Apparently, Honda hasn’t received the memo announcing the death of sedans. For 2021, it fields a variety of four-doors, with a strong focus on fuel-efficiency and clean-burning engines.
Its flagship sedan, the midsize Accord, is one of the country’s most enduringly popular cars. It’s known for reliability and strong resale value, innovative engineering, impeccable build quality and a roomy five-passenger cabin swarming with family friendly features.
But the Accord also has another card to play: it’s one of the market’s best-driving sedans.
Its lightly weighted steering system is quick and precise. Its suspension tamps down body lean in the corners while filtering out all but the most gnarly potholes.
Touring trims get adaptive dampers
Touring and Hybrid Touring, the latter of which I drove, have adaptive shock dampers that elevate both ride quality and handling.
Accord was last made-over in 2018 and gets a mid-cycle refresh this year. There are wider grilles, brighter LED headlights and updated cabin tech.
Cabin design is relatively subdued. Materials quality is good and there are abundant soft-touch surfaces. An 8-inch infotainment touchscreen is now standard. Its menus are intuitive and there are physical controls for the audio and HVAC functions.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are now standard, with wireless connectivity on upper trims. There’s a new rear-seat reminder so you don’t forget the kids or the groceries.
Accord boasts a more-than-generous 20 inches of rear-seat legroom and enough headroom for all but the tallest occupants. The front seats are broad and accommodating but not as supportive as some narrower and more deeply contoured chairs.
Accord’s trunk is also larger than most, though it’s not as nicely finished as others.
Three powertrain choices
Accord is a front-drive sedan with a choice of three powertrains.
A turbocharged, 192-horsepower 1.5-liter four paired with a CVT powers the LX ($25,725), Sport, ($28,185), Sport SE ($29,675) and EX-L ($32,045). Two trims — the Sport 2.0T ($32,865) and Accord Touring ($37,645) — are powered by a turbocharged, 252-hp 2.0-liter four mated to a new and very good 10-speed automatic.
There are four hybrid trims: the base Hybrid ($26,370), Hybrid EX ($31,275), Hybrid EX-L ($33,645) and Hybrid Touring ($37,195).
Honda’s innovative, two-motor hybrid system produces more horsepower (212 hp) and torque (232 lb-ft) than competitors. It averages 48 mpg combined (48 city/48 highway) on the EPA cycle.
The hybrid runs the 0-60 sprint in 7.5 seconds. The 2.0-liter four does it 5.5 seconds; the 1.5T in 6.1 seconds.
New trim debuts
The new Sport SE trim replaces last year’s EX. It adds leather, a 12-way adjustable power driver’s seat, 4-way powered passenger seat, heated front seats, keyless entry and ignition and remote start.
Until now, Sport could be ordered with a manual transmission, but Honda discontinues the stick this year.
The Sport trims are distinguished by a spoiler, 19-inch wheels, LED fog lights, dark-chrome grille and chrome exhaust finishers.
The Honda Sensing driver-assist suite is updated for more refined operation. It’s standard on all trims this year, though blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are available only on the EX-L trim and higher.
Hybrid substantially revised
We tested the Hybrid Touring. The innovative, two-motor hybrid system has been substantially updated for 2021. Power output and mileage don’t change but the system grows smoother and quieter.
Honda's hybrid system uses a four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors. The gas engine can either produce electricity or power the engine when needed. The primary source of driving power is the propulsion motor. The second battery is a generator/starter motor.
This year, Honda tunes the system for more immediate throttle response and a more natural feel during acceleration.
The regenerative brakes work smoothly, too, without the grabby and inconsistent feel typical of hybrid technology.
And if you needed more reasons to consider the electrified Accord, you ought to know that Honda has pioneered a way to build an electric motor without rare-earth materials, saving cost, weight and the deleterious effects of mining.
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2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Vehicle base price: $24,770
Trim level base price: $37,195
As tested: $38,190 (includes destination and handling)
Options: The Accord Hybrid Touring is fully equipped; our tester had no options.
EPA rating: 48 combined/48 city/48 highway
Regular gasoline specified