2021 Honda Accord EX-L 1.5T First test: Honda knows best

Honda Accord Complete Review

When I returned to the trailhead exhausted and weak after a 12 mile hike through the canyons and creeks around Mount Baldy, there wasn’t a car I’d rather be greeted in than the 2021 Honda Accord. Like an old one Friend I knew the Janese middle class would welcome me with no judgment for my foot stink or shaking quads, and that I wouldn’t have to spend an ounce of my depleted energy reserves on frustrations like clunky CVT tuning or inconsistent steering.

I approached the car and slammed open its trunk to pile up my damp boots and dusty backpack, but when I closed the trunk lid the Accord gave three polite beeps and opened it again. Closing it again brought the same result.

It was only after thoughtlessly trying to expect something else a few times that I realized I had left the keys in that dusty backpack. The deal knew something I didn’t know and saved myself from myself. It is this kind of well-thought-out technique of knowing your customers that helps Honda build a vehicle that is not perfect for every application, but undoubtedly that best mid-range sedan in the industry.

On-road impressions

The same thoughtfulness is given to parents in the approach of the agreement to improve ride quality. As a driver, you hear bumps and imperfections more than you feel. The ride is closer to that of an S-Class than a sonata. Part of that magic carpet effect depends on Honda’s choice of wheels.

Our test vehicle came up with 17-inch casters with an inch-thick, shock-absorbing sidewall. Who needs a fancy, expensive air suspension when there is a flexible, atmospheric cushion between the edge of the wheel and the road? Some of the Accord’s competitors ride sleek 18- or 19-inch wheels that improve aesthetics but require short, stiff-walled rubber that improves ride quality. Honda knows that base engine Accord buyers are more comfortable than flashy.

Speaking of comfort, the interior of the Accord is a sheer delight. It’s an inconspicuous space, but the limo-like legroom in the back seat, the airy view and the logically arranged, ergonomically friendly controls are impressive. The otherwise supportive front seats were a bit wide and padded for this author, but drivers who don’t explore the limits of driving behavior (read: most of them) don’t mind.

Powertrain tuning benefits from the same thoughtful ethos as the cab and driving – this is obvious from the first few meters. It is almost impossible to break away from a stop in the agreement. Even if you jump from stationary to half throttle, the Accord moves forward with grace. The turbocharged four-cylinder and automatic CVT respond adequately to the bend of the right ankle, smoothly delivering the revs needed to consume as much or as little acceleration as the driver demands and instantly settle to 1,400 rpm back to drive back.

I would call tuning the CVT boring and overwhelming in the wrong context. Behind the wheel of a sports car, I want a more aggressive response. However, in an agreement it is ideal. Mid-size base-engined sedan drivers want smooth rather than sporty, and Honda has done it.


But don’t think that the smaller engine Accord is some kind of bum. Its 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder has the smallest displacement in the segment, but also outperforms any other medium-sized sedan with a basic drive train.

With 192 hp and a suitable torque of 192 lb-ft, the small four-pot with forced induction motivated our test car to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds. That figure beats 7.4 seconds in a 2.5-liter Nissan Altima, 7.5 seconds in a four-cylinder Toyota Camry, 8.3 seconds in a non-XT Subaru Legacy, 7.8 seconds in the Hyundai Sonata and in the Kia K5 with the smaller of their two turbo- four engine options and front-wheel drive and 7.9 seconds in the Mazda 6 with a naturally aspirated engine.

The brake pedal is soft and easy to modulate while driving on the road. However, our eight man pilot Chris Walton had problems with the lack of initial bite on the test track. He also complained about the lagging throttle and frustrating understeer and invasive stability control during limit tests. Even with these problems, however, only one of the colleagues on the Accord’s base powertrain set a faster oil (the Hyundai Sonata 1.6T dragged our course to the Accord’s 27.1 in 27.0 seconds).

Ah, but aren’t 0-60 and the number eight as irrelevant in this segment as large, conspicuous wheels or an immediately appealing gas? Depends on who you ask, but the Accord also delivers the fastest 45-65 mph overtaking time of any direct competitor (3.7 seconds). My roommate, who owns the V-6 Accord, told me this car feels just as fast, if not faster, than the six-cylinder Honda in our driveway. That the 1.5-liter at 30/38 mpg city / highway also offers one of the best fuel economy figures in the segment is just further proof that Honda understands what its buyers are looking for.

Not that this powertrain is perfect. The engine hums a little through the steering wheel when idling, and you have a hard time finding someone who likes the sound. It also lacks paddles for simulated shifts or a real sport mode (there’s an S slot on the shifter, but we didn’t notice much of a difference).


There are other shortcomings in the armament of the agreement. We’ve noticed how remarkable it is that automatic cruise control, lane centering, automatic emergency braking, and the like are standard on cars starting at $ 25,965 (our leather-lined EX-L test vehicle was $ 32,285). But the additive cruise functionality isn’t exactly great.

If you’re following a car ahead, the system never brakes as early or as gently as I do, and it can feel sluggish as you accelerate back to the set cruising speed. Unnatural braking is particularly noticeable when a car is sliding in front of you in the adjacent lane.

However, lane centering is excellent on freeways with well-marked lanes and gentle curves. I like the way the digital instrument cluster glows green when the system is active, as does the steering wheel indicator on Cadillac’s Super Cruise vehicles.

Picking other nits? My left elbow required thicker padding on the door-mounted armrest, and I also had some CarPlay connectivity issues. As a separate issue, there was a pixelated black box at one point in the upper left corner of the CarPlay display, but that could have been because I awkwardly dropped my phone in the middle of the river. The problem went away after I unplugged the power cord and blown the charging port.

Remember, however, that it is our job to find the little problems and pick the nits. The Honda Accord’s superb execution of the midsize sedan formula shines brighter than any boring complaint we can make.

When I thought that all cars should have old-school automatics instead of CVTs, the Accord showed me that in some cases bumpless, continuously variable gear ratios can provide an ideal driving experience. When I thought “small engine bad,” the humble Honda beat out its weight class and provided excellent fuel economy. When I tried to lock the keys in the trunk, my old friend opened them again. This is the best example of a consumer-friendly mid-size sedan in our industry and the latest reminder that Honda knows best, at least in this area.

Looks good! More details?

2021 Honda Accord (EX-L)
BASIC PRICE $ 32,285
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 1.5 L / 192 PS / 192 lb-ft Turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION Cont Variable Auto
CURB WEIGHT (F / R DIST) 60/40% (3,206 lb)
WHEELBASE 111.4 in
Length x width x height 196.1 x 73.3 x 57.1 in
0-60 MPH 7.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.5 seconds at 92.0 mph
BRAKES, 60-0 MPH 129 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 s at 0.63 g (average)
EPA CITY / HWY / COMB FUEL ECON 30/38/33 mpg
ENERGIEKONS, CITY / HWY 112/89 kWh / 100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.59 lb / mile

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