By Lyndon Conrad Bell
Completing the trifecta that is Honda’s Clarity lineup, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid joins the Clarity Fuel Cell and Clarity Electric Vehicle (EV). Latino Traffic Report recently attended the launch in Calistoga, CA.
If it looks suspiciously like Honda is angling to get a foothold in the electrification business, this is indeed the case. The company predicts electrified passenger cars will comprise two-thirds of global sales by 2030. Like its Clarity siblings, the Plug-in Hybrid version of the five-passenger sedan delivers premium appointments, an exceptionally quiet and smooth demeanor, and outstanding fuel economy.
For an automobile with a footprint similar to Honda’s flagship Accord sedan, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 42 miles per gallon and 47 miles on electricity alone. Even better, you can see this kind of range driving perfectly normally. The powertrain produces a total system output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb.–ft. of torque.
You also have the flexibility of choosing to cruise around town on electrons, while only burning dino juice out on the highway. This, in fact is the most efficient use of the powertrain. Gasoline engines deliver their best fuel economy at cruising speed on the highway and fall down when forced to deal with stop-and-go city driving. Electric motors have no such qualms. You can also set the powertrain to recharge the battery when you’re on the highway, so you have full charge with which to negotiate city streets when you arrive in town.
With seating for five adults, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid (as does the entire Clarity family) falls firmly into the mid-sized sedan category. Yes, the rear middle passenger will be in hip contact with seatmates, but there’s more than adequate leg and headroom. Ingress and egress are easy too. What’s more, trunk space solidly approaches generous.
As impressive as all the above is, Clarity’s quiet will absolutely blow you away. Even when the gasoline engine is powered up, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it’s running.
With all of that said, let’s address the 400-pound gorilla that is Clarity’s styling. Yes, it’s solidly inline with the contemporary Honda family, but regardless of the angle from which you view the sedan, this is one frumpy-looking car. Yes, we understand those rear fender skirts improve the aerodynamics, and yes, we know all of those slots and vents in the body are functional too. But this is an exterior design very few people (if any) will characterize as lovely.
Meanwhile, the interior is one of the nicest we’ve ever seen in a Honda. In fact, they could’ve badged Clarity an Acura and we would’ve been just as impressed. High quality finishes abound. Handsome shapes please the eye and the ergonomics are outstanding. Well, except for the audio system. Honda still insists on going knob-less in that regard and we’re solidly in the, “Oh, no not again,” camp. Would it kill them to give us rotating dial for the volume and tuning controls?
However, this is the only real issue we could find inside the beautifully turned out sedan. What’s more, you can feel good about it, because 80 percent of the materials are either recycled or originate from sustainable sources. When Honda says its down for doing its best to ensure blue skies for our children, moves like these leave us believing they’re serious about it.
Pricing for the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid starts at $33,400