By Andy Stonehouse
I managed, somewhat accidentally, to provide perhaps the most harsh real-world test for one of Honda’s two new hybrids, the 2021 Accord: a bone-chilling -11 degree F snap we experienced out in Colorado in February, part of the system that walloped Texas and much of the South and Southeast. One would not think that an amply-sized, electrically-enhanced, Ohio-made family hybrid sedan such as the Accord would respond well to that kind of thing, but it did, with aplomb.
After a night in actually sub-zero temperatures, it started right up and continued doing what it had been doing before the cold, getting 48 miles per gallon (MPG) both in city and highway driving. Overall, the hybrid variant of the new Accord boasts a 600-mile range between fill-ups.
That’s a pretty impressive figure for a $37,435 vehicle (as-tested price in the top-of-the-line Touring trim level) I felt had more physically in common with an old Ford Crown Victoria than Accords I remember from the past. Redesigned in 2018, the tenth-generation Accord is indeed a large and comfortable cruiser, and despite producing just 212 horsepower from its electrical setup, it climbed hills and even offered some sporty-lite careening capabilities.
For the most part, the hybrid aspect remains absolutely invisible, with absolutely no complicated power handoffs when the car switches between generator and engine power. Its system uses a clutch to enable a direct transmission link when the gasoline motor kicks in.
Handling feels tangibly solid with slightly heavy steering. The suspension is also exceptionally stiff and the vehicle rolls very flat and smooth.
You can play with the amount of regenerative braking using control buttons, especially while headed downhill; oddly, the Accord is only configured to offer a single mile’s range in all-electric mode, as that is apparently not a priority for Honda customers right now.
That’s maybe a slightly odd move, given every other manufacturer’s ambitious attempts to offer longer-range, plug-in hybrid options, but Honda is still pushing hydrogen power as its Moon Shot technology. At 48 MPG, the Accord already sort of seems like it’s running on electricity, so why mess around with expensive and complicated batteries, for now?
There’s also a bit of juxtaposition in design as the Accord offers increasingly sporty lines and an overall look that borders on flashy. The gleaming samurai sword on the grille, swept headlamps and open-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, plus chrome-edged lower body bulges for better aerodynamics. Inside, however, you won’t find the glitz and glow of an Acura, but you’ll still be impressed by the somewhat sedate, soft-touch interior and broad seating. There are acres of legroom in the back.
I also managed to finally sit down and pre-configure the large Display Audio infotainment screen for easier use while driving; during other drives I was unable to even find the digital XM Radio controls, and spent a lot of dangerous time poking the screen. Set up all of that before you drive and it’s really seamless and easy to use.
Hybrid data geeks (with families to cart around) will appreciate what seemed to be about 25 different system metrics and readouts in the left bezel of the instrument display.
Pricing for the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid starts at $27,565.
Sí: Wow, the mileage. Mileage other hybrids only dream about, 48 MPG, almost consistently, in a very large and comfortable vehicle, not a weird little econo-box.
No: While it’s really flashy outside, the new Accord remains pretty boring indoors. There is not an ounce of drama in the dash and cabin design. But, as one of America’s best-selling cars of all time, maybe that’s the plan.
Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado.