If you want a plug-in Honda, the Clarity is your only choice. It's similar in size to the Accord but is only offered with a pair of alternative-fuel powertrains. Honda introduced the Clarity for the 2017 model year, and it has remained largely unchanged since, although 2020 marked the departure of the California- and Oregon-only electric variant. The Clarity competes with other plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles including the Toyota Prius Prime, Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in, Toyota Mirai, and Hyundai Nexo, as well as the more affordable Honda Accord Hybrid.
The Clarity has impressed us with the way it offers confident road manners alongside excellent fuel economy numbers. In our 2019 First Test, we wrote kindly about its natural brake feel (which can be a problem for hybrids) and controlled body movements. That said, the gas engine makes a lot of monotonous noise that infiltrates the cabin, and the steering is vague.
Honda's packaging expertise results in amble passenger and cargo space with plenty of clever storage solutions, even if the Accord Hybrid offers more rear legroom and trunk volume. The Clarity sports an older version of Honda's infotainment system sans volume knob, but a large standard touchscreen and standard smartphone mirroring are much appreciated. Honda's standard active safety suite is a welcome addition.
In a fuel cell comparison between the hydrogen-powered Clarity and the Toyota Mirai, the Clarity took home the win with better driving dynamics and a more usable interior, despite more tire noise than the Toyota. Both the plug-in and fuel cell versions of the Honda Clarity make for an impressive package for those seeking great efficiency in something a little different.
Most Clarity sedans are fitted with a plug-in hybrid powertrain consisting of a 1.5-liter I-4, an electric motor, and a 17-kWh lithium-ion battery. Primary propulsion duty is handled by the motor and battery; the gas engine generally acts as a generator but can contribute to acceleration at full throttle. Total system output is rated at 212 hp.
In our Car of the Year testing, the Clarity Plug-in's engine, motor, and battery were good for 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, but you (rarely) buy a hybrid for the performance. The Clarity is rated for 47 miles of electric range, 110 mpg-e combined on gas and electricity, and 42 mpg combined on gas alone. Total range on a full battery and a full tank of gas comes to 340 miles.
Honda also sells a hydrogen fuel cell variant in select California markets with the hydrogen infrastructure to support it. The fuel cell feeds an electric motor developing 174 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. Its 360-mile range rivals those of the industry-best electrics.
Honda includes its Honda Sensing collection of driver-assist active safety technology as standard on every Clarity. That means adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking are included on all models.
The Clarity seats five across two rows of seating. It provides 42.2 inches of legroom up front, and although the Clarity has similar exterior dimensions to the Accord, that car offers 40.4 inches of rear legroom to the Clarity's 36.2 inches. Cargo volume is down on Accord, too; 15.5 cubic feet compared to 16.7 cubes.
Every Clarity features an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio capabilities as standard. Opting for the Touring trim adds integrated navigation. Eight-speaker audio is your only option on the plug-in Clarity, although fuel cell variants include a 12-speaker premium system with a subwoofer as standard.
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