Honda takes the idea of a "mid-cycle refresh" of its cars rather literally, and sure enough, three years into what is likely to be a six-year lifespan, the current generation Accord sees a comprehensive round of updates. Yet, true to the company's norm, don't expect massive changes for the 2021 Honda Accord. The styling is updated, but even we're having a hard time telling the difference. The interior sees more infotainment features on more trims, while the various driver assistance systems have been updated and increased in number. There have also been some improvements made to throttle and brake response.
All of this should be welcome news, but it's really just a bunch of icing on what was an already delicious, well-iced cake. Despite some impressive new competitors in recent years, the Accord continues to shine as our top family sedan choice. It does virtually everything well. It has a huge interior, yet is responsive to drive. It's fuel efficient, yet all its powertrains, including that of the Accord Hybrid, provide punchy acceleration for the segment. It's also well-equipped, and should provide the long-term value that's become synonymous with the name Honda Accord. In other words, the best just got better.
Outside, the 2021 Accord gets a wider, restyled grille and a new LED headlight design. Inside, the base LX now comes standard with the same 8-inch touchscreen as the rest of the Accord lineup. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard as well, though they get upgraded to wireless capability on the EX-L and Touring trims (plus all Hybrids but the base model). The standard adaptive cruise control system has apparently been improved with smoother, more natural braking, while its lane-centering steering capability has also been upgraded to ping-pong less between lanes. The ACC system also gets steering wheel controls more in keeping with other makes. This is all good news.
Mechanically, the Hybrid's engine is apparently more likely to rev in concert with the driver's throttle input (this may sound weird, but we'll explain in detail below). Throttle and brake pedal response have also been tweaked on gas-only models. Sadly, the manual transmission option has been discontinued. Finally, a new Sport SE trim replaces the old EX 1.5T.
The Accord's cabin offers excellent fit and finish, plus materials that are among the best in the segment. The climate control knobs even click like an Audi's. The design won't wow you, but it's tidy and, in upper trim levels, sufficiently elevated in appearance. More important, the interior is arguably the most functional of any midsize family sedan. The under-armrest storage bin is gigantic, and the large square-ish cupholders can fit vessels of all shapes and sizes (good news for boxed water enthusiasts), while the bin forward of the shifter features two USB ports and is large enough to fit any number of phone sizes. We're not a fan of Honda's silly button transmission shifter included with 2.0-liter and hybrid powertrains as it takes up just as much space as the 1.5-liter's traditional shifter. It's different for different's sake.
Standard on every Accord is an 8-inch touchscreen with crisp graphics, a sensible menu structure and physical menu buttons alongside it (including volume and tuning knobs). The latter make it much easier to use than the otherwise similar systems found in Honda's Pilot, Passport and CR-V. We also like that it's mounted quite high on the dash, making it easy to see at a glance. Every trim level comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the EX-L and Touring (plus all Hybrids but the base trim) update them to wireless functionality along with a wireless charging pad. All but the LX and base Hybrid also include two rear USB ports.
The Accord is gigantic. Even though it competes with a variety of midsize sedans that are spacious in their own right (Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Legacy), the Accord still outdoes them all for passenger and cargo room. There's so much space between seating rows, even with tall drivers up front, that few cars (or SUVs) provide as much room to install a rear-facing child seat. Headroom is sufficiently average for the segment, but the Accord's exceptional all-around visibility makes it more pleasant to ride in the back.
And as we discovered during our midsize sedan comparison test, the trunk can stuff in more luggage than its competitors. That's even the case with the Hybrid.
The Accord is available with three powertrain choices, including the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.
The standard engine on every gas-only Accord is a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. This makes it one of the most powerful base engines in the segment. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard. EPA fuel economy estimates were not available at the time of this writing, but we expect them to be the same for 2021. Last year, a CVT-equipped 1.5-liter Accord got an excellent 30 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined in most trims (the Sport got 31 mpg combined likely due to bigger wheels).
Standard on the Touring, and optional on the Sport and EX-L, is a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four that produces 252 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. Its acceleration is mind-blowing for a family sedan, with many publications finding it'll hit 60 mph in the mid-5-second range. It now only comes standard with a 10-speed automatic (the six-speed manual was discontinued, tear). Last year's fuel economy estimates were 23 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined in the EX-L. The Sport and Touring were reduced to 26 combined.
