2017 Honda Clarity

2017 Honda Clarity Review

The 2017 Honda Clarity runs on electricity it makes using a clean, highly renewable fuel — hydrogen.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Jonathan Elfalan
Edmunds Editor

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

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is all-new for 2017.

we recommend

The 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is available in only one trim that checks all the feature boxes, and is offered solely as a three-year lease. A leather interior, touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, and a comprehensive suite of advanced driving aids are just some of the amenities included. One of the few options we'd consider adding are the rear parking sensors, which provide audible cues of objects behind you.

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.

trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our Full test of the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration3.0 / 5.0
Braking2.0 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling2.5 / 5.0
Drivability5.0 / 5.0

Comfort

3.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort2.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration4.5 / 5.0
Climate control3.5 / 5.0

Interior

4.0 / 5.0

Ease of use3.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Driving position3.5 / 5.0
Roominess4.0 / 5.0
Visibility3.5 / 5.0
Quality3.5 / 5.0

Utility

3.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage4.0 / 5.0
Cargo space2.5 / 5.0

Technology

3.0 / 5.0

Audio & navigation2.0 / 5.0
Smartphone integration3.0 / 5.0
Driver aids4.0 / 5.0
Voice control4.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
The Clarity isn't an exciting car to drive, but it is innocuous and accessible in everyday driving. Acceleration and handling are adequate but nothing more.

acceleration

edmunds rating
Acceleration is quick enough for around-town driving, but that's about it. At higher speeds, there's not a whole lot more on tap. In our testing, the Clarity accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. We noticed appreciably slower times in additional back-to-back acceleration runs.

braking

edmunds rating
The brakes operate normally during casual driving but begin to feel unnaturally springy and disconnected under moderate to heavy braking. There isn't much regenerative braking effect when lifting off the accelerator. It needed 129 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is a middling result.

steering

edmunds rating
Its steering is direct and has tangible buildup of effort around center but is pretty numb overall. Quick inputs are met with a fairly muted reaction. Still, the Clarity is clearly better than its rival, the Toyota Mirai, when it comes to the tactility of its helm.

handling

edmunds rating
The Clarity feels heavy but not ponderous. There's reasonable composure when cornering at modest speeds. Handling is deliberate rather than spry. Its ultimate grip is respectable, but this isn't a car that will have you seeking canyon roads.

drivability

edmunds rating
As it functions as an electric vehicle, this car is docile and very easy to live with. It accelerates smoothly from a stop without delay, and there aren't any gear changes to interrupt the power flow. Its cruise control, however, struggles to keep your set speed when going downhill.

comfort

edmunds rating
Its electric propulsion is quiet. Operation of the fuel cell powertrain is more audible than a battery EV, but it's endearing rather than annoying. Its seats are soft, and the ride quality is acceptable.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
The front seats have very soft padding and perforated center sections but don't offer much in terms of lateral support. The backseat is reasonably comfortable, though the bottom cushion is somewhat short, so long-legged passengers may find them uncomfortable.

ride comfort

edmunds rating
The Clarity has a soft ride quality, bordering on floaty. It's comfortable most of the time but the suspension struggles to control the mass of the car when driving on bumpy roads. Its ride motions are exaggerated and require more of the available suspension travel.

noise & vibration

edmunds rating
Wind noise is barely heard, making for civilized freeway travel. A bevy of unusual powertrain whirs come and go but are muted, making them more of a curiosity. Road noise is the most prominent thing you hear, with a variety of sounds making their way to the cabin.

climate control

edmunds rating
The climate control interface consists of buttons and knobs with redundant controls through a touchscreen interface. The auto function works well, and the heated front seats have three levels. The backseat vents are located on back of the center console.

interior

edmunds rating
This is a car that can transport four people comfortably (and five in a pinch). Its sizable cabin provides ample room for occupants and is easy to access. Visibility is excellent for the most part, though the standard rearview will help when reversing.

ease of use

edmunds rating
Most of the control buttons are easy to reach and are clearly labeled. The push-button gear selector isn't as quick to use as a traditional one, though its location in the Clarity is better than in other Honda vehicle applications. The touchscreen is not the quickest-responding either.

getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
There's little trouble to be had when stepping into the Clarity, and the roof does not appreciably impede front or rear entry. The backseat is even easier to access. All four entry points have a grab handle.

driving position

edmunds rating
For those who like to feel ensconced in the driver's seat, the seating position will feel a bit high, even at the lowest setting. The steering wheel is sized right and feels good in your hands, though some drivers might wish the column telescoped out more.

roominess

edmunds rating
There's ample headroom up front. In the back, only adults taller than 6 feet will find their heads brushing up against the headliner. There's a lot of shoulder room and decent legroom in back.

visibility

edmunds rating
Forward visibility is great thanks to a low beltline and cowl. Sizable corner windows and slim roof pillars also help out, as does the LaneWatch right-side camera system. Rearward visibility suffers a bit due to a high tail, but a unique second back window that peers through the trunk helps.

quality

edmunds rating
The cabin design of simulated open-pore wood and suede accents suggests inspiration by high-end home theater systems. The muted tones look a little dour, though. But overall the interior quality is one step better than that of the Mirai.

utility

edmunds rating
Its cargo area is superior to the Mirai's but falls short of a conventional car's in size and versatility. The Clarity also follows the typical Honda approach to cabin space, providing a variety of storage locations for small items. Car seat LATCH points aren't too difficult to work with.

small-item storage

edmunds rating
With a good-size console bin, two big cupholders, door pockets, a glovebox plus storage area under floating console, there's room for nearly any item you'd typically use on a day-to-day basis. In back, there are small door pockets, smartphone pouches and a flip-down armrest with two cupholders.

cargo space

edmunds rating
Despite appearances, the Clarity has a trunk, not a hatch. The cargo area has a nice wide opening but is not very deep at all. Inside is a shelf with a soft floor. The rear seats do not fold because there's a big hydrogen tank in the way.

child safety seat accomodation

edmunds rating
LATCH points on outboard rear seats have obvious and easily accessed top anchors. The lower ones are tucked between the seat cushions. These are soft and easily manipulated to reach the lower anchors.

technology

edmunds rating
Smartphone integration and voice controls work well and are a convenient way to not have to use the touchscreen interface, which is a letdown. It's straight out of the Honda parts bin. Owners of this (much pricier) car deserve better than the system that's in Honda's entry-level sedan.

audio & navigation

edmunds rating
While the 8-inch touchscreen is sizable, its interface needs work. Basic functions are hard to use when moving. Graphics are a bit old-school and the screen flow could be quicker. Menu structure is reasonably straightforward, but touch targets are small and volume slider is irritating.

smartphone integration

edmunds rating
Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, a USB port that supports iPod and an auxiliary jack are standard. Supports Apple Carplay/Android Auto, but transitioning between their controls and those of the Honda-controlled systems could be smoother. Bluetooth pairing is easy for audio and phone.

driver aids

edmunds rating
The Clarity is flush with driver aids, most of which prove useful in keeping you out of trouble. They include a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, adaptive cruise control (comes to a full stop), forward collision warning/mitigation, lane keeping assist and Honda LaneWatch.

voice control

edmunds rating
The voice controls respond well to basic natural language and can control phone, nav and audio. For a more sophisticated system you can press and hold the voice button to bypass these and get to Siri or Google voice commands via your paired smartphone.

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.