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Auto review: The answer to escalating gas prices? The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

It’s the old good news/bad news scenario. The economy appears to be rebounding after its coronavirus-induced recession. The bad news it’s causing a spike in fuel prices, now surpassing $3 a gallon. Nationwide, prices averaged $2.927 a gallon, according to the AAA. That’s an increase of nearly one-third from a year ago, when pandemic lockdowns decimated demand for fossil fuel. In many places, gasoline prices have already surpassed the $3 mark, particularly in tax-happy California, where it’s hovering near $4 a gallon. Expect prices to continue their climb with the arrival of summer as Americans take to the road on vacation and pandemic restrictions lift.

With the inexorable rise in gas prices, it remains to be seen if consumers’ love of SUVs will be impacted. In the meantime, it’s wise to remember what American founding father Thomas Paine said, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

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So for a value equation, might I recommend the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid, with an EPA rating of 48 mpg in both city and highway driving? Certainly, those are good numbers. So is this one: $27,565, its base price including destination charge. That’s nearly 33 % less than the average price of a new car, which was $40,857 in January 2021 according to Kelley Blue Book.

And there are plenty of other reasons to consider this thrifty sled.

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Consider the base Accord, with its 1.5-liter engine that generates 192 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. In comparison, the Hybrid has an additional 20 horsepower, 40 pound-feet of torque and is one second quicker at reaching 60 mph. It’s also more fuel efficient. Yes, the base Accord returns an EPA-rated 30 mpg city, 38 highway and 33 mpg combined, which is very commendable. But the Hybrid nets you an extra 18 mpg city, 10 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined. Toss in the greater refinement from the Hybrid’s drivetrain and its additional standard equipment compared to the non-Hybrid models, and it’s a no-brainer, even though the Hybrid costs $1,800 more. Why? Add in the cost of fuel, and you’ll make up the difference in price in a little over four years, according to the EPA. After that, the Hybrid saves you money.

All of this comes with a couple caveats. First, these figures are for the base Hybrid, which runs on 17-inch wheels and returns 48 mpg in combined city/highway driving and costs $900 a year in fuel. The test model was a Touring, with 19-inch wheels, and rated at 43 mpg. This will cost an extra $100 annually in fuel, or $8.33 monthly. And thanks to the Hybrid’s driveline and battery pack, you won’t get a spare tire, merely a tire repair kit. But that’s no worse than many non-hybrid vehicles. Besides, when was the last time you had a flat tire?

For 2021, all Accords get a modest face-lift that includes updates to the grille, LED headlights, fog lights, radar unit integration, and new 19-inch allow wheels. There’s a notable upgrade in technology, thanks to wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as wireless charging. Hybrid models get powertrain revisions that furnish stronger, more responsive acceleration, greater electric power range and a more natural and consistent braking feel.

Accords have always possessed a remarkable balance of a comfortable ride and sporty handling, one that few mainstream automakers seem to perfect. Road impacts are soaked up with aplomb but not at the expense of handling. The car does exhibit some body roll when cornering, but that’s to be expected given its ride/handling compromise. Overall, it possesses the same fun-to-drive character that Honda has imparted for decades, and the new model year proves to be no different.

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That said, the changes made to the Hybrid model bring a greater refinement and a far more natural feel. Powering off the line is fun, thanks to the electric motor’s generous torque and its instant throttle response. Better yet, you don’t feel the gas engine’s vibration when it comes on, adding an extra sense of grace.

Given that the Accord Hybrid Touring has a price closing in on $40,000, you’d expect the interior to have an upscale ambience, and you’d be correct. Its trim details are striking, from the white leather heated/ventilated front seat, and heated rear seats, to the head-up display and wireless Apple Car Play, which would have worked better if Honda’s infotainment system recognized my paired phone upon startup. It never did. Each time the car started, it required that I manually go in and connect it. Honda’s infotainment systems continue to lag the industry in design and reliability, and this one is no different.

Still, it’s hard to resist the Accord Hybrid’s beautiful yet sensible design, impeccable balance of ride and handling, and a vehicle that delivers luxury car equipment with economy car fuel economy.

It’s a very tempting proposition.

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2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

Base price: $37,435

Engine: DOHC 2.0-liter four-cylinder

Motor: AC synchronous permanent-magnet electric motor

Horsepower/torque: 212/232 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 44/41 mpg

Observed fuel economy: 35 mpg

Length/Width/Height: 192.2/73.3/57.1 inches

Cargo capacity: 16.7 cubic feet

Curb weight: 3,415 pounds

(Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at TheDrivingPrintz@gmail.com.)

©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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