2018 Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid review with video

The basics:
Base price: $39,900 + tax
As tested: $43,900 + tax
Average fuel economy over a week of driving:
Competition: Chevrolet Volt, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Optima, Toyota Prius Prime, VW e-Golf, etc.

In case you haven’t noticed, the plug-in hybrid movement is really starting to pick-up steam. We’re seeing manufacturers from Chevy to Volvo coming out with viable options that are giving you solid range, refined rides and quickly falling price points… and they’re actually selling, too! And not to be left out of the party, Honda has jumped into the pool with its brand new offering, the Clarity. What makes the Clarity stand out, besides its truly hideous exterior design, is its electric range. It can go up to 76 kms on a charge before dipping into the car’s combustion engine. That really ups the ante compared to competitors like the new Toyota Prius Prime or Hyundai Ioniq PHEV. We spend a week (wearing a paper bag on our heads) in the Clarity to see how it shakes out.

Pros:
– The Clarity puts out 212 horsepower when you combine its electric and combustion motors and it’s surprisingly peppy
– And unlike many other hybrid cars out there, even when you do pop it into sport mode and hammer on the throttle, it takes a lot of demands on this car before the gas engine fires up to supplement electric power
– Right up to highway speed, I found that to be true. So even if you have high speed driving as part of your daily commute, the Clarity could very well get you to work and back strictly under electric power
– Don’t expect a blistering performer but the Clarity’s fuel economy for us over a week of driving (mostly in the city with one jaunt out to the mountains) was a crazy impressive 1.9 L/100 kms. That’s 124 US MPG. What?!
– There are only two trims of the Clarity available in Canada. The base price on this car comes in at $39,900 Canadian. With that, you’re getting LED headlights and tail lights, an 8 inch infotainment system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, dual zone automatic climate control, and a proximity key with push button start. You also get some great safety systems like adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, forward collision mitigation braking, and a camera built into the right side mirror that flashes what’s in your blind spot on the infotainment system screen whenever you click the right turn signal on. That’s solid equipment!
– Hold your nose while you’re getting into the Clarity and once you’re inside, it looks good. It’s a clean, uncluttered interior. The switches in the doors and for the climate control feel upscale. I like the floating centre console with the push button transmission. The faux wood inlay and the alconterra suede class things up in the $4,000 more expensive Touring trim, too
– It’s also a quiet cabin at 61 dB at 100 kms/hr but the little 4 cylinder gas engine does roar a bit once you burn up all the electric range
– Here’s something else I like in here… it’s a good sized car! In fact, its interior volume is best in class. I can sit in the second row at 6’2 with lots of room to spare. And our rear facing car seat test saw a shockingly good 30.5 inches measured from the back of the front passenger seat cushion up to the glove box. Many of our seven passenger SUV reviews haven’t been able to touch those numbers

Cons:
– Man, this car looks truly awful! It’s all bulbous off the back end. It’s angular in just the wrong places. Those partially covered rear wheel wells are there to help with fuel economy but make it even stranger looking. It somehow looks simultaneously from the future and really dated, all at once. What was Honda thinking?!
– Charge times are not nearly as good in the Clarity as we see in some of its competitors. It takes 12 hours for a full charge with a 120 volt household plug (that’s a typical outlet) or 2.5 hours with a 240 volt plug. Meanwhile, the Prius Prime takes around 5 hours for a full charge on a 120 volt outlet. What makes the Clarity stand out is that it can get nearly twice as far on a single charge than the Prius Prime under ideal driving conditions
– And I say “ideal” because even when we were testing this week in temperatures just below freezing, our range dipped from 76 kms down to 55 kms. So I would anticipate big electric range deficits in the dead of winter
– While standard equipment is generally impressive, here’s what’s missing, even on this top level trim: there are no motorized seats (all manual adjustments here), there’s no lumbar adjustment at all (and I’ll be honest, these seats are not particularly comfortable), there’s no sunroof, and no ventilated seats
– And just when you thought Honda learned its lesson, reintroducing the volume knob in the likes of the Fit and CR-V after much consternation over the touch screen volume control… guess what? No knob here in the Clarity
– And don’t go thinking that the hands free voice command functions will come to the rescue – they are overly complicated and downright frustrating – even for simple tasks like changing the radio station
– What Honda makes up for in second row tricks, it quickly loses in the trunk. Yes, it has 439 L of capacity – which is quite good. But while it may look like a hatchback from the back – like we see in the Ioniq or the Prius – it’s actually a far less versatile sedan style car. That’ll make hauling bigger items far trickier – which is not helped at all by the uneven trunk floor from where the batteries are stored. That also means, by the way, that there’s no room for a spare tire – instead, you’ll find a tire patching kit for saving space.
– And while second row seats do flip down in a 60/40 split, they don’t fold flat and there are all kinds weird jutty bits that get in the way and make the egress into the main cabin really quite small

Family Wheels report card:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 4/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 3/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 4/5 (61 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 4/5
Family Wheels trunk test score: 2.5/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 5/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4/5
Family Wheels value score: 4/5

Family Wheels overall score: 37.5/50= 75%

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