2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Styling

The 2018 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 share some of the design language of well-known hybrids, including the discontinued Honda Insight. Many reviewers like 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 also visual 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 Plug-in Hybrid is set apart from other Clarity models via subtle differences in the styling of the grille and wheels—and by the availability of unique “hero” color (which has not yet been revealed.) The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid will be offered in Standard and Touring trim levels.

Performance

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s combines a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 with Honda's two-motor hybrid system. Given the two sources of power, the plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity has slightly more total power capacity than the EV. For a sizable sedan, it produces a relatively modest 181 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque.

Critics say that the drive-feel of the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is similar to a conventional hybrid rather than an EV—in the sense that the gas engine is pulled into use if extra power is needed (even if the 17 kilowatt-hour battery pack has energy in reserve). Fortunately, the transitions between gas and electric are nearly imperceptible to passengers.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric

Efficiency/Range

The plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity sedan has an official EPA all-electric range of 47 miles from its 17-kWh battery pack. That is the most gasoline-free driving range for any midsize vehicle—and only slightly behind the smaller Chevrolet Volt’s 53 miles. The Clarity is nearly a foot longer than the Volt.

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s all-electric range handily beats the Prius Prime’s 25 miles.

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 about 47 miles of driving—the EPA estimates a remarkable 42 miles per gallon. That breaks down to 44 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Total driving range is estimated by Honda to be around 330 miles.

Charging

Honda quotes a recharge time of 2.5 hours for the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s 17-kWh battery pack when using a 240-volt Level 2 charging station.

Passenger/Cargo Room

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Arguably, the most compelling feature of the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is its spacious, well-equipped five-passenger cabin. 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 15.4 cubic feet.

Price

The price is not yet available for the Clarity plug-in, but Honda says it will be in the “mid-$30,000” range. That puts it in the category of the Chevrolet Volt, which starts at $33,200. The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid will qualify for a similar $7,500 federal tax credit. The plug-in hybrid Prius Prime’s smaller battery only garners a $4,502 credit, although the car starts at $27,995.

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

Comparison with Similar Cars

The four cars to evaluate next to the Clarity are the Ford Fusion Energi, Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid, and Toyota Prius Prime. None of them offer nearly as much all-electric range as the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s 47 miles running purely on electricity before the gas engine fires up. The Hyundai and Kia models will likely cost a few thousand dollars more than a Clarity while lagging behind on all-electric range with 27 and 29 miles respectively.

The Prius Prime is probably the most serious competition. With its well-regarded Prius hatchback design and hybrid system, the Toyota plug-in hybrid is not particularly exciting—but it’s versatile and reliable. Moreover, it will likely cost a few thousand dollars less than a Clarity, although it provides only 25 miles of all-electric range. Also, the Prime qualifies for only about half the tax credit, thereby reducing the Prime’s price advantage.

If the price is not a major concern, and luxury appointments are essential, you might consider comfortable plug-in hybrids from Cadillac, BMW, and Mercedes. The Cadillac Ct6 Plug-in Hybrid at $75,000 provides 31 miles of all-electric range. You can spend even more to drive a $91,000 BMW 740e or $97,000 Mercedes S550 Plug-in Hybrid. Those luxe plug-in hybrids provide 14 and 20 miles of all-electric range respectively.

Finally, if you can do with a smaller model, you might consider the Chevy Volt. It provides a whopping 53 miles of all-electric range, but it’s not as spacious as the Clarity.

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid specifications

Availability: 2018
Base MSRP: TBD
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 47 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 17 kWh
Charging rate:

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