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The Refreshed Honda Accord Hybrid Is a Refined Fuel-Sipper

Is it the most entertaining Accord? No. But it does get 40-plus miles per gallon.

honda accord hybrid sedan
Honda

What is it?

The Honda Accord Hybrid is — you probably guessed it — the hybrid-electric version of the Japanese company’s omnipresent midsize sedan.

Is it new?

Technically. Honda launched the current Accord Hybrid with the tenth-generation model for 2018. Three years into its run, we’re getting a slight refresh, which was all it really needed. In front, Honda widened the grille a bit for 2021, and switched to brighter LED headlights, necessary for a Top Safety Pick+ rating. Honda also tweaked some of the features in the trim lineup and adjusted the throttle mapping a bit. Otherwise, it’s more or less the same car as the 2020 version.

honda accord hybrid grille
JAMES HALFACRE

Why is it special?

The Honda Accord is the BMW 3 Series of affordable sedans. It’s the benchmark other manufacturers aspire to, a car that drives much better than it should considering its price point. Car and Driver has named it to its 10 Best lists 34 times in the 38 years that list has existed. The Accord is the first Honda many customers buy — and a car that keeps them buying Hondas.

The Accord Hybrid, like the CR-V Hybrid, is Honda’s current route to a greener future in the U.S. market. Instead of introducing a game-changing EV (and paying for it with trucks and large SUVs), Honda is making the popular cars it sells pollute less.

How does it drive?

The Accord Hybrid is the Goldilocks version of the Accord: it offers 212 hp, 20 hp more than the 1.5-liter base Accord and 40 less than the 2.0-liter; it also packs 232 lb-ft of torque, 40 more hp than the base and 41 lb-ft less than the 2.0-liter. It bests both on fuel economy, however, earning up to 48 mpg. The EPA rated my top-shelf Touring trim test vehicle for 43 mpg combined.

In one way, the Accord is sort of like the Volkswagen Golf. Honda started in the 1970s with a vehicle that had excellent driving dynamics, and has been refining it since rather than rethinking it. The hybrid keeps a lot of the balance, handling, and smoothness of the conventionally powered Accord — but the loud and droning gas engine and CVT sap the enjoyment from driving it hard, the way one would like to with one of those departing manual 2.0-liter Accords no one was buying.

Honda says it tuned the throttle mapping of the Accord Hybrid for stronger and more natural acceleration, but I’m not sure it would feel hugely different from the 2020 model in everyday driving. The Lane Keeping Assist system was too high-strung for my taste, as well.

honda accord hybrid interior
JAMES HALFACRE

What’s it like inside?

I didn't get much time to experience the Accord Hybrid's interior, given I was only driving it for an hour and a half or so. It certainly felt very spacious, but the seat felt low and hard to climb in and out of. If you bought a crossover instead of an Accord for ease of entry, you’d feel vindicated.

The Touring trim looked appropriately nice inside, particularly with the "ivory" perforated leather interior. But when you feel around, the materials don’t quite match up to a true luxury sedan. I did hear a fair amount of road noise, as well...though the super-quiet Lexus I drove to the event in may have tainted my impression.

What does it cost?

The Accord Hybrid starts at $26,370, which is a $1,600 bump over the standard Accord. My fully-loaded Touring trim tester priced out to $36,795.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

Powertrain: 2.0-liter four-cylinder VTEC hybrid, CVT, front-wheel-drive

Horsepower: 212

Torque: 232 lb-ft

EPA Fuel Economy: 44 mpg city, 41 mpg highway

Seats: 5

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