Honda’s Accord hybrid is consistent, consistently good, just like the internal combustion version.
I suppose if you refined most products, constantly improved them, for 40+ years you’d end up with a diamond of sorts. Honda deserves a lot of credit though.
This week I slipped behind the wheel of a platinum (sparkly) white Accord Hybrid Touring, its top model, and it felt like returning home after a long vacation. Remember those?
The Accord looks familiar and feels the same. It doesn’t surprise, it satisfies. The interior is quiet and comfy, the controls easy to use, the power sufficient, the handling light and breezy, the ride superb. And all this in a family-sized sedan that lists at $37,590. That’s significantly below the average new vehicle cost.
But here’s the funny thing, as familiar as it seemed, a look back at my Accord Hybrid review from four years ago brought to light a number of significant changes. They sneak up on you.
Power, handling and ride remain much the same, with one standout difference. The Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter I4 with hybrid electric power from two electric motors still generates 212 horsepower, but torque has improved to 232 lb.-ft. So even in Normal drive mode (Eco and Sport are the others), acceleration is good. Punch the Sport mode button and it’s much improved, so you’ll be happy to have that when entering a highway or needing a quick getaway. Car and Driver magazine says the hybrid will do 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds.
What didn’t change is the engine drone when you ask for more power. Yet it’s not overwhelming as in some recently tested vehicles. Honda apparently believes in mucho sound deadening material because there’s only a moderate drone transmitted to the cabin. You notice it, but not much, which helps maintain the feeling of quality and smoothness that are Honda trademarks.
Handling is light and easy, but more precise than many mid-size to large cars. Turning into corners is actually pretty spirited and grip from the standard R19 tires is excellent, and I had this one during a couple small snowfalls, and one big one, so streets were often slippery.
Ride remains excellent, but then the wheelbase has grown about two inches since my last Accord hybrid test. Taking the car over crumbling Wisconsin roads never felt harsh. Everything is well controlled and never jolts passengers. MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension in back do their job superbly.
Subtle changes here include two more inches of overall length. The Accord is now 196.1 inches long and that translates into an even roomier rear seat. Certainly tall adults will fit and three isn’t a crowd.
Trunk space also has grown, a plus for families. Cargo room is now 16.7 cubic feet, up from 13.5 just four years ago. Plus the hybrid’s rear seat is split and will fold down to boost cargo room, whereas in 2017 the hybrid models had solid, non-foldable, rear seats. A few years of battery and electric motor technology improvements have saved space, plus cut weight by almost 90 lbs.
Inside, the white ($395 extra) test car was handsome, quiet and comfortable. Seats were perforated black leather with a black textured dash and gray headliner. Trim was a dark fake wood that looked like open pore, but when you touched it, the surface was smooth. It looked elegant, as did the satin chrome trim around controls and air vents.
Most importantly mid-dash was a fine 8-inch screen (now standard in all Accords) that was easy to see and use. That too was a change from four years back when there were two screens and the radio system screen’s controls were among the worst I’d encountered. This one is easy to tune as it has both volume and tuning knobs, and the home screen is intuitive, showing you everything you’ll want, including trip computer, navigation, etc.
Below the screen are three climate control knobs for a dual system. It was tremendous, warming quickly and actually making the interior too hot at times, even set at 66-68 degrees. Just know that so you don’t roast your passengers.
There also are heated and cooled front seats in the Touring model, while heated rear seats also are standard. The front seats feature well-shaped butt pockets and supportive side bolsters for the back. The driver’s seat is powered with lumbar supports and two memory settings too. Sadly there’s no heated steering wheel. THAT did not change since my last review.
One previous plus became a minus. Honda formerly employed Lane Watch, which showed via camera what was on the passenger’s side once you turned on a right turn signal. That was clever and helpful, especially in seeing snowy curbs.
Of course there’s plenty of safety equipment because Honda Sensing is standard. That includes smart cruise control, collision mitigating braking, lane-keep assist and road departure mitigation. Rear cross-traffic alert, a driver attention monitor, blind-spot warning, parking sensors, and rain-sensing wipers also are standard.
Other interior goodies include a wireless phone charger under the center stack, automatic high beams, an HD radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, HomeLink and 12-volt power outlets. There’s also a sunroof and shade, although the sunroof could be larger to match current trends.
Finally, outside Honda reworked the front fascia to give the Accord a more refined, handsome look to better compete with its nemesis, Toyota’s Camry, which touts sportier styling. Accord looks more sophisticated.
Other changes of note? Well, you can’t get a manual transmission any longer, nor is a V6 engine available, and gas mileage actually has decreased for this hybrid.
I got just 31.3 mpg in about 65% highway driving. That was down from 47.7 mpg four years ago, also a winter drive. The EPA ranks this model at 44 mpg city and 41 highway, down from a 48 mpg average before. I’ll admit to lead-footing it a couple times in Sport as I jumped on the highway, but suspect I did similarly four years ago.
If it’s any consolation (doubtful), the trip computer swore I was getting 34 mpg.
Pricing, as mentioned earlier, is attractive throughout the Accord lineup. There are four trims among hybrid models, ranging from $27,300 to the tested Touring’s base of $37,195, including delivery.
If you prefer a traditional internal combustion-only model, the base features a small 1.5-liter I4 turbo creating 192 horsepower and lists at $25,700. A 2.0-liter I4 turbo that makes 252 hp is optional for the Sport or EX-L models and standard on the gas-powered Touring. That engine comes with a 10-speed automatic in place of the CVT. Pricing is roughly the same as the hybrid trims too, so you don’t pay a big premium for hybrid efficiency with Honda.
FAST STATS: 2021 Honda Accord Touring Hybrid
Hits: Improved looks, good handling, ride, and power in sport mode. Heated/cooled front seats, sunroof, full safety system, smart cruise, wireless charger, easy screen to see and use, includes nav system, super heating system w/3 control knobs, well-formed seats, roomy rear seat and trunk.
Misses: No heated steering wheel, could use bigger sunroof and gas mileage was disappointing for a hybrid.
Made in: Marysville, Ohio
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cyl. hybrid, 212 hp
Weight: 3,446 lbs.
Wheelbase: 111.4.2 in.
Length: 196.1 in.
Cargo: 16.7 cu.ft.
MPG: 31.3 (tested)
Base Price: $37,195 (includes delivery)
Options: Platinum white paint, $395
Test vehicle: $37,590
Sources: Honda, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage