More power doesn’t always translate to superior performance. Take the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid for instance; does its class-leading power lead to a meaningful advantage in acceleration compared to the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata hybrids? We track-tested the Honda to find out. And after our First Drive review, we also discovered two minor faults in what remains one of our favorite midsize family sedans.
If you’re on the fence between a 2020 and 2021 Accord Hybrid, we’d suggest picking the newer model—and this is coming from a particularly frugal-minded MotorTrend editor. It’s not because of newly available wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; it’s thanks to Honda’s adjustments to the way the car feels—and sounds—under acceleration. For years, we’ve appreciated Honda’s hybrids in spite of the odd sensation of their engine revs not always rising in concert with how hard you’re pressing on the accelerator pedal. In the 2021 Accord Hybrid, the issue has largely been addressed, even though fundamentally, the electric drive motor remains the primary motivator when accelerating from a stop (the engine is pressed into service powering the wheels via a novel single-speed transmission at higher speeds). The result? We found the Honda requires far less of a compromise in engine and transmission refinement than previous models.
How the Accord Hybrid Drives (On and Off the Track)
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It turns out the Accord Hybrid is quick, but not just because it has more power than its rivals.
Honda’s hybridized family sedan hits 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, which beats a 2021 Camry XSE Hybrid (7.4 seconds) and a 2020 Sonata Limited Hybrid (7.6 seconds), largely because the 2021 Accord lacks excess weight. Our loaded 212-hp Touring test car weighs about 150 pounds less than the 208-hp Camry XSE and about 15 pounds less than the 192-hp Sonata Limited we’ve recently tested. If you’re comparing Accord to Accord, know that the hybrid is about one second quicker than the entry-level Accord 1.5T, and about a second slower than the 252-hp Accord 2.0T.
In the real world, the Accord Hybrid feels more lively than the 1.5T model. It’s no Tesla Model 3, but you can definitely feel an electrically enhanced oomph in certain driving situations. The brakes are good, too. With 60-0 mph braking in 116 feet, the Honda again outperforms the competition from Toyota and Hyundai, which come to a stop in 118 and 121 feet, respectively. That’s not a huge difference, but the Honda’s real advantage here comes in how the brakes feel. Honda has done a great job making the brakes feel natural in almost every circumstance, except maybe for edging forward into a driveway or parking spot. We couldn’t say the same about the Sonata Hybrid’s brake feel.
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On the track, the test crew were mostly impressed. Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana described the brakes as “pretty linear for a hybrid,” and road test editor Chris Walton said the car felt “reasonably well balanced” with “good turn in.” That’s how the 2021 Accord Hybrid drives on a winding road, too. Although the car can’t match the entertainment value of a pricier sport sedan like the Genesis G70, the Honda still delivers some fun on a backroad. Even if the only curving roads you travel are parking structure ramps, the Accord’s retuned steering will be a real plus in everyday driving.
Two Minor Issues About the Ride and Fuel Economy . . .
We can’t say the same about the ride, however. My experience differed from that of our First Drive review, where we also drove a 2021 Accord Touring Hybrid. Like the Accord 2.0T Touring model, the hybrid version comes with an adaptive damping suspension. Even with the hybrid Touring model’s new-for-2021 19-inch wheels, we said the car didn’t sacrifice any ride quality. During this car’s evaluation, we found the ride of a Touring model to be a little too rough on less-than-perfect surfaces. Our advice? If you’re going for the Accord Touring—the only hybrid trim with those attractive 19-inch wheels—test drive it over some poorly maintained surfaces to see if it works for you.
Every non-Touring 2021 Accord hybrid trim manages 48/48 mpg city/highway with 17-inch wheels carried over from the previous model year. The top-of-the-line Touring is EPA-rated at 44/41 mpg. That compares less than favorably to the Hyundai, which gets 50/54 mpg in base trim (but drops to 45/51 mpg in the other two trims). With the Toyota, mileage starts at 51/53 with the lower LE trim, but falls to 44/47 as an SE, XSE, and XLE. So, as they say, your mileage will vary, but the Accord is at least in the mix with some versions of those competitors. In any event, it’s a disadvantage that is easily avoidable—don’t buy the Touring, and the big-wheel ride and fuel economy issues fade.
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If you compare the efficient hybrid model to normal Accords (29/35 for Sport 1.5T and 30/38 for other 1.5T trims), the hybrid is a clear win. The same is true of driving range. You’ll drive more than 100 additional miles of combined city/highway driving before visiting gas stations if you select a hybrid. The Touring trim depletes that advantage well below the Toyota and Hyundai, but again, skip that trim for 600-plus miles of driving.
Those are not huge issues for a car that’s so fantastically well-rounded. The Honda has a cavernous 16.7 cubic-foot trunk, a spacious cabin, and refined interior details. Most trims get sharp-looking, matte wood-like trim and five control knobs that make changing the air temperature or volume easy. The lower three knobs move between their detents in a way that feels more like a luxury car than a Honda. On top of all that, the Accord Hybrid is quiet, drives well, and has an Excellent IntelliChoice value rating. To those advantages, we can now add superior acceleration and braking, backed by MotorTrend testing.
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When a slightly dated instrument cluster display and the lack of an inside-the trunk grab handle are two of a car’s biggest issues, along with a single trim level’s wheels posing a minor problem or two, you know you’re considering a solid option. The Accord lacks the sporty styling flair of the new 2021 Camry XSE and cool tech offered by the Sonata, but the Honda is otherwise a great pick. And you don’t have to be a hybrid enthusiast to see its value.
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