Rear styling on the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid was designed to accommodate the original hydrogen fuel-cell version of the midsize sedan. (Manufacturer photo)

Rear styling on the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid was designed to accommodate the original hydrogen fuel-cell version of the midsize sedan. (Manufacturer photo)

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is roomy and fuel efficient

The midsize sedan seats five and delivers a three-digit mpg equivalent.

The Honda Clarity midsize sedan was offered only in hydrogen fuel-cell format until last year, when all-electric and plug-in hybrid versions were added.

The fuel-cell model, called Honda FCX Clarity, is available exclusively in select regions of California where hydrogen fuel stations are established. Those regions include Los Angeles and Orange counties in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Sacramento area.

Honda has committed to investing in fuel-cell vehicle dealerships as the network of public hydrogen fueling stations expands.

According to Honda, the Clarity series is at the forefront of its initiative to “bring electrified vehicle technology into the mainstream as the company aims for electrified vehicles to make up two-thirds of its global automobile sales by 2030.”

Meanwhile, my tester was the nifty 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, which is manufactured at Honda’s Saitama factory in Japan and is sold in all 50 of the United States of America.

There are two trim levels: an abundantly equipped base model for $34,295 and the Touring model for $37,495. These prices include the destination charge of $895.

The extra $3,200 for the Touring trim gets you an eight-way power driver’s seat, four-way power front passenger seat, perforated leather trimmed seats, a navigation system, compass, and turn-by-turn directions.

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is eligible for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit.

I drove the Touring model, and an eight-way power driver’s seat is the only one of its added features I might have yearned for had it been the base model. But I’m a fidgeter who enjoys making precise infinitesimal adjustments to the driver seat with the touch of a button. Base model seats have manual adjustment, which would make my seat adjustment disorder more difficult to indulge.

Both versions of the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid have the same powertrain: a 181-horsepower electric motor producing 232 pound-feet of torque and drawing power from both a four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 17-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The recharge time is 2.5 hours if using a Level 2, 240-volt charger.

An electric continuously variable automatic transmission is standard.

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has three different drive operations and shifts between them during driving to help maximize fuel efficiency: EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive. Transitions between the different systems are undetectable while on the fly.

Both versions also have the same MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) rating of 110 using gasoline and electricity combined. They can travel up to 47 miles in electric-only mode. Gasoline-only ratings are 44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined. The driving range for gas/electric operation is 340 miles.

The 2018 Honda Clarity looks unusual and futuristic enough to get noticed without being a freak. There are a lot of interesting black lines in the area ahead of the windshield, including around the grille, that stood out prominently on my light-colored tester but are much less noticeable on the dark model in the photos you see here.

Interior space is impressive. My 6-foot-6-inch test person could sit comfortably behind the wheel with head room and leg room to spare. And rear seat passengers don’t get stiffed. They have 36.2 inches of leg room.

With 15.5 cubic feet of trunk space, the Clarity is on the generous side for a midsize sedan, but the trunk floor isn’t entirely flat. There’s a hump in the back due to the powertain situation.

I had a couple of little issues with the touchscreen for the infotainment system. It was too picky about how it got touched and would often not respond until after a second press that was more to its liking. And, the audio volume control slider on the screen was a nuisance. There’s another volume control on the steering wheel but it isn’t much better.

On the huge plus side, nearly canceling out the little infotainment issues, Clarity’s climate control system delivers instant heating and cooling.


Base price, including destination charge: $37,490

Price as driven: $37,490

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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