The last few vehicles I’ve driven have all hovered in the mid-20’s for fuel efficiency, but the latest generation of engines and vehicle design can support driving a lot further per gallon of gasoline. I’ve wondered if perhaps too much of the industry’s attention focused on electric vehicles and SUVs? Maybe not, if the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid TRG is representative. Its sporty lines, peppy drive, and smart interior design demonstrate how far Honda’s has traveled on the road to premium automaker, but oh! that fuel efficiency. It’s a hybrid so my expectations are higher, but the Accord is one of the few vehicles I’ve driven in the last few months where I’m actually not going to complain that it should be more fuel-efficient. There are, however, some other quirks worth discussing. As always, though, let’s start with an exterior photo:
This is listed as a Crystal Black exterior on the Monroney supplied by Honda but it sure looks like Lunar Silver Metallic to me. 😁
The interior is actually black, actually “black perforated leather”, however, so at least that color makes sense!
Seriously, though, look at those predatory front headlights! Illuminated, they’re like the glare of a jungle cat from deep in the undergrowth. The nighttime lighting design is pretty darn cool with this Accord.
This same thoughtful design is applied to the interior driver’s cockpit. Everything’s within reach:
There’s a lot of potential cognitive overload, but of course while driving you only focus on a few specific areas, starting with the weird gearshift button layout in the center console.
The last car I drove had a weird gear change system too, as I discussed in my review of the Mercedes GLA250 SUV I drove a few weeks ago. This Honda has a strangely sculpted set of buttons. Here’s what I’m talking about:
I know, the design is to ensure that you don’t accidentally push the wrong button but if that’s so important, is this design really better than just having a more traditional gearshift? Like most hybrids, the Accord has Econ, Sport, and the confusing EV mode. EV? So it can be driven as an electric-only vehicle? Sort of. I’ve seen this in so many hybrids, but all of these EV features seem more designed to hit a box on a checklist than to be an actually useful feature, and more often than not I see “Not Available” displayed when chosen.
Back to the dashboard. Much driver’s attention ends up focused on the infotainment system and Honda has done a nice job with its integration in this area. It combines wireless Apple CarPlay (and wireless Android Auto for you non-Apple folk) with its own Honda Navigation and HondaLink for actual Bluetooth phone interaction.
I like the presence of physical buttons to the left and right of the screen. Fast and kinesthetically satisfying. Notice the redundant design too: There are Map, Phone, and Audio buttons on the right edge, and there are also digital buttons along the top of the display screen. I think this is great for users: better to have too many buttons than too few.
The newfangled gear change mechanism might be super modern, but the environmental controls are pretty old school. A dial to adjust the driver’s temp, another for the front passenger, and buttons to control features like the seat heater. The benefit of this mostly standardized “old school” design is there’s no learning curve for new owners, no hunting for that darn seat warmer control on a cold morning.
Worth noting is that the rear passengers have seat warmers too; it’s a subtle control button on the passenger doors (the higher of the two buttons on the armrest), as you can see in this photo that also offers a sense of available rear legroom:
The rear passenger legroom is okay, but there is an issue I had with the Accord as a taller driver: The so-called B Pillar that connects the rear door to the vehicle is a bit more forward than I prefer, and as a result, I was bumping my hip on it every time I slipped behind the wheel. That would get annoying pretty quickly and is one reason I drive an SUV.
Heading back into the vehicle, the front has the now-common Qi wireless charging station with 12V “cigarette lighter” and two USB-3.0 plugs, all neatly behind a door you can close even with your phone charging. Good for people who need to avoid distractions on the road:
One thing I will give Honda lots of credit for is a very flexible and powerful windshield heads up display – HUD – system. Here it is, showing me the energy balance as I’m driving along:
It’s one of the first I’ve seen where the driver can bounce between directions, a compass rose, energy usage feedback (great for learning how to drive to maximise your hybrid features) and just showing the speed. In the above notice it also shows the current speed limit (30mph) and the speed at which I’m driving (24mph). I’m so used to HUD that I miss it when I’m in a vehicle that lacks this helpful additional feedback for the driver. One thing to note: This lets you adjust the position height on the windshield, but I couldn’t figure out a way to adjust its position horizontally (e.g., left/right) on the windshield, which could be a problem if you don’t tend to sit perfectly centered in the driver’s seat.
The HUD is one of a slew of safety features that also make the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid TRG a safe and comfortable drive too. Top of the list are Vehicle Stability Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution, Rear Cross-Traffic Monitor, Blind Spot Information System, Rain Sensing Wipers, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, and the Driver Attention Monitor. It’s great to see how all of these formerly optional safety features are now migrating into the standard configuration for vehicles. Indeed, there were no additional charge options, everything I’ve mentioned was part of the standard 2021 Accord.
And then there’s that fuel efficiency, as you can see in this shot of the main gauge layout:
It actually looks like something out of Tron, if you ask me. Very futuristic and I really appreciate the accent color usage on the gauge too. It highlights the transitional nature of the Accord Hybrid design, though, with some elements very futuristic while others (I’m thinking about the climate controls) could have been lifted untouched from a 1990’s sedan. The dash design is something to watch closely as Honda keeps evolving the vehicle, for sure.
And so, let’s wrap this up with another exterior shot:
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid TRG really is a solid option for a more affordable sedan, featuring sleek lines, lots of safety tech, a well-considered infotainment system and 41.5mpg in practice. It’s a peppy drive with good handling and easy to pull into traffic from a stop with its improved power, throttle response time and even faster 0-60 when compared to the 2020 Accord Hybrid model. Definitely one to check out if you’re in the market for something that’s not an SUV.
CONFIGURATION: 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid TRG with 2.0L VTEC 4-cylinder engine, 4-wheel disc brakes and Honda’s hybrid drive system. MSRP: $36,440.00. OPTIONS: None. Really, it was a stock Hybrid TRG. COST AS DRIVEN: $37,435.00.
Disclosure: Honda loaned me the Accord Hybrid for a week to drive in return for this writeup. Thanks, Honda!