Behind the Wheel

2021 Honda Accord Review: Doesn't cost a lot to make this sedan sporty

The 2021 Honda Accord Sport is a budget-friendly model with a lot of pep.

Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Critics and buyers have loved the Honda Accord for a few decades now. Though it's frequently compared to the Toyota Camry, there's some models in its class that are giving the Accord a run for its money - the Mazda Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, Kia K5, and the Hyundai Sonata just to name a few.

Where the Accord wins versus the competition isn't on price or features, styling or appointments, tech or drivetrain. It wins because it's a whole package, especially as tested in the 2021 Accord Sport variety.

For the new model year, Honda has focused on updating the fascia and improving the tech in the Accord. They're all good gains.

2021 Honda Accord Sport The car's wheels help elevate the sporty profile of the car.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

For the 2021 model year, Honda sells the Accord in six trim levels: LX, Sport 1.5T, Sport Special Edition (SE), EX-L, Sport 2.0T, and Touring. Honda leant the Sport 2.0T, which has an upgraded powerful 2.0-liter turbo-four is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and produces 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It's available in Accord Sport 2.0T and Touring grades. The 2.0-liter is far more fun to drive than the base 1.5-liter four-pot.

Honda has done a good job differentiating the Accord from the Acura lineup, making its drive dynamics not nearly as athletic as the TLX's but still engaging, while allowing for pointed steering and easy maneuverability. Acceleration won't knock anyone's socks off, but that's not a reason to ignore the Accord. The Accord Sport has paddle shifters, which work better for mountain driving situations than they do for deriving true sport functionality, as you would get with a manual transmission.

Honda has also upgraded the braking system for 2021, designing it to engage more smoothly, especially at low speeds. The result is measured performance that is neither grabby nor soft.

Honda upholsters the Accord Sport with cloth seats but nice finishes elsewhere. While a lot of attention is given to leather upholstery, there's actually nothing wrong with the cloth seats. The ones in the Accord Sport are not only attractive but don't draw the heat of the sun or cold of the clouds and snow into them like leather does.

2021 Honda Accord Sport The interior of the Accord Sport is well appointed.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Buyers can spec their Accord Sport with a number of options, including appearance and weather protection packages. But, with the 2.0-liter powertrain, it already comes loaded with most of the desirable features buyers want including an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen, 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, eight-speaker audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a leather shift knob, rear spoiler, sport pedals, chrome exhaust finishers, fog lights, moonroof, heated front seats, remote keyless entry and engine start, and a wireless device charger.

The Honda Accord Sport starts at $27,430. Upgrading the engine adds $4,530 to that price tag, but also gets you the moonroof, heated seats, power-adjustable driver's seat, remote functionality, and device charger. That brings the MSRP of the Sport 2.0T to near $32,000. Knock a few bucks off in dealership negotiations and you're sitting quite pretty for under $30,000.

In the Sport trim level, the Accord is just as nice as Mazdas, nicer than the K5, and on-par with the Sonata. The Mazda is equally as engaging to drive but its infotainment system leaves a lot to be desired.

2021 Honda Accord Sport Honda's steering wheel makes operation of radio, cruise control, and driver assist features easy.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

2021 Honda Accord Sport

Subaru offers all-wheel drive standard on the Legacy, something the Accord does not. But, it's not as powerful nor is its infotainment system as nicely designed. The Sonata also isn't as powerful and the sporty Sonata N Line grade takes track-readiness a step too far, ruining ride quality. The K5 might end up being the Accord's closest competitor with plenty of power, but the interior is more parts bin than is optimal.

But what about the Camry? The Toyota, now with available all-wheel drive, does offer a lot to its customer base, but it's aging quickly, especially the interior. Other models offer just as good dependability and for a lower price. They're also more fun to drive.

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The new Si gets many improvements over the standard Civic.

Honda

The 2022 Civic and Civic Hatchback are just starting to hit our streets, but Honda's already moved on to higher performance versions of the car. The automaker just announced the Civic Si, which lands between the standard cars and the red-hot Type R in the Civic lineup.

2022 Honda Civic Si The Si's manual transmission gets rev-matching from the Civic Type R.Honda

The 2022 Civic Si gets a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The VTEC unit has been updated with broader power curves and better output at the top of the rev range. It's paired exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission that features the handy rev-matching feature from the Civic Type R. The system can detect downshifts and blips the throttle to perfectly align engine revs with the shift.

Honda tightened up the new Si's body with an 8 percent bump in torsional rigidity and a 13 percent increase in bending rigidity over the previous model. The 2022 Civic Si also rides on a longer wheelbase and has a wider rear track for better stability. Honda says that at 107.7 inches, the Si has the longest wheelbase in its class, which should give the car a stable and comfortable ride.

2022 Honda Civic Si The 2022 Civic Si's interior is clean and sporty. Honda

The Si's cabin borrows heavily from the standard Civic, but the sporty car gets more aggressive front sport seats with stronger bolstering and better thigh and shoulder supports. Honda raised the seats' bottom cushion by half an inch at the front for better thigh support. A 9-inch touchscreen display is standard that runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 12-speaker Bose stereo with Centerpoint 2 tech and SurroundStage digital signal processing are also standard.

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The Passport was lightly modified for competition.

Honda

Honda recently announced a line of off-road-oriented trims and packages for its vehicles. Called TrailSport, the trim brings rugged appearance upgrades to the Honda Passport and will eventually offer more performance upgrades for other vehicles in the automaker's catalog. To further prove its mettle in the off-road space, Honda built a 2022 Passport rally truck to compete in the American Rally Association race series. The truck debuted over the weekend in Michigan and had a reasonably successful run for its first time out.

2022 Honda Passport Two Honda engineers handled driving duties.Honda

Importantly, the Passport's drivetrain and suspension were left untouched for the rally. The 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6, nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and suspension in the rally vehicle are the same components that you or I would see if we bought a new Passport today. Honda did add a transmission fluid cooler, but even then, it's the unit that everyday buyers can get with the available towing package. The SUV's interior was stripped and modified for safety and performance.

2022 Honda Passport Honda is pushing deeper into the off-road with its TrailSport trims.Honda

Honda did upgrade the Passport's wheels and tires for the event by fitting 17-inch BRAID Winrace T rally wheels and Maxxis RAZR M/T or A/T tires. The automaker also made modifications to the SUV's underside with custom 1/8-inch thick aluminum oil pan and rear differential skid plates. High-density panels protect the fuel tank and other sensitive components, while Carbontech XP12 brake pads and high-temp racing brake fluid slow things down.

2022 Honda Passport The Passport's interior had to be stripped and modified for the event.Honda

The ARA National and Regional Championship Series events feature modified street vehicles that travel at speeds well in excess of 100 mph. The courses include gravel, dirt, mud, and snow, and cover hundreds of miles. The Honda Passport rally vehicle was first driven by two Honda engineers and ran in the top ten out of 42 teams. Honda says that a tire de-bead eventually slowed the team, leading to a delayed finish.

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