Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid test drive

Last Updated:

I think the Clarity looks quite futuristic and modern. I do understand it has been met with criticism and ends up being quite polarizing.

Most of the criticism seems to target the rear fenders. Which cover the top part of the wheels, and end up making the car’s rear end look a bit lumpier than it should.

But after a few days with it, I really didn’t mind at all. I really like the rest of the car, and at least, it is different than the Honda Accord.
Which is a nice effort from Honda.
I just wish they had gone a little further and made the Clarity into a true hatchback.

Otherwise, the whole thing looks quite upscale and different.

The interior looks great. It has a “1970’s futuristic” feel to it. 
Which I like a lot. The wood trim part of the dashboard is flat and horizontal. The various trims look great. And everything is easy to use and feel super solid and high end. 
This interior is much nicer than in many more expensive cars. And more original as well.
This is really a wonderful place to be. 

One of the coolest, and most original, part of the interior is the suede material covering the dashboard and the doors.
I think it just looks fantastic. And again, something you just don’t see anymore.

The stereo doesn’t have any fancy name or anything. They just basically call it “Audio System with 8 speakers”. But it sounds great. Even better than some “Bose” branded units in some other cars.

The only problem is the touch screen with a lack of volume knob (That should be coming in the 2019 model year very soon. Just like any other 2019 Honda models)
So the steering wheel control unit pictured above became my best friend for the week…

The rear seat is very roomy. About the same as the Accord.

A really nice and clever touch is the little phone pouch in the back of the front seats.

The trunk is really big and folds almost flat. It also includes an additional compartment.
Which is pretty amazing, for a car with EV batteries.
(For instance, the batteries in the Fusion Hybrid eat up about half of the trunk)

Again, this huge trunk would be perfect for a hatchback design…

The Clarity is basically a great driving car. Just like the Accord.
The steering is not too light and does has a great feel. (Better than many European cars)
The suspension is always comfortable, while just firm enough.
The car is also surprisingly quiet in non-EV mode.
Of course, when the batteries are charged up, this is basically an electric Accord. Which is great.
Otherwise, when the batteries are empty, it is still a great driving hybrid. 
The transition from electric to gas is pretty invisible. And the engine doesn’t rev up at strange times like it does in the Insight. 
So it just drives pretty much like a normal car. With an extra electric push at low speed.

Just like in the Insight, the “Sport” mode is actually very sporty.
You don’t feel much of a difference in the steering or suspension, but the car seems to have much more power. It seems to actually rely more on the electric motor.

For a few days, I was just driving in “sport” all the time.
And I didn’t really see a difference in gas mileage.

Of course, the main point of this car is to drive electric, and save gas when you don’t. (Otherwise, you can get an Accord)

I was actually not able to recharge the batteries. There is only one outlet near my car where I park it. And the Honda EV cable was just too short (!) ( By about a foot or two. And I didn’t have a proper extension available)
I never had that problem with any other EVs, like the Leaf, Volt or Bolt.

But I did manage to get 45 miles out of that initial charge in mix driving. Which is close to the official number of 47 miles. I am sure you can get even more in strictly city driving.

As far as MPG, the only official number I could find is “42MPG combined”
Which is quite good for such a large and roomy car anyway.

During my week of driving, I was actually able to get 55/56MPG on the freeway. Without any problem or trying hard. ( I was even averaging over 60MPG cruising down PCH)
And 52 to 54MPG driving around in the city.
I think these are quite amazing numbers. Again, this is not a small car at all.

I even got 54MPG in mixed driving for a few days, always in the Sport mode.

The Honda Clarity is quite an amazing car.

It has a great, upscale and roomy interior. It feels as solid as a tank. Has an actual EV range of at least 45 miles.  And you do get at least 54MPG using gas only.
It also really challenges everything most of us previously thought about hybrid cars being slow and noisy.

The few small things I would actually ask for are a volume knob (which is coming) A sunroof on the Touring version (That’s not coming)
A slightly longer charging cable. And, at least on the Touring model, a lumbar adjustment. (Although the seats are very comfortable and that was never a problem for me)

The Touring model I was driving ends up costing a bit over $37 000. But almost $10 000 less with current incentives.
Which means the “base” model could actually cost under $24 000.
This is all pretty amazing and actually competes with the more basic versions of the Accord.
And even the Insight!

Right now, I would put the Clarity way on top of its class.  And near the top of the list for anyone looking for a mid-sized sedan.

I really don’t think there is a better choice for a roomy hybrid sedan around.
And its actual price makes it competitive with non-hybrid cars.
Which is pretty amazing.

Conversation 11 comments

  1. "A really nice and clever touch is the little phone pouch in the back of the rear seats."

    Ummm… I think you mean "the back of the FRONT seats?"

  2. I went to my local dealership to take a look at the Insight and they had one of these things. I agree that the interior looks really nice, oh but that exterior….. It is hideous, I really thought it was horrible. I don't understand why most automakers insist in making cars with hybrid/electric/ powertrains look that bad.

  3. Even if you wanted to charge the Clairity while you had it the plug that comes with the car will have to plugged into a dedicated 115 am circuit and would take 12 hours to fully charge the lithium ion battery under the rear seat. You can purchase a 220 amp quick charger at one of the home improvement stores or Amazon nut you will need to have an electrician install it. The HondaLink app is imperative to have with this car to find charging stations schedule off peak charging time, pre-condition the interior etc.. . The side is designed to be an air curtain that directs air over the aluminum wheels to cool the brakes and send the air out the rear bumper. You have three driving modes, Sport, Econ and EV mode, deceleration selectors (paddle shifters) for breaking regeneration. Everything about this car is about environmental responsibility with no compromises to everyday driving, cumfort, performance etc. Even the windshield wipers and window washers are designed to clear the windshield faster with as little washer fluid as possible. The interior is made up of mostly recycled materials. Anyway, I’m glad you had the chance to experience this Honda firsthand. At thing price point though it needed the updated Honda infotainment software with volume and tuning knobs, blind spot monitoring,rear cross traffic alert, wireless phone charging, heated/ventilated front seats, heads up display and heated rear seats. For about the same amount of money you can buy a loaded Accord Touring Hybrid with those features standard and you don’t have to plug it in.

  4. Thanks for all the extra info.
    I have charged many cars at this 120 plug before with no problem. And I was just firn waiting 12 hours overnight for the Clarity (Like all the other cars I have plugged there)
    But again, the cable was just weirdly too short…

  5. Just a line of environmental type cars that are design to make a statement! Frugally looking and sort of ugly looking design.

  6. About as ugly as ugly can get. And while the light-colored suede trim in the interior might look nice, it’ll be a pain to keep clean and look like crap in no time flat.

  7. If you like the car, but find some design elements ugly, try calling choosing your color to minimize what you don't likeb blackor dark colors to conceal those black plastic inserts. Or white/silver if the lateral driving lights are the issue.

  8. Interesting. It's a move forward regarding electric transportation. But what an ugly piece of metal. Really, Honda needs a car designer like Kia for instance. Not getting it. Almots all their line-up are fugly IMO (Civic, Pilot recent fit…)

  9. I don’t think of cars as ugly or not ugly. I think of boring or not boring, The Clarity is not boring.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *