2017 Honda Clarity Electric

Styling

The 2017 Honda Clarity uses a mid-size body style that resembles the ultra-popular Honda Accord. Designers dressed up the car with an abundance of angles, curves, and creases. More elements were added to add a high-tech space-age quality and to better serve aerodynamics. The long sloping hood curves to a roofline that bears some resemblance to well-known hybrids, including the discontinued Honda Insight. Some reviewers praise how the roof appears to float above black window accents.

The carved-out ducts in the lower rear doors, along with skirt covering the top of the rear wheel, also gives hints of the original Insight. As your eye moves toward the wide rear end, there are cues from the Honda Accord Crosstour (also discontinued). The tail end lifts to an integrated spoiler, which sits over a two-piece extra rear window built into the trunk lid—providing still more lines to sort out.

The profile is perhaps the best view of the Clarity. From a side perspective, the Clarity appears sleek and low—a relatively elegant package for a full-size vehicle that seats five passengers.

The design of the Clarity Electric is set apart from other Clarity models via a Vortex Blue Pearl exterior color—in addition to the standard White Orchid and Modern Steel (black) versions. The styling of the headlights and tail lamps are also differentiated, as is the finish of the 18-inch alloy wheels.

Performance

The Clarity Electric sedan is powered by a 161-horsepower electric motor producing 221 pound-feet of torque. That level of power will be satisfying for most drivers of a family sedan. Power is drawn from a 25.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

The all-electric Clarity provides less power than an Accord four-cylinder gas model, but with more torque (which is the more important metric for spirited daily commuting). The battery-powered powertrain is nearly 20 percent more powerful than the fuel-cell version of the Clarity.

Efficiency/Range

The Clarity Electric has a range of only 89 miles. This is perhaps its worst trait because the trend of competitive EVs has been to dramatically increase driving range from around 90 miles—as found in electric cars introduced in the early part of this decade—to at least 125 and as much as 230 in the current generation.

To justify the 89-mile range, Honda makes the argument that most US motorists only drive about 40 miles per day. But this argument belies the fact that most drivers if fully charging at night, don’t want to feel the slightest constraint when it comes to impromptu mid-distance trips of a couple hundred miles.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric

Honda does make a more valid case that drivers wanting to fully rid themselves of range anxiety can opt for the plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity, which is due later this year. The plug-in hybrid Clarity will go 40 or so miles on electric power until a gas engine (that can be refueled in five minutes) is employed for longer—even nationwide—road trips.

Regardless, the Clarity Electric is relatively efficient—especially for a sizable sedan—with an EPA fuel economy rating of 126 miles per gallon equivalent in the city and 103 MPGe on the highway. The combined fuel economy number is 114 MPGe.

Charging

If using our rule of thumb—that charging at 240 volts adds close to 25 miles of driving range for every hour of charging—the Honda Clarity EV can be fully charged in between three and four hours. If you have access to a public roadside DC fast charging with the SAE Combined Charging System, it can restore about 80 percent of the battery pack’s capacity in around 30 minutes. To fill it all the way up, you might need another 30 minutes.

Passenger/Cargo Room

2017 Honda Clarity Electric

The most compelling feature of the 2017 Honda Clarity Electric is its spacious, well-equipped five-passenger cabin. Most pure electric cars are compact, forcing some degree of compromise when it comes to legroom for the backseat passengers. The Clarity’s high level of comfort is combined with a luxury feel you might expect from Acura, Honda’s upscale brand. As a green vehicle, Honda also makes an effort to use environmental materials—although long-term durability might be reduced. A central touchscreen controls many critical functions, although Honda doesn’t go fully high-tech by leaving some controls, such as climate, to traditional buttons. Unlike some competing plug-in cars—especially plug-in hybrids—the Honda Clarity’s trunk space is uncompromised—providing a generous cargo space of 14.3 cubic feet.

Price

The Honda Clarity Electric can only be leased—not purchased outright. The advertise monthly rate is $269 per month lease with a $1,999 down payment. The deal, which factors the $7,500 federal tax credit, includes 20,000-miles per year and 24/7 roadside assistance. A rebate of $2,500 should be available to customers in California and Oregon, the only two states where the Clarity Electric is offered.

Comparison with Similar Cars

If spaciousness and comfort for five passengers in a pure electric car are your main goals—and you don’t want to splurge on a Tesla Model S or Model X—the Clarity is your only choice. The limitation of just 89 miles of driving range makes us wonder if a plug-in hybrid is the better way to go for electric buyers looking for more space. There is a good selection of affordable plug-in hybrids—including the Ford Fusion Energi, Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, and Toyota Prius Prime, as well as the plug-in Chrysler Pacifica minivan and luxury models from BMW and Mercedes. While maybe not quite as spacious as the Clarity, the Chevy Volt seats five and provides 53 miles of all-electric range while allowing the efficient gas engine to serve hassle-free road trips.

Purchase Process

Honda delivered its first all-electric Clarity sedan in late July 2017 in San Jose. The company leased only 30 units in July, suggesting the rollout will be slow. There should be good availability in key markets such as Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Portland—while it might be a challenge to get your desired vehicle in other locations. Start by building out your preferred features at Honda’s website: https://automobiles.honda.com/clarity-electric.

Honda Clarity Electric specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP:
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 89 miles pure electric
Battery size: 25 kWh
Charging rate:

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