Mid-size sedans have to do a lot more to get consumers’ attention away from crossovers. The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid and 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid are just the latest examples of traditional four-doors punching above their weight. Between all the tech features, luxurious appointments, and electrification, both cars have a lot to offer those looking for something lower to the ground and more stylish. Which one is right for your needs (and wants)? Let’s take a closer look.
2021 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid exterior
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid wears one of the most daring exterior designs to date. Just look at it! Those LED accents integrated into the chrome trim via laser drilling gives the Sonata an unmistakable face, especially with that wide cascading grille. The chrome lasso surrounding the glass area and connecting with trim on the hood and angular character lines give the Sonata distinct design details you won’t find anywhere else. In the rear, you find full-width LED taillights to go with all of its geometric cues.
In comparison, the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is more subdued in appearance. Although it also has a roofline that descends quickly and a short rear deck lid just like the Sonata, it’s a little more subdued and tasteful. The only controversial aspect of the Accord is the grille, which is larger and sports the chrome mustache. Its rear end sticks to a more traditional look with separated C-shaped taillight clusters.
2021 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid interior
Inside is where things start to differ between the Accord Hybrid and Sonata Hybrid. Although both have a simple horizontal layout, the Hyundai gives off a techier feel, especially in the Limited trim where it has a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 10.25-inch main touch screen. The Honda makes do with a smaller 8.0-inch touch screen and a partial digital cluster with a 7.0-inch display next to the analog speedometer.
Fit and finish on both vehicles are impeccable, making them feel more expensive than their starting prices might suggest. Nearly every surface you touch feels well-built and the controls operate with a level of satisfaction associated more with luxury cars than a mainstream mid-size sedan. Excellent sound insulation even at highway speeds keeps noise levels down; however, the Accord Hybrid is ever so slightly quieter than the Sonata Hybrid even with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels on the Touring grade.
Both cars fit four average people comfortably while five will be fine in a pinch. The low-slung roofline cuts into rear-seat headroom, meaning tall people should sit shotgun in the Accord or Sonata. There are plenty of storage cubbies for mobile devices in the two vehicles; however, the Hyundai takes the cake in this front because it’s the only one with a bin under the center console that fits large modern smartphones with a cord attached without protruding out of the space.
2021 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid tech features
Hyundai remains one of the leaders in infotainment systems. The unit found in the 2021 Sonata Hybrid is responsive and user-friendly. Menu layouts are easy to comprehend and you don’t need to dig through layer after layer of submenus to get to what you need. In comparison, the Accord Hybrid’s user interface isn’t as quick to respond and the graphics aren’t as crisp, hinting at its age. At least the menu layout is simple, the icons are large, and there are physical shortcut buttons instead of the haptic feedback ones found on Sonata Hybrids with the larger touch screen. Hyundai takes the lead in the audio experience because the 12-speaker Bose surround sound system is more immersive than the 10-speaker unbranded unit Honda uses in the Accord. It’s also clearer, crisper, and covers the cabin more evenly.
Honda and Hyundai both offer comprehensive driver assistance features as standard equipment on the Accord and Sonata. However, the latter’s suite has more semi-autonomous capabilities and operates more naturally. On models with Highway Driving Assist, the Sonata blends the functions of adaptive cruise control lane centering, and steering assist to flow with traffic seamlessly. It brakes and accelerates smoothly, and will even let you know to slow down and/or add more steering input if an upcoming curve is too tight. The system keeps distances well monitored and won’t leave too much space between you and the vehicle ahead while still maintaining enough to let you execute evasive maneuvers.
The Accord’s driver assists also work just as smoothly but don’t have as many functions as the Sonata’s. Honda Sensing is also a little more assertive with its warnings and corrections, meaning it always gets your attention even with the smallest ones. Unlike the Sonata, the Accord misses out on blind-spot monitoring that can keep you from swiping a vehicle in the lane next to you, and the view monitor that shows what’s beside you in the digital gauge cluster. Its steering assist is also less assertive even with adaptive cruise control on.
