In our quick drive of the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In we are reminded that you pay a high price for efficiency, and even a higher price for unique efficiency. The more you want to save on fuel prices, you’re giving up something somewhere else.
Getting ahead of myself a bit, so back to squares. The Honda Clarity is now a family of models that includes the Hydrogen fuel-cell electric which is only available in markets where the fuel is accessible, a full electric, and the most watered down variant of the three, the plug-in hybrid.
By choosing the plug-in you get all the unique styling and razzmatazz that defines the eclectic Honda Clarity lineup but at the lowest price and with the least efficiency by comparison. The styling is much akin to the others with its futuristic bent and artistic flare.
Coming in only two models, a well equipped base model and fully decked out Touring as the one I tested, it is priced similarly to plug-in hybrid sedans you might compare it to. Our tester here was $37,490 which is about what you can spend at other brands for similarly outfitted peers.
It’s powered by Honda’s latest generation hybrid gasoline electric powertrain which provides a healthy 212 system horsepower. It’s rated by the EPA at 110 MPGe with a full charge and 42 mpg for gasoline only use.
You can charge the battery and get about 47 miles of range only or you can opt to blend it in with your tank of gas automatically which is a nice way to go. It takes less thought. You’ll want to charge the battery as the fuel tank is only a 7 gallon gullet and while it’s efficient you’ll still be stopping a lot to fill it.
I did find the powertrain to work quite well. It’s refined, quiet and powerful in a way that makes it pleasant to live with and I’m usually annoyed by annoying hybrid powertrain foibles. This one has very few. On sport mode it will spin its tires and offer up a fun time show quite easily. In my week with it I managed 47 mpg gasoline only, very impressive as it’s well over the 42 mpg rating.
Handling like in most Honda products is sharp and precise, and even with its low rolling resistance tires provided a nice level of grip around town. The ride itself is quiet and hushed, particularly at highway speeds with very little wind noise.
The interior is unique to the Clarity with higher end materials and design panache then you might expect in the similarly sized Honda Accord. With our Touring trim we had leather seating for five and all of the expected tech features, services, comforts and coddling devices. Too much to list today.
You get a lot here but where you pay for the unique efficiency is in its practicality however. While it’s styled like a hatchback, it’s built as a sedan. This makes for a small trunk that’s hindered by the additional floor hump from its battery apparatus.
It’s rear deck consequently splits your rear view through its mirror, requiring a slit window in the trunk lid. A conventional sedan or a conventional hatch would have been better either way which leads me to the idea that a Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid would be a more practical and make sense approach here if Honda were listening.