2017 Honda Clarity: Monthly Update for August 2017
by Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor
Where Did We Drive It?
Is it a problem that our 2017 Honda Clarity spends nearly all of its time on commuter duty? Not really. That's what it was designed for, so we don't feel as if we're doing anything out of the ordinary by using it mostly for runs to and from the office. In fact, the Clarity excels at handling crowded city streets and tight parking spots, so most of our editors like taking it home at the end of the day.
As our director of vehicle testing, Dan Edmunds, mentioned last month, the limited number of hydrogen filling stations in California reduces the amount of exploring you can do in the Clarity. Its range on a full tank is significant, but it doesn't help if you can't top it off along the way. We still managed to put nearly 1,000 miles on our Clarity in August, though, so it's getting its fair share of miles.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Average lifetime mpg: 61.3
EPA mpkg rating: 67 combined (68 city/66 highway)
Best fill mpg: 69.8
Best range: 269.9 miles
Current odometer: 4,970 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
"OK, Honda. Real talk. If you truly want to foster interest in your alt-fuel efforts, you have to make a desirable car. Like it or not, the general public responds overwhelmingly to styling. The Clarity, however, looks like a nerd's shoe. Nobody will ever give it long, lingering looks. Make no mistake, the Clarity is an engineering triumph, but you can't even get people interested enough to find out what's beneath its skin because that skin is so goofy-looking. And the Clarity's driving experience is wholly ho-hum. That, too, is a triumph, given the complexity of its propulsion hardware ... but it is not engaging. The car need not be a sports car, but giving something other than merely adequate acceleration and dishwater-dull dynamics would pique more curiosity. Learn the Tesla lesson — make a car that excites. Make it aspirational. Make people want it for reasons other than, 'Well, it runs on hydrogen.' Only then will you get the general public to give a whit about your fuel cell tech." — Jay Kavanagh, engineering editor
"Jay's got some good points here. The Clarity is far from 'fun' to drive, and its styling is unexplainable. Yet I still like driving it. It's comfortable, quiet and performs well enough to keep you out of trouble. Maybe the fact that I have a 35-mile commute makes the Clarity feel so much more useful. When you're just plugging along in the carpool lane with the adaptive cruise control on and the music cranked up, the Clarity feels pretty damn good. I even took it a short weekend trip to a friend's house about 50 miles away and was reminded how quiet it is on the highway when you're actually moving at a decent clip. It may not be 'fun' to drive, but it's no punishment either." — Ed Hellwig, senior editor
"Just one quick note about the driver's seat. I find it surprisingly comfortable considering its lack of noticeable bolstering. I've spent several hours behind the wheel at a time and rarely come away with complaints. I have noticed, however, that the center console intrudes into my knee space, specifically my right knee. I find myself resting it on the corner of the console and there's nothing there but a sharp edge. Needless to say, it doesn't feel great." — Ed Hellwig
"Took the Clarity to go golfing. Its trunk passed the golf bag test without much trouble. The main opening in the trunk fit my average-size bag no problem, but if had to fit another bag it might have been a tight squeeze." — Ed Hellwig
"It was probably a coincidence more than anything, but the last time I filled up our Clarity there was actually a line at the pump. I knew it was coming, too, as I sat behind a Toyota Mirai at the light approaching the station. To my surprise, there was already a Hyundai Tucson fuel cell vehicle filling up at the pump. I had never seen another vehicle of any kind at any of the hydrogen stations, yet there I was sitting in line waiting. It didn't take long, as each car only takes maybe 10 minutes or so at the most to fill up and I think the other drivers were generally surprised to see cars behind them. I guess that's what happens when you're an early adopter of a new technology." — Ed Hellwig
"Let's geek out about windshield washers for a moment. The Clarity oozes its washer fluid out its wiper, right at the interface between blade edge and windshield. A similar setup is found on certain Mercedes-Benz cars (they call it 'Magic Vision Control'). This type of washer system, I submit, is ideal. Less fluid is required for a given amount of cleaning, sure, but there's another, better reason to do it this way — there is no spray to obscure your vision (especially when driving into direct sun). Traditional systems either spray in a fan pattern that provides good coverage and poor visibility or a discrete pee-stream that doesn't impede your forward view but has crummy coverage. The Clarity's system is the best of all worlds, performance-wise, but I suspect it is pricey. Perhaps the engineers did not want to route washer fluid into the 'engine' bay for safety reasons, which forced them to go with the at-the-blades solution? I can only guess." — Jay Kavanagh