2021 Honda Accord Review: An Imperfect Yet Ideal Car Choice
The 2021 Honda Accord isn’t perfect, but it's one of the best choices in its segment.
Originally published on July 20, 2021
Once upon a time, the midsize sedan dominated American roads. After full-size pickups, the four-door family car was a favorite for its combination of attractive pricing, efficiency, and practicality. Today, buyers prefer crossovers, but the 2021 Honda Accord remains a popular choice with people who want to drive a car instead of an SUV.
Offering the interior room and trunk space of a full-size sedan, the 2021 Accord is more comfortable and practical than its direct midsize car competitors. It comes with a choice between two turbocharged gasoline engines or a gas-electric hybrid powertrain.
Honda claims they improved the throttle response and acceleration character in the 2021 Accord Hybrid models. The 2021 Accord also gets a minor refresh with an updated grille, new standard LED headlights, revised wheel designs for several trim levels, and an available Sonic Gray Pearl paint color. Sport Special Edition trim is new for 2021, adding leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, remote engine starting, and a hands-free keyless entry system to the popular Sport trim.
Additional changes to the 2021 Honda Accord include a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone mirroring technology. For the EX-L and Touring trims, the smartphone mirroring systems are wireless. All Accords except for the LX and base Hybrid get new rear-seat 2.5-amp USB charging ports.
Honda also improves the Accord’s safety features for 2021. A rear-seat reminder and rear seatbelt reminder are standard, and the automaker fine-tunes its adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance systems. Low Speed Braking Control is also new this year, which is helpful when you’re parking the car. It is offered only on Touring trim.
The turbocharged gasoline-engine versions of the Accord come in LX, Sport, Sport Special Edition, EX-L, and Touring trim levels. Hybrid models are available in Hybrid, Hybrid EX, Hybrid EX-L, and Hybrid Touring trim levels. Prices range from about $25,000 to $37,000.
For this review, Honda provided an Accord 2.0T Sport equipped with the more powerful of the two gasoline engines and wrapped in extra-cost Sonic Gray Pearl paint. The test car totaled up to $33,500, including $995 in destination charges.
SLEEK DESIGN, SPACIOUS INTERIOR
Styling is a subjective matter, but I find the current-generation Accord to be appealing. It has unusual proportions for a front-drive car with a relatively short front overhang, long hood, and fastback roofline. The 19-inch aluminum wheels that come standard with Sport and Touring trim add an upscale appearance.
Both clean and contemporary, the Accord’s interior exudes quality, (despite the hard plastic decorating the lower half of the cabin). Tones and textures match beautifully. The plastic parts have a low-gloss finish that also makes them look more refined.
Controls and displays reside in the expected locations. The infotainment system is one of Honda’s best because it includes both stereo volume and radio tuning knobs. The car’s push-button transmission controls provide an untraditional experience, and while logically organized, the steering wheel controls require some acclimation. A button on the dashboard quickly calls up the Honda Sensing driving assistance settings menu within the instrumentation, allowing for easy adjustment while driving.
The Sport trim for the 2021 Accord includes a 12-way power driver’s seat. It features contrast-stitched simulated leather bolsters with cloth inserts. Climb in and you settle comfortably into the Accord, which feels tailor-made for you as long as you’re under 6 ft tall. Taller people will want additional seat track travel and there’s plenty of opportunity for Honda to offer it in the future.
You must experience the Accord’s back seat for yourself to truly appreciate it. The amount of space is on par with a full-size car, which means you can easily fit three kids (or even adults depending on size and if they squeeze a little). Installing a rear-facing child-safety seat with plenty of clearance is a breeze.
If teenagers or grown-ups are your typical passengers, rest assured they’ll sit up high with excellent leg support, a comfortable backrest angle, and terrific outward visibility. Air conditioning vents and rear USB ports make the accommodations even more hospitable.
You’ll find all the room you need for a week-long road trip’s worth of luggage. The trunk is huge for a family car, measuring 16.7 cu. ft. You can even carry full-size suitcases on their sides.
FOR THE BEST TECH, YOU NEED THE TOP TRIM
For 2021, Honda installs an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wired smartphone mirroring in every version of the Accord. You’ll still need to upgrade to Sport/Hybrid EX trim or higher to get text messaging support, while wireless smartphone mirroring, wireless smartphone charging, and satellite radio all require Sport 2.0T/Hybrid EX trim or higher.
Additional Accord infotainment upgrades include a 10-speaker premium sound system (EX-L and Touring), while Touring models exclusively offer a navigation system with real-time traffic reports and Near Field Communication Bluetooth pairing technology.
Touring trim is also the pathway to all five of the Accord’s available HondaLink connected services plans. The Basic plan is standard while the Link plan is available for Sport/Hybrid EX trim and higher. Both are complimentary for the life of the car, but the Security, Remote, and Concierge plans contain the good stuff. Unfortunately, they’re all restricted to Touring trim.
