For a good twenty years, buying a family car often meant buying a Honda Accord.
A well-engineered, sensible, class-transcending option that carried out business relatively unthreatened by SUVs. But now that everyone is buying crossovers, what is this 2021 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T doing to stay relevant? What does it offer over a CR-V or Toyota RAV4? Lots, as it turns out.
Cast gaze upon the Accord and it impresses with a classy yet unpretentious appearance that celebrates the sedan styling tradition of “longer, lower, wider.” Indeed, the Accord cuts a low silhouette with a swooping, coupe-like roofline and chrome lower body trim that runs the length of the car to exaggerate length and evoke premium cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7. The slim, horizontal headlamps are LED on our test car and cast a strong beam for great night visibility. The exaggerated exhaust tips in the rear fascia lead to the actual exhaust pipes, a real enough treatment in today’s facetuned force-fed landscape of social media posturing.
What’s more, Accord shoppers don’t have to spring all the way for the top trim level to get the nice wheels as 19-inch alloys come on the one-step-up-from-base Sport trim. Our top-spec Touring tester sports the same style of alloys, albeit with the pockets painted metallic grey instead of black for a classier look.
Step inside the Accord and it gets even nicer. The steering wheel is upholstered in very soft leather that’s a marked step up from most competitors, soft touch materials abound and everything feels very well put together. The hinges on the cover for the wireless charging pad come to mind as they’re delightfully far stronger than they need to be. The volume and tuning knobs have a nice click to them, as do the climate controls, while general build quality is impressively solid with no uncouth vibrations or impressions of cheapness to be found.
The familiar satisfying Honda door close thunk is still here, something Toyota’s Camry has abandoned in favour of weight savings. Honda’s stalwart sedan now feels genuinely premium, enough for most consumers to ask if upgrading to an Acura is really necessary.
The front seats feature pleasingly quick power lumbar adjustment and offer quite good shoulder support, an uncommon trait among midsize sedans. Our top trim Touring tester came with heated and ventilated front seats and while the cooling effect is quite good, the seat heaters could use a little more juice for chilly winter evenings. Moving to the rear seats, legroom is quite good although headroom does get pinched a bit due to the Accord’s swooping roofline.
One strange quirk with the Accord is that unlike some other Honda models, it doesn’t support retained accessory power to keep the stereo going for a bit after the ignition is switched off. It is possible to force it into accessory mode by shutting it off in neutral, but that then requires cycling the ignition when it’s time to leave the vehicle which defeats the whole point. Another strange quirk has to do with the heated steering wheel.
While the heated seats have a level of memory that will automatically switch them back on when the car is restarted, the heated steering wheel does not. In addition, the LEDs for the heated steering wheel and heated seats are different colours – red for the seats, orange for the steering wheel. Perhaps a little more attention to fine details would be a good thing.
Powering the Accord is Honda’s familiar 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 192 horsepower and 192 lb.-ft. of torque. While the Camry outguns it on peak horsepower, that peak torque figure carries all the way from 1,600 RPM to 5,000 RPM which gives the Accord an impression of stout acceleration. Our test example came with Honda’s continuously variable transmission which delivers a rather smooth experience.
Whatever powertrain lag may exist gets lightly glazed over in cream cheese frosting by the CVT’s deft calibration and propensity to ride the 1.5T’s wide torque curve. This engine and transmission combination is arguably the most refined entry-level powertrain in the midsize sedan segment and this is a class that rewards refinement. It’s also quite efficient, averaging 7.5 L/100km over our week of testing in mixed driving.
What’s more, the Accord doesn’t just go well, it stops and turns well too. The brake pedal is firm and easy to modulate for confident stops even from highway speeds. As for the handling, the Accord distinguishes itself from the competition with a healthy dose of athleticism. Instead of wafting along unaware of the road like in a Toyota Camry, the Accord feels planted and capable. It doesn’t ride harshly as the suspension is well-controlled over bumps but instead feels as if it’s wearing ballet slippers instead of football cleats.
The steering is well-weighted and quick with great accuracy and feel while overall grip levels are astonishingly good. When pressed into a corner with enthusiasm, the Accord rises to the task like a Jack Russell Terrier that’s just spotted the postman.
Handling is what car bores would describe as fairly neutral, with the chassis giving the driver plenty of warning before stability control ever threatens to kick in. Push too hard and gentle understeer is the word of the day, although it’s highly unlikely any Accord buyer will ever find these limits on the street. What’s perhaps more important is that the Accord shrinks its dimensions in spirited driving, hiding its mass and feeling like a much smaller car than it is.
It’s a shocking reminder of how much new vehicle buyers are giving up when choosing a crossover over a car. A low centre of gravity, a sense of urgency, an engine and gearbox unencumbered by obscene bloat, a sense of driving rather than travelling. This Accord offers a near-teutonic blend of composure and joy that anyone who actually wants a car will absolutely adore.
On the safety side of things, Honda Sensing’s age caters well to the keen “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” crowd the Accord attracts. It’s a system that protects instead of simply nagging, preventing the driver from becoming complacent. From blind-spot monitoring to forward collision warning to rear cross-traffic alert, everything is set to not be triggered by the average sensible driver in average sensible driving. Good.
So then, the 2021 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T is attractive to look at, it’s quite nice to be in, it drives very well, it’s practical and it’s easy on fuel. But what about pricing? Our nearly loaded 1.5T Touring test car retails for $37,405 which is $615 more than a comparably-equipped Toyota Camry XLE and a massive $2,455 more expensive than a Mazda 6 GT. While it’s easy to recommend over the Camry, the Mazda 6 may be better value for shoppers.
However, move down the trim levels and a sweet spot emerges. It’s the Honda Accord Sport. For $32,505 buyers can get automatic climate control, a sunroof, premium audio and partially-leather seats for just $855 more than a comparably-equipped Mazda 6 and $1,245 less than a comparably-equipped Camry SE with the Upgrade package. And at that price, the Honda Accord becomes a very difficult car to refuse.