Honda’s Clarity is a mid-size plug-in hybrid sedan that has an all-electric range of 47 miles and a gas-extended-range rating of 340 miles. With a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle inline-four engine working together with an electric-drive motor, the total hybrid system output is 212 horsepower, carried to the wheels by an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT).
The vehicles offers three driving modes to help optimize efficiency, response, and handling—Normal, Econ, and Sport. I drove mostly in Econ mode, which gives the best mileage without a feeling of lack of horsepower.
Gear selection is done through a stack of buttons, letting you shift between park, reverse, neutral, and drive with a simple push with your finger. This design also makes the center console appear more spacious. Admittedly, however, the push-button shift took a little time to get used to.
This five-passenger sedan has a spacious interior with a quiet cabin made with high-quality environmentally friendly materials. Honda uses a synthetic leather and plant-derived bio leather in the Clarity to reinforce its green image.
The heated, leather-trimmed driver’s seat features two-position memory and eight-way power adjustment, while the passenger seat has six-way power adjustment. Behind both the driver’s and passenger’s seats is a pocket designed for smartphones of all shapes and sizes.
For a mid-size car, the trunk is most impressive. On a recent trip it was relatively easy to load six large suitcases into the trunk without stacking.
The 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen is the heart of the infotainment system. On the Touring model you get voice recognition, multi-view rear camera, MP3/WMA playback, AM/FM/HD Radio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The system uses a smartphone-like interface and supports modern integration standards; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bring your phone apps onto the large display—just touch, pinch, and swipe your way through music, directions and more.
Steering wheel mounted controls allow you to change the songs, make a phone call, or get directions while keeping your hands on the wheel. However, the audio-control buttons on the steering wheel are small, and I would prefer having a single, larger volume-control knob—much like the ones for adjusting the interior temperature, but for controlling the radio too. Another drawback is that the up-and-down sound control “arrows” on the Display Audio screen are hard to locate and too small and difficult to touch when driving.
Honda Sensing, a full suitcase of safety and driver-assist technologies, is available on the Clarity. Included are collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation system, lane departure warning system, lane keep assist system, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow. The one safety technology not included is blind-spot detection, which I feel is essential, especially when driving in urban traffic.
In terms of eco-friendliness, Honda is committed to developing environmentally responsible vehicles like the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. The company’s goal is zero carbon emissions in the near future.
The week of my drive, I passed through many small towns and some major cities. If you have a hybrid, be aware that there are still vast areas of the West, Midwest, and South in the United States that have no facilities for replenishing your battery pack for these vehicles. So basically you find yourself running on the gasoline engine.
Meanwhile, you’ll want to pay attention to your tank and give yourself plenty of time to get to a gas station, because even gas stations are hard to locate along some major highways. And while there are charging stations, the more rural and less economically progressive the area, the more difficult it will be to refuel electrically.
All that said, you have 340 miles before you exhaust all modes of power. Therefore, I never found myself without fuel; I always charged the vehicle at home before heading out, and then on my trip I simply googled and found charging stations along the way.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the base model of the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is $33,400. The Touring model bumps the price up $3,200 to $36,600.
Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this newspaper or at [email protected]