2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Review: The Great All-Rounder

Sometimes, you just want a car that does everything well. For those times, there’s the Honda Accord.

The Accord has been reliably excellent for decades at this point. Honda’s mid-sizer blends comfort, space, ease of use, an engaging drive, and a rock-solid reputation for reliability and holding its value.

For 2021, Honda has tweaked the recipe, including the fuel-sipping Accord Hybrid model. With the same baked-in goodness as the rest of the lineup, plus a theoretical 600-mile (965-km) range and short bursts of EV-only quietness, the Hybrid might just be the pick of the litter.

What’s new?

The current Accord debuted for the 2018 model year, and Honda has treated its stalwart mid-sizer to a round of tweaks for 2021. Only the most rabid of fans will be able to pick out the new model on the road though, with a wider grille being the most notable change. LED headlights, with a better spread of light at night, also show up on every trim beyond the base model. Hybrid models gain a smattering of exterior badging and a blue-tinged “H” badge.

Honda has simplified the drivetrain options too, culling the manual transmission and leaving only the 10-speed automatic or continuously-variable transmission (CVT) for gas-powered Accords. Hybrid models benefit from tweaks to the system Honda says improve the throttle response and decrease the “rubber-banding” feeling as the system blends both power sources. The numbers stay the same, as the Accord funnels 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque through its front wheels sans transmission. Yes, you read that correctly: the 2.0-liter engine powers one of the two electric motors, which functions as a generator. A wet-clutch pack sits between it and the second electric motor, which actually sends power to the wheels.

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Have the tweaks worked?

I’d need to drive a 2020 model back-to-back to know for sure, but the Accord Hybrid’s driving experience is a smooth one. Unless the sound system is off—it’s quite good, by the way—you’ll be hard-pressed to tell whether the Accord is shifting via dino juice, electrons, or some blend of the two. The 2.0-liter engine will typically stay dormant on startup, and in the first few miles of any errand runs in the city, it barely wakes up. Honda uses a much stronger electric motor than comparable hybrids producing 181 hp and that headline 232 lb-ft of torque all on its own. This allows the Accord Hybrid to comfortably cruise at highway speeds right up to 75 mph (120 km/h) on battery power alone. Dig deep into the throttle and the engine will help out.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review

Honda said it worked to improve the braking feel on the 2021 Accord, specifically the blending of mechanical and regenerative forms. The left pedal feels quite natural in everyday operation, with linear, progressive feel right from the top of its travel.

Since the Accord comes without a transmission, you might be wondering what the wheel-mounted paddles are doing here. They control the amount of regenerative braking during coasting situations. It’s useful, but it would be a lot more so if the Accord didn’t forget your chosen setting every time the car comes to a stop.

Riding on the larger 19-inch wheels and eco-friendly tires, the Accord has a firmer ride than you may find elsewhere in the class. It’s not harsh though; instead, the Accord feels taught and agile. There’s a decent amount of weight to the steering wheel, allowing the driver to lean on it and ultimately build confidence. This is by all measures a big car these days (192.2 inches / 4,882 mm), but the Accord never feels it when the road curves.

SEE ALSO: Toyota Camry vs Honda Accord: Which Sedan is Right For You?

Opting for this top-shelf Touring trim and those pretty 19-inch wheels does deal a huge hit to the on-paper fuel economy ratings. The EPA rates the Touring at at 44 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and 43 mpg combined. The rest of the trims do 48 mpg across the board. Canadian Accord Hybrid Touring figures are 5.3, 5.7, and 5.5 L/100 km; the rest of the range is 5.0 L/100 km. My week of testing had the Touring land right between the combined figures, however.

In-car comfort

Honda has improved the Accord’s interior experience this year as well. It’s a bit BMW-like, in the sense that the design is clean and safe, with all the important controls laid out logically. Stick anybody inside the Accord, and it’ll take them about one radio song to get the lay of the land in here. Material quality borders on premium, especially the smooth leather wrapping the steering wheel and seats. The latter are superbly supportive, and the heat and ventilation are both welcome on a week that went from summer to chilly and back. Space up front is simply enormous. Second-row citizens will find plenty of leg room too, though head room can get tight for those north of 6’0″.

SEE ALSO: Toyota Camry AWD vs Kia K5 AWD Comparison

My main interior quibble is Honda’s insistence on a push-button shifter. It doesn’t take up significantly less space than a traditional stalk (or even a rotary dial), and it always has me second-guessing my pokes.

The infotainment screen might be on the smaller side at 8.0-inches, but its graphics are crisp, and higher trims such as this model now feature Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other standard goodies include a Wi-Fi hotspot, dual-zone automatic climate control, a head-up display, multi-angle rearview camera, and remote engine starter. Four USB ports are also included, with two in the back—not a guarantee in this class.

Honda Sensing is standard across the Accord range, including automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, and hill start assist. Higher trims ladle on blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rain-sensing wipers.

Who’s the target audience?

There are still those among us that prefer sedans to the mall-conquering crossovers. The players who have stayed in the mid-sized ring have all built strong packages, ones that feel just a little more luxurious and pampering than their taller counterparts. As nice as the current CR-V is, it can’t match the blend of serenity and driving satisfaction the Accord offers.

The perpetual sales leader in this class is the Toyota Camry. It has a reputation as the safe, reliable choice—though there is a fun TRD model with a class-exclusive V6 engine. If fuel economy is your primary concern, the Camry Hybrid XSE does pip the Accord to the tune of 46 mpg combined. Going further still is Hyundai’s stylish Sonata Hybrid, scoring 47 mpg combined. It also benefits from an automatic transmission, so no CVT weirdness here.

Like the sounds of AWD but want to keep the sedan shape? Then look to the Subaru Legacy, Nissan Altima, or Kia K5. The Camry also offers AWD with its four-cylinder engine.

In America, the Accord lineup kicks off at $25,965 including destination, and the Hybrid rings in for an entirely reasonable $27,565. Both starting prices fall right in line with the Camry and Sonata. Stretch to the fully-loaded Hybrid Touring like this tester and expect to spend $37,435 ($44,505 CAD). Slightly more than the other hybrids, but the Accord straddles the line between mainstream and premium so well it justifies the, er, premium.

Canadians see a much higher starting price of $34,570 CAD for the Accord. This is because the base LX trim isn’t available north of the border.

Verdict: 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Review

The 2021 Honda Accord is all the car most of us could ever need. It offers a Goldilocks blend of comfort and space with generous helpings of features and tight ergonomics. The hybrid model augments this with fuel economy numbers that may not quite match the competition, but will still save you hundreds over the gas engine, without compromising the satisfying drive the Accord has built its reputation on. It might be all the car we could ever need, but the Accord Hybrid is also the car we want, too.

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