2021 Honda Accord Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Nov 13, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Honda deals!

Honda sells more Accords to consumers like you than any other automaker offering a midsize family car. This lead in retail sales (as opposed to fleet sales to businesses such as rental car companies) was hard fought for and won, and Honda has no intention of giving the position up. That's why the 2021 Honda Accord gets specific, targeted improvements with clear consumer benefit rather than a typical freshening for freshening's sake.

For 2021, the Accord continues to offer turbocharged 4-cylinder and hybrid powertrains. The turbocharged models come in LX, Sport, Sport Special Edition (new for 2021), EX-L, and Touring trim levels. The hybrid models are available in Hybrid, EX, EX-L, and Touring trim. Hybrids cost $1,600 more than equivalent turbocharged models, except when it comes to Touring trim, where the Accord Hybrid saves you $460 and a whole bunch of gas on the road. 

2021 Honda Accord Touring Silver Front

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated an Accord Hybrid Touring equipped with standard equipment. The price came to $37,195, including the $955 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Honda deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2021 Honda Accord, it is helpful to understand who buys this midsize car and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 66% of Honda Accord owners are male (vs. 60% for the segment), and the median age of an Accord owner is 53 years (vs. 55).

Owners say their favorite things about the Accord are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving feel, feeling of safety, fuel economy, and interior design. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the midsize car segment:

  • Power of engine/motor
  • Smoothness of engine/motor
  • Exterior styling
  • Vehicle protection
  • Getting vehicle set up

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Accord are (in descending order) the powertrain, driving comfort in a tie with setting up and starting, getting in and out, and infotainment. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the midsize car segment:

  • Audio system sound quality
  • Driver assistance systems
  • Safety systems
  • Quietness of the cabin while driving (in a tie)
  • Using navigation (in a tie)

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Accord ranked 2nd out of 10 midsize cars.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Honda deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides his perceptions about how the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid measures up in each of the ten categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

The Accord is an appealing car. It has proportions unusual for a front-drive vehicle with a sleek, fastback profile and compelling swells and creases. It is not surprising that owners rate the styling as their favorite thing about the car.

2021 Honda Accord Touring Silver Rear

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For 2021, Honda takes a light-handed approach to updates. The grille is restyled to add character and better integrate the Honda Sensing radar unit, the headlights are redesigned for improved illumination, and the bumper gets new detailing. Some trim levels have new aluminum wheel designs, too, and a Sonic Gray Pearl paint color is new.

For the Accord Hybrid Touring, Honda adds 19-inch aluminum wheels, replacing the 17-inch aerodynamic designs standard on other Hybrid trim levels. They look terrific, but they cut the fuel economy rating from 48 mpg in combined driving to 43 mpg.

Interior

Quality permeates the Accord's interior. Even the hard plastic panels and trim have a low-gloss finish and a solid feel to them.

2021 Honda Accord Touring Black Leather Seats Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Accord is the only Honda equipped with both volume and tuning knobs for the stereo, and they don't detract from the cabin's appearance. Instead, they enhance its user-friendly control layout, which hearkens back to when Honda ruled the ergonomic correctness roost.

Nothing about the Accord's interior is a mystery, and this ability to quickly reference information and use the controls is refreshing. Storage space is generous, too, and the cabin is downright enormous in terms of its passenger space.

Getting In and Out

Most Accords have a 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, making it easier to get into and out of the car. Rear-seat entry and exit are effortless thanks to large door openings, plenty of legroom, and a high seat cushion. Front-seat passengers don't benefit from a seat height adjuster that could raise the seating hip point, so getting into and out of this seat is more challenging than it could be if Honda allowed this occupant to raise the cushion.

Honda equips every Accord with a 16.7 cubic-foot trunk. It's the biggest one in the class, and it is deep enough that you can carry full-size suitcases on their sides, just like in an SUV. 

Use the remote to pop the lid, and it won't raise more than a few inches. To close the lid, you'll need to touch the dirty exterior because Honda doesn't provide an inner handle. A power or hands-free trunk would be nice, or a lid that completely pops open when you push the button on the remote.

Setting Up and Starting

Thanks to its intuitive control layout, setting up the Accord is easy. Steering wheel controls take some acclimation as far as cycling through the driver information display is concerned, but this is a quick process. The main menu buttons flank the infotainment display, and the screen works similar to a smartphone.

Push the engine start button, and the Hybrid either grumbles to life (if its gasoline engine starts) or the displays illuminate in silence (if conditions require no more than the battery and electric motor). Either way, you don't get much of a hint of the enjoyable driving dynamics to come.

Infotainment System

For 2021, all Accord trim levels have the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which means Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available for the first time with LX and Hybrid trim levels. Choose the Sport 2.0T or Hybrid EX and higher, and these smartphone projection platforms are wireless. Plus, these versions have standard dual rear quick-charge USB ports, SiriusXM satellite radio, and wireless smartphone charging.

A 10-speaker premium audio system is standard starting with EX-L trim while Touring trim equips the Accord with navigation, Near Field Communication Bluetooth pairing, HondaLink subscription services, and an available Wi-Fi hotspot.

The premium audio system puts out decent sound, but the voice recognition system cannot accept natural voice commands. Instead, you need to follow specific prompts, and even when I did so, it still couldn't find the closest hospital to my location. 

