2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid new car reviews

The Honda Clarity is all about alternatives as Honda now offers that one chassis in a choice of propulsion methods: plug-in hybrid, fuel cell and electric.

From the press lit: “The Clarity series, led by the Clarity Plug-In, is at the forefront of Honda's initiative to bring electrified vehicle technology into the mainstream as the company aims for electrified vehicles to make up two-thirds of its global automobile sales by 2030.”

Our tester was the plug-in hybrid. Honda claims a 47-mile range–the highest, they note, of any plug-in hybrid sedan.

Some more details right from the source:

“Power comes from a 181-horsepower electric motor producing 232 lb.-ft. of torque and drawing power from both the gasoline engine and a 17-kilowatt hour (kWh) battery pack. A recharge time of just 2.5 hours using a Level 2, 240 volt (32 amp) charger allows for easy charging.

“The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid powertrain utilizes a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine that is paired with two electric motors – a traction motor and a generator/starter motor.”

The peak total system output is 212 horsepower. How does that compare to the rest of the Honda lineup? The Insight offers a total system output of just 151 horsepower, where the Accord Hybrid matches the Clarity.

Total bill for the plug-in Clarity? $36,600 before delivery–almost two grand more than what you’ll pay for a loaded Accord Hybrid Touring.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I was lucky to drive a fuel cell-powered Clarity a million years ago. From behind the wheel it more or less felt like a typical hybrid which, at the time, meant an early Prius.

There were some logistics involved, though. We were in St. Pete, Florida, and the car had to be fueled across the state on the Space Coast. That meant a cross-Florida trip on a flatbed. It was a glimpse into the future, but obviously it wasn’t yet saving resources.

Fast-forward to modern times, and there’s a Clarity for every garage. The looks of the current car can best be described as polarizing. Perhaps the rear scoops to nowhere were installed to pay homage to the Fox-body Mustang GT.

The driving experience? Pretty much like an Accord Hybrid. And that there is the rub: For less money, I can drive an Accord Hybrid. Unless I had to tell the world that I owned an alt-fuel vehicle, it would be hard to bypass the Accord Hybrid. Welcome to the future indeed.

Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Director of Marketing & Digital Assets

Wow, this thing is ugly. I get that people don’t buy practical plug-in hybrids for their looks, but seriously Honda? I drive an awkward Nissan LEAF every day, yet I still had the urge to park the Clarity a few blocks away from wherever I was going just in case there were people I knew in the vicinity.

Once I got past the looks, though, I was pretty happy with the dorky Honda. The trunk is a little awkward, not having a flat floor and not being a hatchback despite the hatchback-promising shape, but that’s about my only real gripe. It drives like an Accord, it’s comfortable like and Accord, and it’s roomy like an Accord. In full-electric mode the Clarity was pretty slow. Not dangerous or anything, but there certainly isn’t that rush of electric torque that even my LEAF can muster. That said, I doubt anybody is cross shopping the Clarity against a Tesla. The onboard charger was pretty fast–about 7 kilowatts by my home charger’s guestimate, which meant a fully charged battery in a few hours. Once charged, the Clarity promised 46.7 miles of electric vehicle range–not bad for something that can also handle a 500-mile roadtrip without stopping to charge (thanks, dinosaurs).

Do I want one? Absolutely not. But I’m all-in on electrification, and even the trendiest segment needs its Aztek. Maybe we’ll see a Clarity appearing on a hit TV show in a few years.

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Comments
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T.J.
T.J. MegaDork
2/13/19 7:37 p.m.

So, it's an Accord hybrid beaten with an ugly stick that if you plug it in at night, you can drive nearly 50 miles on just the battery power?

How long to recoup the extra $2k in gas savings if you can save a little less than 2 gallons a day?

dculberson
dculberson UltimaDork
2/13/19 7:54 p.m.

In reply to T.J. :

That’s pretty easy math.. $2000 / ($2 a gallon x 2 gallons/day) = 500 days, or about 17 months. If you own the car for 10 years it’ll pay for the difference many times over. 

I realize I’ve not added anything in for electricity to keep things simple.. in my experience charging a hybrid every day is only about $40/mo. So if you wanted to add that in.. might need a spreadsheet instead of a calculator but roughly 2 years. Still a good savings if you own the car for a while. 

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/13/19 8:24 p.m.

AND if you lease the cars, the difference in cost is probably even smaller and then the math probably starts to play to the clarity's advantage

 

spacecadet
spacecadet Reader
2/13/19 8:37 p.m.

actually, looked at the math on the Honda website, Clarity doesn't lease as well as the accord, have to buy it and get the tax incentive.. then the clarity will be cheaper than the accord. 

