I can understand your perspective, but I don't agree with it. On Honda's they use a hardened steel sleeve in the block and they use hardened steel valve seats in the heads. From my experience their design combination is pretty impressive.
I have an 89 that is at 220,000 miles. I put new, stock size rings, rod and main bearings and had the head reworked, because I had it apart. The rebuilt engine doesn't use any oil and runs great. I have never had a steel engine get even close to that. Some people say they have, but I sure haven't.
You make a good point: With all the power-robbing accessories, this wimpy generation deserves all the MPG that it DOESN'T get! A/C, power steering, power brakes, automatic trannies, poor gasoline, soft tires, ...the list goes on & on.
With the exception of power steering (which I could add if I wanted it), my CRX has all of those (well... define "soft" tires). I can still manage a 46 mpg tank with 70 mph highway driving.