2019 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Styling

The Honda Clarity uses a mid-size body style that is similar in size and shape to the ultra-popular Honda Accord. Designers dressed up the car with an abundance of angles, curves, and creases. Throw in visual hints of the latest-gen Civic for good measure.

More elements were added to add a high-tech space-age quality and to serve better aerodynamics. The long sloping hood curves to a roofline that bears the design language of well-known hybrids, including the Honda Insight. The carved-out ducts in the lower rear doors, along with skirt covering the top of the rear wheel, assist with slippery aerodynamics. However, these features give the Clarity a geeky or appliance-like look.

As your eye moves toward the wide rear end, the tail end lifts to an integrated spoiler that sits over a two-piece rear window built into the trunk lid—providing still more lines to sort out in the complicated design.

The profile is perhaps the least busy and the most attractive 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 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is available in Moonlit Forest green and Crimson red colors (in addition to various shades of white, gray, and black).

2019 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Performance

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s places a relatively meek 103-horsepower, 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 into Honda's two-motor hybrid system. But when you combine the two sources of power, you get a decent 212 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque—matching the performance of the conventional no-plug Accord Hybrid but falling short of the two-liter Accord that comes with a 252-hp engine.

Reviewers believe the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s acceleration is acceptable for a car built primarily for efficiency. The same holds for the bland yet comfortable vehicle dynamics.

Critics say that the driving feel of the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is similar to a conventional hybrid rather than an EV. That’s because the gas engine can be pulled into service on a somewhat regular basis—when there is demand for rapid acceleration, during cold weather, and when drivers use Sport mode to call for more overall pep.

Fortunately, the transitions between gas and electric are smooth—although the model’s loud, high-revving engine can be surprising at first.

For the most part, the Clarity’s regen braking is also smooth and natural, although some drivers complain of a vague and disconnected feel. Like most other plug-in models, the Clarity provides multiple driving modes as well as steering-wheel-mounted paddles for increasing or decreasing the level of regenerative braking.

Econ mode reduces throttle response to ensure all-electric driving for as long as possible. Expect better responsiveness while in Sport mode, although the gasoline engine is likely to run most of the time. The HV mode will more often blend gas and electricity while holding the HV button for a few seconds will engage the gasoline engine to recharge the battery pack.

The consensus among reviewers is that simply leaving the Clarity in defaults modes will allow the vehicle’s computer controls to find the most efficient blend of electricity and gas.

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s zero-to-60 performance is about nine seconds, which gets slowed down to nearly 13 seconds when using Econ mode.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric

Efficiency/Range

The plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity sedan has an official EPA all-electric range of 48 miles from its 17-kWh battery pack. With the discontinuation of the Chevy Volt in 2018, the Honda Clarity becomes the plug-in hybrid offering the longest all-electric range. Popular competing plug-in hybrid models include the Chrysler Pacifica minivan with 33 miles of all-electric range and the Toyota Prius Prime that is estimated to travel 25 miles before the battery is depleted.

With energy in the pack, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has a combined city-highway rating of 110 miles-per-gallon equivalent. When the battery is depleted—after those 48 miles of driving—the EPA estimates a remarkable 42 miles per gallon, making it a very efficient, sizeable comfortable sedan. The Clarity’s efficiency breaks down to 44 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

Take note that the total driving range is estimated at merely 340 miles. That’s because the gas tank holds only seven gallons. The smaller tank puts the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid at a disadvantage for total range compared to the Prius Prime which offers 640 miles (and 25 from electricity) and the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid granting 630 miles (with 29 in pure EV mode).

As usual, your mileage may vary—depending on how far your drive and how often you charge. Short driving distances punctuated by time at a charging station will peg the dashboard’s efficiency indicator to 199.9 mpg. If you have a long daily commute, you can expect the MPG-indicator to drop closer to 110 or 120 mpg. On the other hand, crawling in bumper-to-bump traffic will extend EV driving well above the estimate 47 miles to yield the same efficiency as a pure electric car.

Charging

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Plug-in hybrids have relatively small batteries and therefore don’t need a quick charger. For everyday charging at home using a Level 2, 240-volt charger, the Clarity is equipped with a 6.6-kilowatt charger. Plugging in, therefore, equates to about 6 kilowatt-hours after one hour of charging. So in less than three hours, an empty 17-kilowatt-hour pack will be topped up and ready for another 48 or so miles of electric driving.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The most compelling feature of the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is its spacious, well-equipped five-passenger cabin. The fit and finish are excellent. The Clarity’s high level of comfort and luxury is what you might expect from Acura, Honda’s upscale brand.

The Clarity’s interior volume is 101 cubic feet—providing nearly a dozen feet of additional space compared to the discontinued Chevy Volt. The Clarity also provides a roomy 15.5 cubic feet of trunk storage. The Clarity offers a better combination of cargo space and EV range than competing mid-size plug-in hybrids, such as the Ford Fusion Energi and Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid.

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is the most spacious of the three Clarity powertrain variants. The Clarity Electric has 14.5 cubic feet of space, while the Fuel Cell model has 11.8 cubic feet.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

The 36.2 inches of rear legroom in the Clarity beats the Ioniq’s 35.7 inches and the Prius Prime’s 33.4 inches. Nonetheless, reviewers complain that tall passengers will feel cramped in the back seat for a long ride, especially if the vehicle is loaded with three passengers.

Tall drivers might also gripe about the “flying buttress” center console that is uncomfortable for use as a leg rest. Interior comfort can be enhanced by upgrading from standard cloth upholstery and heated front seats—and to the Touring trim’s leather-trimmed upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

A central touchscreen controls many critical functions, including audio—meaning that volume and radio-tuning use screen functions rather than controlled by an old-fashioned analog button. That’s problematic for many consumers, although Honda, fortunately, leaves control of cabin climate to traditional buttons.

Most reviewers praise the quiet cabin and smooth ride (except for some gripes about the small, high-revving engine). There are other nitpicks including a lack of back support in the front seat and no “auto” feature on windshield wipers. The biggest common complaint though is the frustrating infotainment console that uses complicated menus and outdated graphics—and can be slow to respond to commands.

Safety

The Clarity’s standard safety features include the Honda Sensing suite—a road-departure mitigation system, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, a rearview camera, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beams are standard too. Rear parking sensors are available, although Honda does not offer cross-traffic alerts and lane-change warnings.

Official safety ratings are not available for the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid.

2019 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Price

The Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid carries a starting MSRP of $34,300 for the standard trim. The standard trim includes the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and LaneWatch, which provides real-time video of the right-side blind spot. As mentioned above, the Clarity comes with HondaSensing, a compelling suite of safety and driver-assistance features.

The higher-level Touring trim level starts at $37,500. The extra dollars add navigation, power front seats (with two-position memory for the driver’s seat), leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, and ultra-suede interior.

Budget-minded shoppers should consider that the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid qualified for a $7,500 federal tax credit. That brings the price of the plug-in Clarity in line with the Toyota Prius Prime and conventional no-plug Honda Accord Hybrid.

Unlike the EV and fuel-cell versions of the Clarity, the plug-in hybrid is available in all 50 states.

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $34300
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 48 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 17 kWh
Charging rate: 6.6 kW

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