Buying Advice

AutomotiveMap Picks: Best Plug-In Electric Vehicles

Hyundai, Kia, Tesla, and Honda make the list for the best plug-in electric vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The future is now. Hybrid, plug-in, and all-electric vehicles are becoming more prevalent on dealership lots. However, there are big differences between them. While some are adequate people movers or comfortable commuters, others are built for speed and sublime serenity.

The models on this list run the gamut from the aforementioned speedsters to full-on family haulers. And, not all of them are Teslas.

Here are the plug-in vehicles AutomotiveMap's team prefers.

​2020 Honda Clarity

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Jesus Garcia: The 2020 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybird delivers a ride that feels like cloud in a Gulfstream. With surprisingly responsive handling and performance the Clarity is one of the most entertaining PHEVs to drive for under 40k.

​​2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Sue Mead: There is so much to like with the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E beyond fuel economy and torque. It has stunning tailoring outside and within the "fully vegan", tech-laden cabin are a massive touch screen; a clever, drainable stowage under-hood compartment to supplement rear cargo-carrying for road trips and tailgating; and seating for five.

​2019 Kia Niro EV

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Harvey Briggs: I spent a week with the 2019 Niro EV this summer and was able to get more than 300 miles of range from a full charge. Everything about it feels like a normal economy car, except it's quiet and has great acceleration.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Perry Stern, AutoNXT: With excellent use of space as well as innovative entertainment options, the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid may be the most useful plug-in on the market.

​2020 Hyundai Ioniq

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Nicole Wakelin: With the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq's latest round of updates, the model is more stylish than ever. it remains affordable and has a good list of standard safety features.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Eileen Falkenberg-Hull: I hear you, I hear you. Yes, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime isn't on sale yet, but it's a model that's already worth taking notice of. This isn't your grandma's hybrid. Toyota says that they're upping the power on the RAV in this new variant making it the closest thing to a RAV4 performance model that we're likely to see outside of SEMA.

2020 Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

Chad Kircher: The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus is the one you want. Skip the all-wheel drive and the $7,000 full self-driving option that doesn't exist IRL and you'll have an EV with as much range as most of the competition, standard safety features, and luxury features not offered for $40,000 or less.

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There are more than 18,000 car dealerships in the U.S.

Photo by Maskot/Getty Images

Last year was a trying year of change at automotive dealerships nationwide. As COVID-19 shut down normal business operations, automakers and their dealerships were forced to quickly pivot to a new way of doing business - remote test drives, online shopping, and contactless service became the norm.

The list of 2021 Edmunds Five Star Dealers has been released, showcasing those auto dealers across the U.S. that were able to make the changes, roll with ever-changing regulations, and keep their customers happy.

To be a Five Star Dealer, a dealership must receive at least 30 reviews via Edmunds.com that average 4.5 stars or higher between January 1 and December 31, 2020. Five Star Premier Dealers earn their ratings by having 4.5 stars of higher for all 2020 sales reviews (minimum of 150).

Edmunds says that less than three percent of their dealer partners reach Five Star Status. This year, 109 dealerships earned that rank. Just 13 reached Premier status.

Nine Texas dealers were named Five Star Dealers. None earned the coveted Premier label. Of those nine, four are General Motors dealers and two sell Toyotas. Most are located in or near one of Texas's major metro areas, though there are a few outliers.

Here are the winners:

  • Baytown GMC Buick (Baytown)
  • Clark Knapp Honda (Pharr)
  • James Wood Chevrolet Buick GMC Decatur (Decatur)
  • Jeff Haas Mazda (Houston)
  • Moritz Kia Alliance (Fort Worth)
  • Nyle Maxwell GMC (Round Rock)
  • Pat Lobb's Toyota of McKinney (McKinney)
  • Tom Peacock Cadillac (Houston)
  • Vandergriff Toyota (Arlington)
In order to hold onto their status in 2022, those dealerships will need to meet the same criteria as they did for 2021.

