2017 Honda Clarity Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell is one of Honda's most advanced and environmentally minded vehicles to date. It's essentially a front-wheel-drive electric vehicle that generates its own power by combining oxygen from the ambient air and compressed hydrogen from its onboard hydrogen storage tanks. Within the fuel cell, electrons are exchanged and electricity is generated. The only byproduct of the process is water.
Using this technology, the Clarity can be fully refueled in just three to five minutes and boasts a range of 366 miles between fills. Both are significant advantages over the more established battery electric vehicles currently on the market. There are a couple caveats, though. The first is that hydrogen refueling infrastructure is new and limited to only certain parts of California. The second is that hydrogen used for transportation is largely produced from carbon-based fuels. A battery-powered EV charged purely from solar panels would still have the advantage from a reduced greenhouse gas standpoint.
The Clarity falls somewhere between a Honda Accord and Honda Civic in size, but has a more eccentric exterior styling and a slightly more styled and upscale interior. All Clarity fuel cell models come loaded with the latest active driving aids, touchscreen infotainment system and a $15,000 fuel stipend for the three-year lease period. Unlike Toyota's Mirai fuel cell car, which you can buy outright, the Clarity Fuel Cell is available for lease only. However, with all the benefits to leasing, we wouldn't recommend buying a fuel cell car at this point in time anyway.
Honda will be expanding the Clarity vehicle line with plug-in hybrid and battery electric models in the near future, both of which will be available for purchase.
What's new for 2017
Trim levels & features
The 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is a single-trim model generously equipped for the technology-minded individual. Honda typically bundles options within trims, but due to the Clarity's low production volume and unique market position as an advanced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, it makes sense for Honda to minimize the number of variations. All Clarity Fuel Cell models are powered by an electric motor (174 hp, 221 lb-ft) that drives the front wheels through a single reduction gear, and hold enough compressed hydrogen in their tanks for 366 miles of emission-free motoring (68 miles per gallon equivalent combined).
The Clarity Fuel Cell isn't lightweight by conventional vehicle standards, largely due to all the necessary fuel cell components, which include a lithium battery pack. But Honda was able to shave some pounds using aluminum for the hood, trunk, fenders and doors. Front and rear "air curtain" features direct airflow around the aerodynamic 18-inch wheels, and energy-efficient LED headlights, taillights and turn signals all help to reduce the amount of electricity the Clarity uses to roll down the road.
Energy-preserving measures aside, the Clarity has many other standard features that focus on everyday comfort and convenience, which is arguably just as critical for any machine designed for daily use. This includes automatic wipers, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone climate control with a Plasmacluster ion air quality management, an eight-way power driver seat, driver-seat memory settings, a four-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 12-speaker premium audio system, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a navigation system with hydrogen refueling station and traffic info, satellite radio, HD radio, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and HondaLink telematics (remote app control).
Because the Clarity operates so silently, Honda fits it with what's called an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System that plays spacey tunes to alert pedestrians to know when it's approaching. Other safety-related features include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane keeping departure and intervention, a head-up display, and Honda LaneWatch, which turns on a side-view camera when making a lane change to the right.
There are sprinkling of add-on options such as exterior body moldings and illuminated door sills, but the most notable item has to be the rear parking sensors that alert you to objects behind if you don't want to rely solely on the cameras.
Noise & vibration4.5
Ease of use3.0
Getting in/getting out4.0
Child safety seat accommodation3.0
Audio & navigation2.0
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.