2021 Honda Accord Hybrid review: Enhanced efficiency, no compromises
The Honda Accord is like a blue-chip stock: always a smart buy. For 2021, the hybrid variant makes a strong case that it's the best all-around model in the Accord range, building on the nameplate's fundamental excellence by offering far greater fuel economy.
To keep the Accord at the top of its game, this venerable Honda was mildly tweaked for 2021. Its grille is wider, and the Honda Sensing system's front-mounted radar sensor is slightly less prominent. Improved headlamps have greater reach and a wider beam pattern for enhanced visibility at night.
As for the hybrid, not much sets it apart from other Accords, at least visually. A blue-accented Honda badge on the grille hints that something a little different lurks under the hood. There are hybrid badges on the front fenders and trunk, and really, that's about it. Separating it from more plebeian variants, the top-shelf hybrid Touring model rolls on stylish 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Goodyear all-season tires. Despite a tread pattern that looks optimized for fair-weather use, these rubbers handle ice and snowy slop with ease, though a set of winter tires would certainly increase driving confidence.
The Accord's interior is as nice as it's ever been. The 10th-generation Accord has aged extremely well, basically because Honda did such a phenomenal job from the get-go. Aside from the unconvincing simulated wood accents, the textures are rich, its leather is of good quality and all the switches and knobs feel premium. Ergonomics deserve praise, too, as nearly every control is within easy reach and is clearly labeled.
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid's front bucket seats are soft and supportive, plus its rear bench offers miles of legroom. Taller folks will pine for a skosh more noggin space, however. You do sit somewhat low in the Accord, not that your butt is on the floor, the car is just very close to the pavement, which can make getting in and out a challenge, especially for older folks.
As for amenities, hybrid models come standard with remote start and a multi-angle rearview camera. Push-button ignition and heated side-view mirrors are included at no extra charge as well, while full LED headlights are standard on the EX grade and higher.
One nice upgrade for 2021 is the infotainment display. An 8-inch touchscreen is now standard across the board, complete with Apple CarPlay (which can connect wirelessly on EX Hybrid models and above) as well as Android Auto. Abstain from using either of these smartphone-mirroring systems and you'll have to contend with the Accord's embedded infotainment system, which looks pretty dated with its busy interface. Aside from those goodies, the Accord also gains a rear-seat reminder feature to help prevent drivers from forgetting small children, pets or other precious cargo in the back. Low Speed Braking Control is a new feature, too. Standard on Touring models, it's designed to mitigate or even prevent collisions at lower speeds, such as while parking.
The hybrid powertrain's small lithium-ion battery pack is mounted underneath the backseat where it eats up no interior space. This means the Accord has the same generous 16.7 cubic feet of trunk volume you get in non-hybrid models, a figure that compares very favorably to the 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which offers 15.1 cubes' worth of room and the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which serves up 16.
Bringing this comfortable and capacious family hauler to life is a two-motor hybrid system. Doing most of the work is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, one that's backed up by a propulsion motor in addition to a separate motor that handles starting and generating duties. Total system horsepower measures 212, while peak torque clocks in at 232 pound-feet just off idle, figures that put this hybrid between the base Accord with its 1.5-liter engine and the top-shelf version with the 2.0-liter turbo. The hybrid's output figures won't set the world on fire, but in everyday driving they're more than up to the task. Curiously, this hybrid system doesn't have a transmission since, in normal driving, the engine powers a generator, which then runs the propulsion motor. An EV mode allows the car to operate solely on battery power, but at higher speeds, the engine directly drives the wheels through a lockup clutch. Voilà, no transmission required.
This Accord's performance is quite strong; it's peppier than you might think for something wearing hybrid placards, which is usually shorthand for driving doldrums. Thanks to electric torque, this big sedan scoots around town, pulling with authority when taking off from stoplights and responding nicely when you give it the spurs. Yes, the acceleration does taper off noticeably after about 60 mph where the powertrain gets a bit winded, but it still delivers more than adequate performance. For 2021, small tweaks make the drivetrain more direct and immediate, with the engine better responding to throttle inputs. In fact, aside from a touch of droning at higher speeds when working hard and a bit of that rubber-band effect often associated with continuously variable transmissions, the Accord Hybrid's powertrain feels totally normal.
Touring models, which sit at the pinnacle of the Accord Hybrid range, sticker at 44 miles per gallon city, 41 mpg highway and 43 mpg combined, impressive figures to be certain. Unfortunately, in real-world driving, I've only managed to coax about 34.8 out of this example, which is stellar for a large sedan, but still pretty disappointing considering it's off the mark by more than 8 mpg. I suspect the car would do better in warmer weather, since it's been pretty cold during my week with it. Lower-end versions of the Accord Hybrid are even more economical than the Touring model, stickering at 48 mpg across the board, which is comparable to the most-efficient versions of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE, both of which return 52 mpg combined.
Mounted to the steering wheel are two paddles, but they're not for shifting. Instead, they allow you to fine-tune the amount of regenerative braking that happens when you lift your foot off the accelerator, which is a great thing to have -- in theory. I like maximum regenerative braking for a one-pedal driving experience, however, whenever you roll to a stop, the system resets. It doesn't hold the regenerative-braking level you've selected and that's annoying. Another misstep, the paddles seem to be labeled backwards. Clicking on the minus one increases the amount of deceleration while the one labeled plus decreases it. I'm not very good at math, but I'm pretty sure that's backwards.
The Accord Hybrid's ride is quite firm, but well controlled. This car's interior remains hushed at speed, and the chunky steering wheel rim feels great in my hands. This sedan's weighty-yet-quick steering makes the Accord feel far more agile than you might expect for a car of this size.
Honda Sensing is as good as it's ever been. This suite of advanced driver aids is one of the best in the business: attentive, smooth and very easy to use. The lane-centering system is phenomenal, helping the Accord track as straight as a San Francisco cable car. The adaptive cruise control works effortlessly, collision mitigation braking is waiting in the wings should you make a critical error and traffic-sign recognition is always there to remind you of how much you're speeding. EX and higher models also come with blind-spot monitoring, while parking sensors are fitted to EX-L and Touring variants, the latter of which also gains rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Owning a Honda Accord Hybrid is a great way to save money at the pump, but it's economical in another way, too. The base price is an eminently reasonable $27,565, including $995 in delivery fees. That makes it about $700 less than an entry-level Camry Hybrid and nearly $1,200 more affordable than a comparable Sonata. Even the Touring model I'm reviewing here with all its bells and whistles checks out for $37,590.
With its spacious interior, upscale trimmings, generous equipment and good performance, the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is an excellent family sedan. But its smooth-running, fuel-sipping drivetrain is what really makes this model the pick of the Accord litter.