nicely subdued, but there's just too much tire noise on the highway to call the Accord the quietest in the class.

Accord continues to set the standard for the class inside as well. The cabin is nicely appointed, if not a bit austere. Materials are price appropriate, but can't match the premium woods and metals used in the Mazda 6. Build quality is outstanding. And the layout is simply perfect, highlighted by a large touchscreen and traditional controls for the climate control. There's even a dial for volume and tuning. The unique push-button shifter is straightforward, but really saves no space in the center console.

Drivers face a digital instrument cluster with traditional analog gauges along with LED lighting for fuel and temperature and a myriad of driver-information displays. As a whole, it's probably the slickest iteration of a digital display on the market and is quite easy to read, day or night. Touring models get a fancy head-up display that's provides all sorts of ancillary information audio program, turn-by-turn navigation and traffic sign recognition. The center stack is topped off by an 8-inch infotainment display. While that's considerably smaller than in some competitors, it's very sharp and responds quickly to touch. As mentioned, there are traditional controls for the climate and audio system. Ancillary controls are placed on the driver's armrest and on the steering wheel.

On the technology side, Accord is equipped with all of the latest safety features. The infotainment system supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play. There's an available wireless charger as well. Honda doesn't really provide a base infotainment system, instead, just allowing for simple menu operation of the touch screen. That's fine as drivers can use Apple Car Play or Android Auto if they like.

The front seats are immediately comfortable and there's plenty of room for large adults. Rear seats are roomy and can accommodate three adults in a pinch. Overall, the seats are quite low, making entry/exit a bit more of a hassle. Outward visibility is excellent.

At 16.7 cubic feet, cargo capacity is exceptional. Compare that to Sonata, which offers just 16 cubic feet. Rear seats fold to increase cargo space as well. Interior storage is adequate, but there could be a bit more space in the center console and a few more cubbies in the dash area would be appreciated.

Bottom Line - Accord sets standard as the prototypical midsize sedan. It's been that way for decades and it's a wonder why the competition can't catch up. From behind the wheel, it's almost laughable how pleasant the Accord is to drive. With three available engines and plenty of trim options, there's an Accord for every budget as well. The smooth and refined hybrid makes a great case as the one to buy, all things considered.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.