2021 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T First Test Review: Midsize Sedan, Type R Heart

Oh look, another Honda Accord. By now you’re accustomed to seeing this sedan out and about, but that one rolling by might pack a secret: an engine borrowed from one of our favorite sports cars. Under the hood of the Accord Sport 2.0T is a version of the mill found in the Honda Civic Type R, and it enables acceleration nearly as quick as that epic hot hatchback.

Although it’s not the Accord Type R that exists only in fantasy land, the Sport 2.0T model backs up its badge—for the most part—and does so while delivering the well-rounded everyday attributes that make the Accord a comparison test winner and our top-ranked midsize sedan. We tested the 2021 Accord Sport 2.0T on the track and in the real world to find out if it’s the one to get.

What’s New for 2021

You’d be forgiven for not noticing the subtle but appreciable changes made to the Accord for 2021. Besides a wider grille and all-LED front lighting, newly available Sonic Gray Pearl paint taken from the Civic Hatchback looks snazzy—as seen on our test car. All models receive standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; wireless connectivity is included on the EX, Sport, and Touring trims. Wireless charging and rear-seat USB charging ports have been added to those higher-end trims, as well. In addition to driver assist refinements, all models get a rear-seat occupant reminder. Particularly relevant to this Sport 2.0T model, throttle and brake calibrations are revised for quicker response and better control.

VTEC Turbo Tire Spinner

Any 2021 Accord is reasonably quick. In those equipped with the small, yet punchy 1.5-liter turbocharged I-4, 60 mph arrives in 7.2 seconds. Fuel-sipping Hybrid models accomplish that feat in 6.7 seconds. The Sport 2.0T, though, is even quicker.

Its 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission handles shifting (six-speed manual, we miss you). After building boost with pedal overlap, the Sport 2.0T hits 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, making it just one-tenth of a second slower than the Civic Type R we had in our long-term test fleet. Its quarter-mile result of 14.1 seconds at 100.4 mph is only two tenths behind the Civic Type R. On a dragstrip, this Accord leaves Honda’s departed (for now) Civic Si in the dust.

You might wonder where that performance is hiding when you first pop the push-button shifter into drive. In the standard mode, throttle response is subdued, and the transmission seems determined to upshift around 2,000 rpm. Things feel relaxed, even lazy. Then you activate Sport mode. As the gauge cluster’s LED accents glow red, the engine responds with torquey verve. It feels more than quick enough for everyday traffic and will easily chirp the front tires. Torque steer and turbo lag are minimal.

Are 10 speeds too many? The transmission sometimes seems to have more gears than it knows what to do with. In particular, passing maneuvers are hindered as it decides how many ratios to drop. Once it does downshift, though, 45-to-65-mph acceleration takes a respectable 2.7 seconds, a full second quicker than Accord models with the 1.5-liter engine. And tenth gear keeps the engine quietly lazing below 2,000 rpm at freeway speeds. Gear changes are smooth, and the paddle shifters are responsive enough.

Actually Sporty?

Off straightaways and onto winding roads, this Accord feels less like the truly sporty Honda models. For a midsize sedan, though, it handles nicely. Turn the thick leather-wrapped wheel, and the steering feels hefty and enjoyably direct. Even if the 235/40R-19 tires don’t provide much sidewall to insulate against road chatter, good body control keeps things level and composed. Speaking of that body, there’s no hiding its size; the Accord is too large to be called agile. Nevertheless, it sticks impressively, holding 0.90 g on our skidpad.

On the brakes, a 114-foot 60-0 stopping distance is among the segment’s shortest. Yet the pedal feels unnervingly soft and squishy. Sports-oriented cars typically brake more immediately and confidently than this. At least the Accord’s calibration makes smooth, gentle stops easy.

Our figure-eight test quantifies the mixed capabilities of a vehicle’s acceleration, braking, and handling. Among its competitive set, the Accord Sport 2.0T’s 26.1-second, 0.70-g average result is bested only by the Hyundai Sonata N Line, which posted a 25.8-second, 0.72-g lap. The Mazda 6 Turbo, once a benchmark for midsize sedan performance, trails at 27.3 seconds and 0.63 g average. What does that mean for the Accord’s sporting acumen? It’s not the best, but it’s up there.

Not Much to Criticize

Where the Accord shines—the Sport 2.0T model or any other—is in its competency and completeness. How well it does so many things adds up to an overall package that’s modestly brilliant. The cabin is tremendously spacious, as is the segment-largest 16.7-cubic-foot trunk. Sightlines are good, and usability is aided by the intuitively placed controls and storage areas. Although the materials are entry-level, everything feels solidly assembled. Thoughtful details like temperature dials that glow red when you turn up the heat and blue when you turn it down add ambiance. Audiophiles will be disappointed by the tinny sound system, but Honda’s infotainment setup remains generally easy to use.

On top of excellent safety scores from the IIHS and NHTSA, the Accord’s Honda Sensing driver assist tech bolsters confidence. The combined effect of adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and blind-spot monitoring makes highway driving as simple as keeping a light grip on the wheel and eyes on your surroundings—Honda Sensing helps with the rest. That most of it is standard on every 2021 Accord adds to the car’s IntelliChoice value rating of Excellent.

Is the Sport 2.0T the Accord to Get?

The Accord holds its top spot in our midsize sedan rankings on account of its strength across the range. No one model pulls extra weight; every trim and powertrain complements the others. At $33,500 as tested, the Sport 2.0T model is on the expensive end of the Accord spectrum. It’s also the thirstiest, rated by the EPA at 22/32 mpg city/highway, opposed to 29/35 mpg in Sport trim with the 1.5-liter engine or up to 48/48 mpg in Hybrid guise. But it’s certainly the quickest, and it feels fun enough that a hot-hatchback exile who needs a sedan wouldn’t be too disappointed to make the switch. For motorists with less of an enthusiast bent, the Sport 2.0T model isn’t the Accord we’d recommend—you don’t need it. To be sure, we’d still recommend the Accord, just a different one.

2021 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Nearly as quick as the Civic Type R
  • Spacious interior and trunk
  • Excellent safety scores, driver assist tech

Cons:

  • Less efficient than other Accord models
  • Spongy brake pedal feel
  • Sometimes hesitant transmission

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