2017 Honda Clarity Electric

Style

The 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 also bears some resemblance to popular hybrids, including the discontinued Honda Insight. In a style that’s in fashion, the roof appears to float above black window accents.

The carved-out ducts in the lower rear doors, along with a skirt covering the top of the rear wheels, gives hints of the original Insight. As your eye moves toward the wide back 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 visually.

The profile is the best view of the Clarity. From a side perspective, the Clarity appears sleek and low—an 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 potent than the fuel-cell version of the Clarity.

The Eco mode allows drivers to pull less power for more extended range while muting the response from the accelerator pedal. You can also amp up performance with Sport Mode, at the expense of range. With a short-range EV, that’s not advisable unless you know that you’re only doing local errands on a given day.

Efficiency/Range

The Clarity Electric has a range of only 89 miles. This is its worst trait because the trend of competitive EVs has been to dramatically increase the driving range to no less than 150 or 200 miles. The best-in-class EVs offer 250 or more miles.

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, even if fully charging at night, don’t want to feel any concern or constraint when it comes to impromptu mid-distance trips of a couple of hundred miles.

Honda makes a more valid case that drivers wanting to rid themselves of range anxiety entirely can opt for the plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity. The plug-in hybrid Clarity is rated to go 48 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.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric

Charging

The rule of thumb for 240-volt home charging is its ability to add about 25 miles of driving range for every hour plugged in. With a small battery pack, the Honda Clarity EV can be fully charged in less than four hours.

Pit stops at public roadside DC fast charging restore about 80 percent of the battery pack’s capacity in around 30 minutes, using CCS stations. Of course, highway road trips are not very practical in an 89-mile EV. You would need to stop every hour or so to recharge again. However, local DC fast charging might be helpful in a pinch.

Passenger/Cargo Room

2017 Honda Clarity Electric

The most compelling feature of the Honda Clarity Electric is its spacious, well-equipped five-passenger cabin. Families might consider other affordable all-electric compact crossovers, like the 258-mile Hyundai Kona EV and 239-mile Kia Niro EV. Still, the Clarity Electric is the only sizable and affordable all-electric sedan (albeit with low driving range).

Most affordable pure electric cars are compact, forcing some 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 unusual environmental materials—although long-term durability might be reduced. A central touchscreen controls many critical functions. 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. It provides a generous cargo space of 14.3 cubic feet.

Safety

The Clarity Electric offers a standard suite of robust safety and driver assistance tech, including traffic-aware cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, and automatic braking. Honda equips its vehicles with large side mirrors, which on the right side displays an image from a rear-facing camera when the right-turn signal is used.

Price

The Honda Clarity Electric can only be leased—not purchased outright. The advertised monthly rate is commonly $199 per month lease with a down payment of about $1,800 in a three-year lease. Dealers are likely to negotiate, especially considering the $7,500 federal tax credit. A rebate of $2,500 should be available to customers in California and Oregon, the only two states where the Clarity Electric is offered.

Honda Clarity Electric specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $36600
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 89 miles pure electric
Battery size: 25 kWh
Charging rate: 6.6 kW

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