The Hybrid powertrain consists of the same distinctive setup utilized in the Honda Insight, albeit with a more powerful engine. During most driving situations, power comes from the electric motor while the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder mostly serves as a generator to feed the battery pack. This is why the engine can rev more than your throttle inputs would indicate, which can be weird, but Honda has apparently reduced this for 2021. Steady highway cruising is the most frequent instance when the engine is connected directly to the wheels. Total system output is 212 horsepower. Honda says fuel economy will be the same excellent 48 mpg in the city, 47 highway and 48 combined cycles as it was last year.
We have yet to drive the 2021 Accord, which means we can't comment on its revised throttle and brake pedal response. We didn't consider either to be problem spots before, though, so either Honda has made what was there better or, potentially, has mucked about with something that didn't need it. On the other hand, having the Hybrid's gas engine work more closely in concert with the driver's throttle applications (see powertrain section above) seems like it can only be a positive.
We'll update this review when we know more, but we do expect the rest of the Accord driving experience to be just as excellent as it was before. It may be the biggest Accord yet, but it has re-acquired some of the driving verve it lost in the previous two generations. It feels quite light on its feet should you decide to hustle it along a winding road, and although the steering effort is a tad too light, we're guessing most people won't view that as a bad thing. If you do, we recommend the Mazda6.
Ride quality is excellent on trim levels that come with 17-inch wheels, but those with the 19-inch wheels (pictured above) may be susceptible to impact harshness over big bumps. That's even the case when paired with the Touring trim level's adaptive suspension.
Besides most Hybrid trim levels coming with the 17-inch wheels (sadly, the Hybrid Touring gets the 19's for 2021), handling is not only excellent, but actually a bit more balanced since the battery adds a beneficial amount of weight low in the chassis between the axles. We also like the Hybrid's powertrain, which uses the electric motor to directly power the wheels in most circumstances and therefore provides an almost EV-like power delivery of buttery smooth, right-now torque.
As for the gas-only powertrains, you can't go wrong with either. You certainly don't need the bigger turbo, but besides providing a bigger punch, we prefer its 10-speed automatic to the base engine's CVT. As far as CVTs go, it's not terrible and avoids excessive droning, but we prefer the more typical shifting performance of the 10-speed.
See how the Accord stacks up to two close rivals. All have received updates since then, but our conclusions should remain broadly the same.
We review the highest trim level possible: the Touring with the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine.
Our test of the Hybrid Touring, where we argued it's actually the most appealing Accord available.
Pricing starts at $25,725, including the $955 destination charge, for the base Accord LX. As usual for Hondas, equipment is added exclusively through trim levels — there are no options or packages.
Standard equipment is ample and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, proximity entry, dual-zone climate control, the full Honda Sensing suite of driver assistance tech (see Safety section below), cloth upholstery, a manual height-adjustable driver seat, an 8-inch touchscreen, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a four-speaker sound system. While we used to recommend upgrading to the Accord EX due to its handful of must-have extras, most of those are now included on the base car. As such, there's less of a need to pay more for the EX's effective replacement, the Sport, which may still add a power driver seat and twice as many speakers, but comes saddled with the ride-compromising 19-inch wheels.
You can find a full breakdown of each trim level's features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog for the gas-only Accords and here for the Accord Hybrid.
Sport SE: $29.675
Sport 2.0T: $32,865
Touring 2.0T: $37,655
Hybrid Base: $27,325
Hybrid EX: $31,275
Hybrid EX-L: $33,645
Hybrid Touring: $37,195
Every 2020 Accord comes standard with the Honda Sensing suite of accident avoidance tech: forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control with lane-centering capability. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning are added starting with the EX-L trim. Agreeably, these various systems are not only more advanced than what you'll get in the Civic, Pilot and Passport, but have been upgraded for 2021 with more natural reactions from the adaptive cruise control and lane-centering systems.
The Accord receives a perfect five stars in every government crash category. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2020 Accord a Top Safety Pick for its top scores in all pertinent categories. Note that its new headlights for 2021 may alter last year's IIHS headlight ratings, which were "Acceptable" or "Marginal" depending on trim level.