Reputation.com recently monitored the online chit chat surrounding dealerships in the county. They ranked the Top 100 and by their calculations, five Texas dealerships made the list. No dealer made both the Reputation.com list and the Edmunds list.

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The 2021 Honda Accord Sport is a budget-friendly model with a lot of pep.

Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Critics and buyers have loved the Honda Accord for a few decades now. Though it's frequently compared to the Toyota Camry, there's some models in its class that are giving the Accord a run for its money - the Mazda Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, Kia K5, and the Hyundai Sonata just to name a few.

Where the Accord wins versus the competition isn't on price or features, styling or appointments, tech or drivetrain. It wins because it's a whole package, especially as tested in the 2021 Accord Sport variety.

For the new model year, Honda has focused on updating the fascia and improving the tech in the Accord. They're all good gains.

2021 Honda Accord Sport The car's wheels help elevate the sporty profile of the car.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

For the 2021 model year, Honda sells the Accord in six trim levels: LX, Sport 1.5T, Sport Special Edition (SE), EX-L, Sport 2.0T, and Touring. Honda leant the Sport 2.0T, which has an upgraded powerful 2.0-liter turbo-four is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and produces 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It's available in Accord Sport 2.0T and Touring grades. The 2.0-liter is far more fun to drive than the base 1.5-liter four-pot.

Honda has done a good job differentiating the Accord from the Acura lineup, making its drive dynamics not nearly as athletic as the TLX's but still engaging, while allowing for pointed steering and easy maneuverability. Acceleration won't knock anyone's socks off, but that's not a reason to ignore the Accord. The Accord Sport has paddle shifters, which work better for mountain driving situations than they do for deriving true sport functionality, as you would get with a manual transmission.

Honda has also upgraded the braking system for 2021, designing it to engage more smoothly, especially at low speeds. The result is measured performance that is neither grabby nor soft.

Honda upholsters the Accord Sport with cloth seats but nice finishes elsewhere. While a lot of attention is given to leather upholstery, there's actually nothing wrong with the cloth seats. The ones in the Accord Sport are not only attractive but don't draw the heat of the sun or cold of the clouds and snow into them like leather does.

2021 Honda Accord Sport The interior of the Accord Sport is well appointed.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Buyers can spec their Accord Sport with a number of options, including appearance and weather protection packages. But, with the 2.0-liter powertrain, it already comes loaded with most of the desirable features buyers want including an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen, 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, eight-speaker audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a leather shift knob, rear spoiler, sport pedals, chrome exhaust finishers, fog lights, moonroof, heated front seats, remote keyless entry and engine start, and a wireless device charger.

The Honda Accord Sport starts at $27,430. Upgrading the engine adds $4,530 to that price tag, but also gets you the moonroof, heated seats, power-adjustable driver's seat, remote functionality, and device charger. That brings the MSRP of the Sport 2.0T to near $32,000. Knock a few bucks off in dealership negotiations and you're sitting quite pretty for under $30,000.

In the Sport trim level, the Accord is just as nice as Mazdas, nicer than the K5, and on-par with the Sonata. The Mazda is equally as engaging to drive but its infotainment system leaves a lot to be desired.

2021 Honda Accord Sport Honda's steering wheel makes operation of radio, cruise control, and driver assist features easy.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

2021 Honda Accord Sport

Subaru offers all-wheel drive standard on the Legacy, something the Accord does not. But, it's not as powerful nor is its infotainment system as nicely designed. The Sonata also isn't as powerful and the sporty Sonata N Line grade takes track-readiness a step too far, ruining ride quality. The K5 might end up being the Accord's closest competitor with plenty of power, but the interior is more parts bin than is optimal.

But what about the Camry? The Toyota, now with available all-wheel drive, does offer a lot to its customer base, but it's aging quickly, especially the interior. Other models offer just as good dependability and for a lower price. They're also more fun to drive.

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