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Refreshed, or a little stale? 2021 Honda Accord counts on updates

By Chuck Giametta

2020 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

What changes will make the 2021 Honda Accord different?

Updates to styling and connectivity should headline this popular sedan’s model-year-2021 refresh. Sources suggest the top-line Touring model might get a panoramic moonroof. They also say the Accord Sport model will remain the sole car in its class available with a manual. We hope Honda expands blind-spot monitoring to all ’21 Accords.

This was the No. 2-selling midsize car in 2019, behind the Toyota Camry and ahead of the Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion. Still, Accord demand was down 8 percent – about even with the segment’s slump – as buyers continued their rush to crossover SUVs at the expense of cars. Overlaying all this, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on both consumer choice and every automaker’s timetable for updates and redesigns.

Should I wait for the 2021 Honda Accord or buy a 2020?

2020 Accord Hybrid

Wait for the ’21 if you want the latest styling and features, especially if Honda decides to offer the least expensive Accords with blind-spot monitoring. In any case, the ‘21 changes won’t be drastic but will sustain the car to its full redesign, likely for model-year 2023.

Buy a 2020 Accord to avoid likely price increases for fundamentally the same vehicle. And if you’re among the few Sport-model buyers who favor stick shift – just 5 percent choose it – look to the ’20 if you’re less optimistic than our sources that’ll it’ll still be available on the ‘21.

The refreshed 2021 Accord should repeat the model-year-’20 lineup. It’ll return three powertrains – 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines and a high-mileage hybrid. Look for 1.5T models to reprise LX, Sport, EX, and EX-L trim levels; 2.0Ts Sport, EX-L, and Touring grades; and Hybrids Base, EX, EX-L, and Touring. Where top rivals such as the Camry and Altima now offer all-wheel drive, the ’21 Accord will remain front-wheel drive only.

Launched for model-year 2018, today’s 10th-generation Accord is among the oldest designs in the class. Be it a ‘20 or ‘21, however, we’re convinced the excellence of its basic engineering makes it America’s best overall car value. 

Will 2021 Honda Accord styling be different?

2020 Accord Sport 2.0T

Yes, but with minor alterations: a retrimmed grille, reshaped front and rear fasciae, maybe some new wheel designs. Visual distinctions among models will remain minimal. The Sport and Touring 1.5T and 2.0T should retain 19-inch alloy wheels, all other Accords 17-inch alloys. Hybrids get their own badges and wheel designs. LED headlamps will return as standard, with fog lamps included on all but the LX and Base Hybrid. Touring grades should return with chrome instead of body-colored door handles and may exchange their standard-size moonroof for a larger panoramic panel.

2020 Accord Touring 2.0T

Look for the same rewardingly spacious cabin with impressively solid materials, supportive seating, and one of the segment’s few rear benches amenable to three adults. The smart, sober gauge and control layout recognizes every driver has a sporting side.

All but the LX and the Base Hybrid will likely return with an 8-inch dashboard touchscreen and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Imbedded navigation that doesn’t require a cell signal should remain a Touring-grade exclusive, along with wireless phone charging. Some sources say Honda might modernize the ’21 Accord’s infotainment-system with sharper graphics and a quicker processor, but don’t expect a larger screen until the 2023 redesign.

2020 Accord

Plenty of small-items storage is additional evidence of Honda’s knack for efficient packaging. And aside from the Volkswagen Arteon hatchback, the ’21 Accord should again have the largest trunk in the class, a 16.7-cubic-foot hold compromised only by goose-neck lid hinges that can cleave cargo placed in their path.

Any 2021 Honda Accord mechanical changes?

2020 Accord Touring 2.0T

No. Accord 1.5T models will again have 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, 2.0T models 252 horses and 273 pound-feet. We expect Sport versions of each to come with a six-speed manual transmission for the duration of this design generation. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) will again be optional on the Sport 1.5T and standard on the other 1.5T models. A 10-speed automatic will remain optional on the Sport 2.0T and standard on the other 2.0Ts.

The 2021 Accord Hybrid will again merge electric-motor and gas-engine power. Net horsepower should remain 212 (Honda doesn’t quote a net torque figure but says the propulsion motor alone makes 232 pound-feet). This is not a plug-in and can’t travel far on battery power alone. It recharges via regenerative braking and coasting and by using the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine as a generator. Steering-wheel deceleration paddles let the driver maximize regenerative braking.