Granted, if you're paired to the system and running smartphone projection, your phone's digital assistance will work just fine for this purpose. But given that most modern vehicles with voice-recognition navigation capably respond to that request to find a nearby hospital, it seems Honda has some work to do.

Keeping You Safe

Another change to the 2021 Accord is a more refined version of Honda Sensing, the company's collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). For example, Honda says the forward collision warning and lane-keeping assistance systems operate with greater refinement, and that's true. But they're still too obvious about their work.

Honda designed the Accord's new LED headlights (full LED except with LX and Hybrid trim) to help the car earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). As such, they cast light wider and further down the road while reducing glare at oncoming drivers. A drive on a dark country road proved they're useful.

Honda also adds low-speed automatic front and rear braking to the 2021 Accord Touring trims. Designed to prevent accidental bumper bumps when parking, the technology is effective. However, on occasions when my entire family was in the car, the Accord slammed on its brakes at the bottom of our angled driveway. With just the driver aboard, this did not happen.

A rear-seat reminder system is also new for 2021, as well as a seatbelt reminder system. Accords earn top-notch crash-test ratings, getting the highest possible scores in all assessments from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the IIHS.

Powertrain

Most Accords have a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine whipping up 192 horsepower and 192 lb.-ft. of torque, paired with a continuously variable transmission. Accord Sport and Touring 2.0T versions get a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 252 hp and 273 lb.-ft., bolted to a 10-speed automatic.

The Accord Hybrid gets Honda's sophisticated two-motor hybrid powertrain. It has a 2.0-liter gasoline engine, a generator/starter motor that effectively serves as an electronic CVT (eCVT), a separate electric drive motor, and a lithium-ion battery pack that automatically recharges via regenerative brakes.

Software automatically cycles the two-motor hybrid powertrain between EV Drive, Hybrid Drive, and Engine Drive, each of which is self-explanatory. Additionally, the driver controls selection of EV, Econ, Normal, and Sport driving modes and the amount of regeneration using the paddles on the steering wheel.

This sounds complicated (and it is), but to a driver, everything works seamlessly. And for 2021, Honda has recalibrated the powertrain for a more natural sound and feel. While the changes don't completely eliminate the steady drone under hard acceleration, the car is more pleasurable to drive.

Total output measures 212 hp and 232 lb.-ft. of torque, the latter available from 0 rpm to 2,000 rpm. This makes the slightly heavier Accord Hybrid feel sprightly when accelerating from a standstill, and if Honda's stopwatch is accurate, the car should get to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. That's a plausible claim.

Fuel Economy

When you buy a Honda Accord Hybrid, it is rated to get 48 mpg in combined driving unless you choose Touring trim. The new 19-inch wheels, which aren't aerodynamic whatsoever, reduce the rating to 43 mpg in combined driving.

Still, 43 mpg out of a family car that's as big as a house inside is pretty darn good. But is it realistic?

We averaged 42.8 mpg in the Accord Hybrid, so the answer is yes. With its 12.8-gallon fuel tank, this result translates into 548 miles of driving range. Most likely, you'll stop just as the trip odometer is hitting the 500-mile mark.

Driving Comfort

Most Accords include a 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, so finding a comfortable driving position is easy. The front passenger does not benefit from height adjustment, but Honda shapes the bottom cushion to provide a bit of leg support. Touring trim includes heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel is an optional accessory. 

Honda puts soft-touch material on the upper door panels and the center console armrest, but as we learned while driving the car with enthusiasm, it could also use some padding where your legs brace when ripping around corners. 

Rear seat room is extraordinary, and passengers can benefit from rear air conditioning vents and quick-charge USB ports. Adults will be delighted in this car's back seat, and three kids fit without any trouble at all.

Climate system operation is simple and easy, and the car's air conditioning is effective. Most of the time, the cabin is quiet, too, though road noise is an occasional irritant depending on the road surface.

Driving Feel

Honda doesn't market its cars and SUVs as fun to drive, but they are. They have a light, effortless, responsive feel, coupled with precisely engineered and expertly refined mechanicals. Even if you never intend to, you'll enjoy driving a Honda.

That's true of the Accord, and now that the Accord Hybrid benefits from drivetrain updates and new 19-inch wheels with stickier tires with the Touring trim level, there is no downside to choosing it over other versions of the car.

The battery and electric motors' added weight is just 196 pounds (LX vs. Hybrid), and it's snugged down low in the chassis. The improved grip leverages that added weight and, presumably, a slightly lower center of gravity to make the Accord Hybrid Touring a real pleasure to wind down a writhing road.

A regenerative braking system captures energy and feeds it to the battery to recharge it on the fly. In the past, these types of brakes felt grabby, but that's not the case with the Accord Hybrid. The pedal feels entirely natural underfoot.

Is an Accord Hybrid Touring a sport sedan? No. But it's quick, responsive, compliant, and communicative, all characteristics that make it enjoyable.

Final Impressions - Find the best Honda deals!

There was a time when buying a hybrid meant settling for less in terms of style and driving dynamics. That's no longer true, and the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is the latest proof, especially in Touring trim.

Beyond the hybrid version of the car, the entire 2021 Accord lineup is well worth your consideration if you're looking for a car instead of a crossover SUV. It offers a bunch of interior space, a bunch of cargo space, and a bunch of driving dynamism. True, it lacks an all-wheel-drive option, but a set of snow tires doesn't cost much.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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