The Clarity is Honda’s plug-in hybrid sedan that’s new for the 2018 model year. It offers excellent fuel efficiency, a smooth ride, an upscale cabin, a decent all-electric range of 47 miles, and 340 total miles with gas and electric combined. And it’s one of the nicest plug-in hybrids for the price.
The five-passenger Clarity is available in base and Touring models with starting prices of $33,400 and $36,600, respectively. There’s also an electric-only version that’s only available in a few markets in Oregon and California for lease at $199 a month, and a Clarity Fuel Cell that’s hydrogen-powered. It has an MSRP of $58,490 and is available for lease at $369 per month in a few California markets.
The Clarity is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor and lithium-ion battery. Total output is 212 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque. The Clarity is spirited off the line and is fun to drive around town. You may wish for more power when passing on the freeway as the Clarity can be a bit slow to pick up the pace and the engine can get noisy when you try to accelerate quickly. Plan ahead, especially if you need to pass at freeway speeds while going uphill! The transition between electric and gas power is seamless and barely noticeable. Braking has a fairly normal feel, compared to other hybrids and plug-ins. Visibility is good all the way around.
There are three different driving modes and the Clarity automatically shifts between them to optimize efficiency. In EV Drive mode, the Clarity operates like an all-electric vehicle. In Hybrid Drive mode, the Clarity functions as a hybrid. The coupled gasoline engine and generator motor produce electricity, which is sent directly to the traction motor or to the battery pack, depending on the driving situation and the battery’s state of charge. Engine Drive mode is usually engaged when cruising at medium to high speeds. A lock-up clutch connects the engine and the traction motor to send power directly from the engine to the front wheels. Honda says unlike most competing hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the Clarity does not use a conventional transmission, which saves weight and minimizes complexity while improving efficiency.
The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid also features three driver-selectable operating modes, Normal, Econ and Sport, so you can tweak the driving dynamics to your liking, maximizing performance or efficiency. A fourth mode, HV mode, available to preserve the battery’s state of charge and can be selected in conjunction with the other three driving modes.
EPA fuel ratings for the Clarity are 110 MPGe with all-electric driving and 44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined city and highway with the gas engine. I got 70 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving. It takes regular fuel.
The Clarity takes less time to charge than some plug-in hybrids. Level 1 charging on a regular household plug of 120 volts takes about 12 hours. Level 2 charging with 240 volts fully charges the battery in 2.5 hours. A full charge provides 47 miles, but you can easily eke out more with efficient driving.
The interior boasts a clean, futuristic design and high end materials that’d be at home in Honda’s upscale brand, Acura. My tester has attractive matte-finish, dark wood trim and faux suede on the dashboard and doors. Controls are logically laid out and easy to reach. Passengers in the front seat enjoy good leg- and headroom. Average-size adults fit well in the back seat, although taller passengers may feel a bit cramped.
The Clarity comes standard with the HondaLink infotainment system. It has an eight-inch touchscreen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But Honda blew it by not having physical knobs and buttons! This makes it challenging and distracting to use the system while driving. I relied on the steering wheel controls instead of trying to fumble with hitting the right spot on the touchscreen while driving. At least the system responds well to voice commands.
Standard features on the base Clarity include proximity keyless entry, push-button start, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, the HondaLink infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth and a USB port.
My tester, the Touring trim, adds power-adjustable front seats, leather seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, voice recognition, and remote start for climate controls. Rear climate control is available for an additional $514 in both trims.
Many safety features are standard including a multi-angle rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. I’m a fan of the standard Honda LaneWatch. This is a camera mounted on the passenger side mirror that gives you a view of the blind spot on the right side of your vehicle—great for seeing bicyclists and pedestrians in busy city traffic. It automatically works every time you turn your right turn signal on. Rear parking sensors are optional.
The Clarity has 15.5 cubic feet of storage which is about average for a midsize sedan. The lithium-Ion batteries are housed beneath the passenger compartment so as not to cut back on cargo space. A large center console bin is convenient for stashing smaller items.
Available as a plug-in hybrid, a straight EV and hydrogen-powered
Great buy for the money
Excellent fuel efficiency
Relatively quick charging
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard
Competitors have better driving dynamics
More oomph needed for freeway passing
Ugh! The infotainment system lacks physical knobs and buttons!
My tester starts at $36,600. Destination fee is $890 bringing the grand total to $37,490.
The Honda Clarity offers great value for the price and is one of the nicest plug-in hybrids currently on the market with its smooth ride, high-end interior and excellent fuel efficiency. But it’s not as nimble as some competitors and that darn infotainment system doesn’t have buttons, making it less user-friendly. So you’ll want to check out other options before making a final decision.