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
2/13/19 8:47 p.m.

I want the Element to be reintroduced as a hybrid so badly. 

Hasbro
Hasbro SuperDork
2/13/19 10:10 p.m.

In reply to captdownshift :

Amen

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
2/14/19 5:35 a.m.

Tom is wrong about it being ugly. It's not. It's a cool Japanese spaceship car. Exactly what high tech Japanese cars should be. 

I'd replace my Volt with one in a heartbeat if I had extra money laying around. Don't discount the convenience of not needing to buy gas during normal driving combined with the convenience of being able to take multi thousand mile road trips. 

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
2/14/19 9:36 a.m.

I just want an electric-drive hybrid vehicle - one with an electric motor for propulsion and gas generator backup like this - that has the room/practicality/versatility of a Grand Caravan(but without the flakey mopar BCM issues), but can actually tow 5,000lbs minimum. 

Used, of course...

dculberson
dculberson UltimaDork
2/14/19 9:48 a.m.

I also think this thing looks cool. If it was a hatchback it would go on my list of potential new dd.

irish44j
irish44j MegaDork
2/14/19 9:22 p.m.

I saw one of these on the road last year and had no idea what it was. I thought it was some strange body-kitted Accord until I saw the "fuel cell" and "Clarity" badges. I still had no idea what it was until I got on the internet. I guess Honda isn't marketing these at all?

That was a year ago. I saw a second one last week. And this in the ultra-commuter DC area, where people have pretty high income and Priuses and Teslas are everywhere, and everyone wants the "hot new electric thing." So I'm kind of surprised to have not seen more than two over a full year-plus. 

Also, pretty ugly, especially considering how excellent the new Accord looks to my eyes. 

Rons
Rons New Reader
2/14/19 9:30 p.m.

I was stopped beside one in traffic today, and I took one look and that's all It took for me to think that car has been beat senseless with the ugly stick.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
2/15/19 10:55 a.m.

I just want an electric-drive hybrid vehicle - one with an electric motor for propulsion and gas generator backup like this - that has the room/practicality/versatility of a Grand Caravan(but without the flakey mopar BCM issues), but can actually tow 5,000lbs minimum. 

Used, of course...

We're getting closer! With exception of the tow rating, for now. But, I'm much more confident in the durability of hybrid transmissions to deal with towing than i am with old school automatics.  For the most part they don't have holding elements (clutches/sprags/bands) in between the drive motor and the wheels, and an electric motor is not going to care about what resistance it's up against. It's not going to shorten its lifespan. 

T.J.
T.J. MegaDork
2/15/19 11:37 a.m.

Since I maybe drive somewhere only a couple times a week, this would take me a long time to recoup the price difference over the Accord hybrid. My best bet is to keep driving the cars I already own. I don't see any reason to get one of these over a BMW i3 or a Volt, both of which I don't mind looking at.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
2/15/19 11:59 a.m.
Vigo said:

I just want an electric-drive hybrid vehicle - one with an electric motor for propulsion and gas generator backup like this - that has the room/practicality/versatility of a Grand Caravan(but without the flakey mopar BCM issues), but can actually tow 5,000lbs minimum. 

Used, of course...

We're getting closer! With exception of the tow rating, for now. But, I'm much more confident in the durability of hybrid transmissions to deal with towing than i am with old school automatics.  For the most part they don't have holding elements (clutches/sprags/bands) in between the drive motor and the wheels, and an electric motor is not going to care about what resistance it's up against. It's not going to shorten its lifespan. 

 

Especially with Rivian coming to fruition (and I think they're going to avoid a lot of the industry pitfalls that Tesla is putting on themselves), and Tesla threatening to come out with their pickup. Sooner or later, the "normal" domestics are going to have to add hybrid tech to every vehicle they sell--even the pickemups and minivans. (I know Chrysler is already there with the minivan)

GTwannaB
GTwannaB HalfDork
2/15/19 10:16 p.m.

I take a fair amount of Lyft rides so I get to sample a lot of cars from the inside. For some reason I never get a warm feeling in Hondas. Toyota’s, Nissans,Hyundai  just feel more welcoming. But I had a longish ride in a new Clarity and I really liked it. Maybe itt was the modern vibe inside combined with a smooth ride. I was immediately looking it up on the interwebs. If I was in the market for this type of car it might be top if the list. 

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