2020 Accord Sport manual transmission

Expect more than adequate acceleration for 1.5T models and spirited performance from 2.0Ts, with the caveat that neither provides much off-boost power. You’ll need to compensate when launching across a busy street. The Hybrid doesn’t suffer that shortfall and seamlessly transitions among its power sources to provide strong pull from a stop and around town. Acceleration does trail off in full-throttle passing and merging, though, and engine noise grows intrusive. 

The ’21 Accord’s road manners should remain a brilliant blend of comfort and control, particularly with the 17-inch tires. The Hybrid’s low-rolling-resistance tires do tend to allow more noseplow in fast turns, though. The 19s help sharpen the Sport and Touring models’ cornering grip but struggle to filter impacts from potholes and bumps. They’re noisier, too. Still, even the entry-level LX should continue to inspire confidence in any situation, stimulating the enthusiast impulse in every driver.

Will 2021 Honda Accord fuel economy improve?

2020 Accord hybrid-specific instrument display

With carryover powertrains and expecting no meaningful reduction in weight or aerodynamic drag, 2021 Accord EPA ratings should repeat those of 2020. That would keep gas-only Accords among the most efficient cars in their competitive set and leave the Hybrid a high-mileage exemplar, albeit still shy of the Camry and Hyundai Sonata hybrids.

In the 2021 Accord 1.5T line, expect the Sport to again rate 26/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and 29/35/31 with the CVT. With the CVT standard, all other 1.5Ts should again rate 30/38/33 mpg.

In the 2.0T line, the ’21 Accord Sport should again rate 22/32/36 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and, along with the Touring, the same 22/32/36 with the 10-speed automatic. Expect the ’21 EX-L 2.0T to rate 23/34/27.

Repeating at 48/47/48 mpg city/highway/combined the ‘21 Accord Hybrid should continue to trail only the Sonata Hybrid Blue (50/54/52) and the Camry Hybrid LE (51/53/52) for midsize-sedan fuel-economy supremacy. Note that Accord’s rating applies even for the well-equipped EX-L and Touring models. The rivals’ ratings are for entry-level trims.

Expect Honda to continue to recommend regular-grade 87-octane gasoline for all ’21 Accords.

Will there be new 2021 Honda Accord features?

2020 Accord Sport 2.0T

A standard panoramic roof for the 2021 Accord Touring 2.0T and Touring Hybrid, along with an infotainment upgrade, would typify the few new possible features. We’ve noted our aspiration for blind-spot detection. Along with rear cross-traffic detection, that useful driver assist was unavailable on the 2020 Accord Base Hybrid and the LX and Sport 1.5T models; it was standard on all other Accords.

Making it at least available across the board would mean a more competitive ’21 Accord. And it would flesh out features already included with the Honda Sensing safety technology that’ll return as standard on all 2021 Accords. This consists of forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking that can stop the car to prevent a frontal collision. Lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction is also included, as is adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go congestion.

2020 Accord Touring 2.0T

The ’21 refresh isn’t likely to alter Accord’s model-defining feature sets, or Honda’s no-options policy. In addition to equipment already noted, expect dual-zone automatic climate control to return as standard across the board. Remote engine start should be standard starting with the EX 1.5T and included on all Hybrids. All but the LX and Base Hybrid should return with a power driver’s seat and HondaLink telematics with built-in WiFi hotspot.

Heated front seats and a power moonroof should again begin at the EX level. The ’21 Accord EX-L and Touring will retain leather instead of fabric upholstery, plus a power passenger seat and upgraded audio. Expect ‘21 Touring exclusives to again include ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, a head-up instrument display, memory-linked mirrors with reverse tilt-down, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Will 2021 Honda Accord prices be different?

2020 Accord Sport 2.0T

Given the uncertain market conditions, Honda, like all automakers, probably will keep increases to a minimum – say a few hundred dollars. Price estimates include the manufacturer destination fee, which was $955 for model-year 2020.

In the In the 1.5T line, estimated 2021 Accord prices are $25,300 for the LX, $28,100 for the Sport (with either transmission), $29,200 for the EX, and $31,700 for the EX-L. In the 2021 Accord 2.0T line, estimated prices are $32,800 for the Sport (with either transmission), $33,800 for the EX-L, and $37,600 for the Touring.

Estimated 2021 Accord Hybrid prices: $26,900 for the LX model, $38,800 for the EX, $33,450 for the EX-L, and $36,750 for the Touring.

When does the 2021 Honda Accord come out?

2020 Honda Accord

Expect a 2021 Honda Accord release date in the third quarter of 2020. Also prepare for a later release date as the coronavirus-pandemic disruption plays out.

Best 2021 Honda Accord competitors

Ford Fusion, Buick Regal, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Arteon and Passat

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]