The 2018 Honda Clarity range now includes plug-in hybrid and electric versions that join the Clarity Fuel Cell. All versions of the Clarity share the same basic design — they are front-wheel-drive, four-door sedans that are similar to an Accord in size. But the three variants vary widely in their power sources and driving range.
The Clarity Fuel Cell debuted last year. It's an electric car that, instead of being recharged by a plug, generates electricity from compressed hydrogen stored on board. By combining the hydrogen with oxygen from the air, the Fuel Cell emits water and electricity as byproducts.
This setup allows the Clarity Fuel Cell to be refueled in three to five minutes for travel up to 366 miles. These figures far outshine the recharging time and range of any battery electric vehicle in production today. Though the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is an Edmunds CES Tech Driven Award winner for its innovation, it relies on a fledgling hydrogen refueling infrastructure and is sold only in California.
A more versatile and more widely available model is the Clarity Electric, which went on sale late in the 2017 model year. It's a battery electric vehicle just like other EVs such as the Nissan Leaf. But its driving range of just 89 miles is disappointing, and we recommend you look elsewhere first if you're shopping for an electric vehicle.
That leaves us with the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, the newly introduced and final piece of the Clarity triad. Comparable to vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt or the Toyota Prius Prime, the PHEV is a plug-in hybrid that can recharge at home and drive an EPA-estimated 48 miles on pure electric power before it switches over to regular hybrid gasoline power.
Of the three Clarity versions, the Plug-In Hybrid is the most convincing and has the broadest appeal to consumers. It's comfortable, has a solid amount of electric range, and should serve you well as a frugal and well-equipped hybrid.
After the addition of the Clarity Electric battery electric vehicle in late summer 2017, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) variant joins for 2018.
Among the three versions, the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid easily makes the strongest case for itself. And among the two trim levels, we say stick with the base one and forgo the Touring trim's leather seats and navigation. Options are limited to accessory items, except for the rear parking sensors that we'd suggest adding.
The 2018 Honda Clarity is offered in three distinct versions that differ in how they provide propulsion —Electric, Fuel Cell and Plug-In Hybrid. Honda offers the Electric and Fuel Cell in just one trim level, but the Plug-In Hybrid comes in two trims.
The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid starts you off in either baseor Touringtrim. Both come with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired to an electric motor hybrid system (total system: 212 hp, 232 lb-ft), along with a 17-kWh lithium-ion battery. The electric-only range is estimated at 47 miles, and fuel economy for regular hybrid operation is 42 mpg.
The base trim features include keyless entry and start, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB ports, an eight-speaker sound system, and the Honda Sensing suite of driver assistance features. The Touring trim adds power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, and remote climate-control preconditioning.
The Clarity Fuel Cell is a single-trim model generously equipped with pretty much all of the above features, though it has a premium 12-speaker sound system. All Clarity Fuel Cell models are powered by an electric motor (174 hp, 221 lb-ft) that drives the front wheels. The tanks hold enough compressed hydrogen for an EPA-estimated 366 miles of emission-free motoring.
If you prefer a simpler Clarity, the Clarity Electric is for you. With an electric motor (161 hp, 221 lb-ft) driving the front wheels and a relatively small (25.5-kWh) lithium-ion battery under the back seat, the Clarity Electric is the lightest Clarity of them all. But its EPA-estimated range of 89 miles puts it near the bottom of the EV pack. Otherwise, it's a well-equipped and fine-driving car. Like the Fuel Cell, it's available in a single trim level.
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 (electric fuel cell | 1-speed direct drive | FWD).
The Clarity isn't an exciting car to drive, but it is accessible and easy to deal with in everyday driving. Acceleration and handling are adequate but nothing more.
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 took 8.4 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. We noticed appreciably slower times in additional back-to-back acceleration runs.
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.
Its steering is direct and has a 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 steering feel.
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.
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.
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.
The front seats have very soft padding, and the perforated center sections but don't offer much in terms of lateral support. The back seat is reasonably comfortable, though the bottom cushion is somewhat short, so long-legged passengers may find them uncomfortable.
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 & vibration6.5
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.
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.
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 use7.5
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 out8.0
There's little trouble stepping into the Clarity, and the roof does not appreciably impede front or rear entry. The back seat is even easier to access. All four entry points have a grab handle.
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.
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.
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.
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 ahead of the Mirai's.
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 difficult to work with.
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.
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 accommodation7.0
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.
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 & navigation5.0
While the 8-inch touchscreen is sizable, its interface needs work. Basic functions are hard to use when moving. The graphics are a bit old-school, and the screen flow could be quicker. The menu structure is reasonably straightforward, but touch targets are small and the volume slider is irritating.
Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, a USB port that supports iPod, and an auxiliary jack are standard. Supports Apple CarPlay and 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.
The Clarity is flush with driver aids, most of which prove useful in keeping you out of trouble. They include a multiangle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane keeping assist and Honda LaneWatch.
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 this system 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.