2021 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid driving impressions
Where the Honda Accord Hybrid stands out is in the driving experience. The ride and handling balance remains best in class because it’s comfortable yet sharp, especially by mid-size sedan standard. Touring models, which get adaptive dampers as standard, further elevate the driving experience by giving the Accord two personalities. Keep in its Eco and Comfort mode and it’s a cushy, quiet cruiser. Hit Sport mode and the suspension stiffens up and gives the car a more confident demeanor, further unlocking its sporting nature. You don’t give up comfort either. Despite the tighter handling and minimal body roll, the Accord is just as compliant in Sport mode as it is in Normal or Eco. Direct, accurate steering complements the Accord’s well-balanced nature and lets you know exactly what the front wheels are doing.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid isn’t far off from the Honda Accord when it comes to driving dynamics. It also possesses tight handling and comfortable even though it’s not available with adaptive dampers and uses narrower, more eco-focused tires. Like the Accord, the Sonata’s steering is accurate; however, it’s slightly less communicative, meaning it’s not as natural in operation. Where the Sonata falls short is impact harshness because it doesn’t absorb road imperfections and uneven surfaces as well as the Accord. As a result, it can feel stiff over bumps, ruts, and potholes. The harder compound of its low-rolling-resistance rubber also contributes to the suspension feeling stiffer than it is.
If you’re looking for a traditional driving experience, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is the one to get. Its hybrid system couples a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, a lithium-ion battery, and a six-speed automatic transmission for a combined output of 192 hp. The result is a car that accelerates like a conventional non-electrified vehicle because you feel a gearbox shifting even when the engine isn’t on. The Sonata Hybrid never gets winded but we do wish the six-speed automatic held gears longer during more spirited drives in Sport mode. You can also shift the transmission manually but it’s best left to its own devices where it’s at its most responsive.
Honda takes a more peculiar route with the Accord Hybrid, taking a 2.0-liter four-pot and pairing it with two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery. Unlike the Sonata, this system doesn’t have a conventional transmission, giving it the driving feel that’s closer to a battery-electric vehicle with occasional assistance from the gas engine. With 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque combined, the Accord Hybrid has 20 hp more than the Sonata. Although you get slightly quicker acceleration, the big difference is in responsiveness. The Accord relies on its electric motor a lot and it’s apparent when you step on the accelerator because you get that initial surge before the engine comes into the picture.
Hyundai takes the cake when it comes to efficiency. The EPA rated the base Sonata Blue at 50/54/52 mpg city/highway/combined, putting it at the top. Even the SEL and Limited models with the 17-inch alloy wheels are rated at 45/51/47 mpg, which is still pretty solid. The most efficient Accord Hybrid gets 48/48/48 mpg while the Touring model is rated at 44/41/43 mpg due to its 19-inch alloy wheels and wider tires. The Sonata Hybrid also brings neat gadgets like the solar roof on the Limited trim, which helps provide additional energy to power the car’s electronics and reduce the draw on the powertrain.
Both cars have some of the best brake pedal feel among hybrids. Transitions from regenerative to friction braking are imperceptible, allowing you to stop smoothly without jerking your passengers around. Even if you suddenly bury your foot on the pedal for an emergency stop, you get consistent operation. The Accord also has five levels of regenerative braking, allowing for some degree of one-pedal driving.
2021 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid pricing
The base 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid starts at $27,565. Range-topping Touring models will run you roughly $37,000 and some change. The 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid starts at $28,745 or $1,180 more than the Accord, which is likely due to it getting more standard features including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear automatic emergency braking. At the top end, however, the Sonata Hybrid costs around $36,000 for a range-topping Limited trim.
2021 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid summary
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is one of the best examples of Honda doing what it does best, giving consumers a class-leading mid-size sedan that does it all. Although it’s not the newest vehicle in its segment, the Accord still has the best road manners and offers a class-above overall experience. Not far behind is the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which counters the Accord with user-friendly yet modern tech features, design, and higher fuel economy. It’s not that far behind in the driving experience department either, making this distinctive-looking sedan a formidable entry. The only thing it needs now is better impact harshness absorption and steering accuracy to match the Accord’s road manners.
Get the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid for:
- Impeccable ride and handling balance
- Quick acceleration
- Quieter cabin
Get the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for:
- Cutting-edge tech features
- Extroverted exterior styling
- Fuel efficiency