The HondaLink Security plan includes automatic collision notification, emergency calling, the ability to wipe personal data from the system and more. This plan offers complimentary service for 12 months before you must pay for a subscription. The Remote Plan provides remote engine starting, an Amazon Alexa skill, Key by Amazon in-vehicle package delivery service, a car finding function, alerts related to vehicle speed and geofenced boundary limits, and more. This plan is free for three months before a subscription is necessary to continue service.
Touring trim also offers an available Wi-Fi hotspot with monthly and annual limited and unlimited data plans. Additionally, it features a personal concierge service to help owners achieve tasks while driving. This version of the Accord will include a standard head-up display.
From a user-experience perspective, this infotainment system is easy to understand and use. But considering the Sport trim’s appeal to younger buyers, the eight-speaker stereo’s sound quality may not be ideal.
Switching to safety technologies, every 2021 Accord includes Honda Sensing as standard equipment. In addition to adaptive cruise control, Honda Sensing includes the forward collision warning, automatic forward emergency braking, three different lane-keeping systems, as well as automatic high-beam headlights in its package. It is mystifying why a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert requires Sport 2.0T/Hybrid EX trim or higher.
Honda says they refined the way the Accord’s adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assistance (Lane Keeping Assist in Honda’s verbiage) work, and based on our driving this improvement is evident. However, it would be nice if Honda switched from a steering wheel wobble to a steering wheel vibration to signal an unintended lane departure.
Should a collision occur, the Accord will do everything it can to protect you and your passengers. The 2021 Accord earns a “Top Safety Pick+” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a 5-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Digging deeper into the NHTSA rating, the Accord gets the highest 5-star rating in every assessment, including for rollover resistance.
Based on this data, the 2021 Honda Accord is a safe car.
FUN TO DRIVE NO MATTER WHICH ACCORD YOU CHOOSE
A turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder engine is standard in the 2021 Honda Accord LX, Sport, Sport Special Edition, EX, and EX-L. It pairs with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and generates 192 hp at 5,500 rpm and 192 lb.-ft of torque between 1,600 rpm and 5,000 rpm. Paddle shifters attempt to add some driving excitement in Sport and Sport Special Edition trims.
Optional with Sport trim and standard in the Accord Touring, a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine cranks out 252 hp at 6,500 rpm and 273 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,500 rpm and 4,000 rpm. It uses a 10-speed automatic transmission and includes paddle shifters.
Honda’s two-motor hybrid powertrain combines a 2.0L gasoline four-cylinder engine with an electric drive motor and an integrated motor/generator responsible for starting the engine, recharging the lithium-ion battery while driving, and transferring power to the motor. Together, these components generate 212 hp at 6,200 rpm and 232 lb.-ft. of torque between 0 rpm and 2,000 rpm.
Our test car’s turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine transforms this family sedan into a sports sedan. Great fun to drive when you want it to be and a docile commuter vessel when you need it to be, owning the Accord Sport 2.0T is like having two cars in one.
For daily driving, the Sport 2.0T effortlessly accelerates away from traffic lights and onto freeways, providing more than enough power to take advantage of holes in traffic. The ride is firm and communicative, but not uncomfortable. Steering is responsive and displays sharp accuracy while braking is powerful and smooth. There is joy to be had in every trip whether you’re seeking it or not.
When the mood strikes, people who enjoy the journey as much as the destination will find ample entertainment in a Sport 2.0T. Impressive grip and a flat cornering attitude combine with excellent outward visibility, good road feel, stout brakes, and robust power that makes taking the long way home a grin-inducing exercise.
It is worth noting that an Accord Hybrid provides much of the same driving enjoyment as the Accord does, especially in Touring trim with the larger 19-inch wheels and tires. However, even with the updates for 2021, the two-motor hybrid can drone loudly under hard acceleration. During a recent test drive, the Hybrid Touring returned 42.8 mpg on the same testing route where the Sport 2.0T provided 27.4 mpg. Depending on your priorities, the Accord Hybrid is worthy of consideration.
THE 2021 HONDA ACCORD LIVES UP TO THE HYPE
Get behind the wheel of a 2021 Honda Accord and it fits like sliding into a custom-tailored suit. The automaker painstakingly refined this car’s details to ensure not only quality and durability but also ease of use and joy of driving.
Honda does not offer all-wheel-drive (AWD) for the Accord, one of the few competitive disadvantages to owning this car. Others include Honda’s insistence on reserving safety-related connected services to Touring trim and failing to offer blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warnings across all versions of its family sedan. Seat height adjustment for the front passenger would be nice to have, too. And Honda can’t touch the Hyundai Sonata when it comes to ownership perks like a long warranty and free scheduled maintenance.
Nevertheless, there are numerous good reasons why so many people choose this car over the competition. This terrific sedan makes up for its shortcomings with style, comfort, utility, efficiency, crash protection, and driving dynamism thus proving that the 2021 Honda Accord’s popularity is truly well-deserved.