If you repeat a word enough times, it starts to lose its meaning. The phenomenon is called semantic satiation and it has to do with our brains’ general intolerance for repetition. Car companies are decades into semantic satiation with the word “sport,” which is overused to the point of meaninglessness. Is a sport model something that’s genuinely athletic (Audi Sport Quattro), a smaller relative of something else (Ford Bronco Sport and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport), or a total enigma (Acura RLX Sport Hybrid)? In the case of the 2021 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T, the S word means that you get some added performance hardware without a lot of frills for a nice price. So, that puts it somewhere between a Chevrolet Equinox Sport and a Fiat 500 Sport, yet not at all like a Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse. How’s that semantic satiation going?
This particular Accord cribs the Touring model’s 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and 10-speed automatic transmission but does without the luxury equipment—no leather upholstery, no booming sound system, no heated rear seats or head-up display. Honda says the Sport 2.0T weighs 50 fewer pounds than the Touring, and our scales concur. This latest test car weighed in at a trim 3377 pounds, three pounds less than Honda’s official number. All that lightweighting paired with the zestiest powertrain results in a 60-mph sprint in 5.4 seconds and a quarter-mile pass in 14.0 seconds at 101 mph.
And those are easy enough times to attain. Unlike, say, the Kia K5 GT, you’re not fighting wheelspin for the first 200 feet off the line in the Honda. The Accord occasionally issues a tortured moan from one of its front tires, but then it just hooks up and goes. Power builds progressively, with its 273-pound-feet torque peak arriving at 1500 rpm and staying flat to 4000 revs. If it feels like this engine is the foundation for the rip-roaring version in the Civic Type R, that’s because it is. Honda says it makes its rated power on regular gas, too.
Honda’s 10-speed also is a fine piece, cracking off quick upshifts in its lower gears and letting the 2.0-liter snooze below 2000 rpm at cruising speeds. Pressing the Sport’s Sport button—sorry, but that’s what it’s called—tightens the leash, dropping the transmission down a couple gears and sharpening the engine’s throttle response. Sadly, model year 2020 was the last you could get a manual transmission in any Accord, and in retrospect it’s amazing there ever was one.
The Accord Sport’s 19-inch 235/40R-19 Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tires are good for a decent 0.87 g of grip, but that figure doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Our skidpad numbers are a two-way average, and most cars do slightly better when turning left because the driver’s weight helps in that direction. But the Accord and its undefeatable stability control channeled the NASCAR spirit of Junior Johnson, allowing 0.91 g to the left compared to only 0.85 g to the right. Try not to spit tobacco juice on your boots as you drawl, “She’s got some stagger.”
Despite the 2021 Accord’s refresh, which is mild to the point of unnoticeable, its front end also still channels the cop-car mien of a seven-eighths scale Dodge Charger, enough so that cars tend to slide out of its way as you approach them on the highway. There’s now a better-integrated radar unit in the lower grille for the adaptive cruise control plus a new color, Sonic Grey Pearl, that our test car was wearing, which is a slightly bluish take on the market’s suddenly ubiquitous flat gray. Inside, you’ll be more likely to appreciate the wireless charging pad and 8.0-inch touchscreen (with volume and tuning knobs) that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But mostly, Honda stayed pat on this one, including the price, which initially rose by $400 over the 2020 Sport 2.0T. Honda evidently reconsidered that number and tacked on another $240, for a base price of $33,105; settle for the 1.5T Sport model and the entry point drops to $28,425.
That’s still a deal, we say, and one that avoids the sneaky crossover tax that seems to apply to any decent two-box vehicle these days. Sedans, even ones that look as good as this, just aren’t as trendy as crossovers, and manufacturers price them accordingly. This large, quick, well-equipped Accord Sport 2.0T costs $1720 less than a front-drive CR-V Touring with 62 fewer horsepower, a continuously variable automatic transmission, and nearly identical passenger volume. Yeah, that particular CR-V is of a fancier trim level, but how badly do you need leather and a subwoofer? The Accord even has a deceptively huge trunk that easily swallows a 54-quart cooler without any Tetris-like arranging. Unless you’re towing a trailer or really need all-wheel drive, the Accord seems like a glaringly obvious choice over a compact crossover.
Then again, we like cars and this one especially. The Accord is Honda’s everyday masterpiece, as reflected by its presence on our 10Best list for three and a half decades running. There’s no car above this in Honda’s lineup, and the company makes it as good as it can. It exudes a solidity that’s uncommon at this price level, feeling like the kind of car that will be functional and just as sweet to drive when its Carfax report is five owners deep as it is when new.
And if the Accord is one of our favorite cars, the 2.0T Sport is our favorite Accord: quick, smooth, agile, and affordable. It’s got the buff engine and not a lot of mass. The Italians have a nice word for this, one that’s too specific to be stripped of meaning by decades of lazy marketing. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but if we tell you to check out an Accord 2.0T Superleggera, you’ll know which one we mean.
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