Honda Clarity: The Rare Plug-In Hybrid That Gets It (Mostly) Right

DEC 7 2018 BY WADE MALONE 33

Cars.com says the regenerative braking controls “make no sense whatsoever”

Cars.com reviewer Joe Wiesenfelder recently spent some quality time with the Honda Clarity PHEV. Like the Chevy Volt, range is the stand out feature of the Clarity. These cars have double or triple the electric range of other plug-in hybrids. Officially Honda’s popular plug-in hybrid has an EPA estimated 48 miles. Although thanks to mild weather and relaxed driving, Joe was seeing 58 miles of electric range during his review period.

With the engine up front and the battery pack in back, the car has great weight balance and a low center of gravity. Driving dynamics are good with responsive steering.

The fact that power is not severely diminished in electric mode also means the Clarity compares favorably with the Volt. “It kind of recalls the Chevy Volt when it is in its electric mode. Because it has pretty robust acceleration on electric power alone and it’s pretty linear in ways that hybrid cars often aren’t.”

Unlike the Volt, the Clarity will engage the engine if you drive aggressively. But Joe says he drove several days without ever burning a drop of gas. The key: he was able to do this “without even thinking about it.” No hypermiling necessary.

The car has a few drawbacks. Like many electrics, the energy efficient tires provide little grip. Honda’s in-car multimedia system is also slow, lacks useful driving information, and has no physical buttons.

Of course those are nitpicks. The review team has one big complaint that is common among Clarity drivers. Selecting your preferred regenerative braking strength via the steering wheel paddle:

The problem is, you have to do that every time. And when I say every time if you’re in the regular drive mode and you’re driving forward and hit it a few times then come to a stop or wait a few seconds, it defaults to where it was. It makes no sense whatsoever. I have not met anyone that likes this system.

Thankfully this can be overcome by driving in sport mode instead of the standard drive mode. So despite the Clarity “not being a sport car,” driving in sport is a must for those wanting high regen.

Be sure to check out the video above for the full review. Thinking about the car for yourself? Check out our knowledgeable community of Clarity owners over on the InsideEVs forums.

From Cars.com Video Description:

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are a strange phenomenon. Theoretically, they’re a good idea; the problem is that so many models have such a short electric range. That’s why, when an automaker seems to have gotten it right, we take notice. And that’s the case with the new Honda Clarity.

Categories: Chevrolet, Honda

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33 Comments on "Honda Clarity: The Rare Plug-In Hybrid That Gets It (Mostly) Right"

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Paul Stoller

Honda beef this system up a bit, bigger motor, double the battery. Put the battery in a skateboard and put it in the Oddessy, Pilot and Ridgeline.

Ziv

Double the battery and you have a heavy PHEV with range you won’t use very often, or a short ranged BEV if you take out the gas engine. Don’t overthink this. PHEV-48 is a nice spot to hit. Even on cold days it will give you all the AER you need if you are in the normal 80% of drivers who drive less than 40-45 miles a day most of the time, and it isn’t worth it for a car maker to build a PHEV/EREV for the 20% who drive more.

Will

I drive 26 miles round trip commute and add errands 10-15 miles extra in my volt does very well in spring-fall but comes around winter engines starts on. I3 Rex 97ah is my wheelhouse. Kona EV will be good but they will be limited plus tariffs. Tesla model S with 60k miles for $32k looks great.

Paul Stoller

I get the range target, I just think for a vehicle like the Pilot or Ridgeline you’re going to need a battery that’s double the size to hit those range targets in the winter. Maybe not double but I would think at least 50% larger.

Viking79

The battery is already skateboard of sorts. In the PHEV version it takes almost no interior space (unlike Volt).

Will

They testing a PHEV version of the pilot

David Murray

I’ve got to disagree here. There is no reason to “double the battery.” If you REALLY need 100 miles of EV range every day then you should be looking at a BEV of some sort. 48 miles of range is plenty for a PHEV. In fact, I think it hits the sweet spot for where a PHEV can be driven as a pure EV 99% of the time by the average American if they plug it in every day. Yes, the Prius Prime and other PHEVs could use a little more range. But 40-50 miles is really the sweet spot for a PHEV.

Paul Stoller

I get what you’re saying, but the Pilot and Ridgeline aren’t going to get those numbers with the same size battery as the Clarity, does it need to be double to hit those numbers?, maybe not, but it will need to be sized a bit bigger. I really think you need to size the battery to hit that 48-50 electric miles per full chage in winter. I think at best the battery would need to be 50% bigger and double being what I personally would find ideal.

Mark.ca

Nice balanced review. The regen issue is as dumb as it gets. Apparently no one at Honda ever drove an ev from any competition.

Xcel

Yes, they seem pretty clueless with respect to any regen logic and implementation.

Will

They wanted to make a regular car

Viking79

It drives like a car. You touch the brake pedal and get max regen. Most seamless regen I have used. Best for most people as most won’t want to think about regen. The paddles are annoying, does GM hold a patent on them or something so Honda does something else?

Will

BF cares less or thinks its stupid about Regen

lf

I disagree. The regen is designed for when you want to slow the car, like going around curves or down a hill but do not intend to stop. So that is why it goes away after you set it. If you stop, the regen power of the breaks is just as good as regen paddling. So its not for 1 foot driving but does reduce moving you foot.

William

The Helpful Honda Folks get EV drivers “that close” to a nice and roomy PHEV, with class leading Volt like EV range, and Prius Prime type ICE MPG numbers.

The styling/looks, along with the above mentioned regen setting issues, seem to lead the PHEV segment in the “what were they thinking (WTF)?” category.

Viking79

The styling is from the FCV, that they must want to spread the costs of that platform by making a PHEV version that will sell 40 times as many to make up for lack of sales in the FCV.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Fun fact: in 12 1/2 months of sales, the Clarify PHEV has almost 3 times as many sales as all HFCVs have leases/sales in the USA _in total_.

Will

Could have put the accord stamping panels in the front and back side

Viking79

I think they are quite different cars, the Clarity is very high tech (it is built more like an $60k car than a $35k car, really) and utilizes a vastly different underlying unitbody with much more ultra and high strength steel than the Accord. They would have to make new body stamps. Not cost effective.

The Clarity is almost all aluminum body too. Very different. So we get the controversial styling. Take it or leave it.

Lou Grinzo

Prediction: The next blockbuster announcement from Honda in the plug-in category will be a much higher range for the Clarity EV, which is currently a paltry 89 miles EPA.

As I’ve said here before, I would be stunned to find out that Honda isn’t doing (or maybe has already completed) the R&D on a 150 to 200 mile version of this car. I would not be surprised in the least if, for example, Honda announced late in 1Q2019 that a 180 mile Clarity EV was coming in just a few months as an early 2020 model.

This is why I think Honda is much closer to doing something “interesting” than Toyota.

BillT

I think the real blockbuster announcement would be a PHEV version of the CRV with at least 40 miles of range. To me that would show Honda is really serious.

William

Until the Helpful Honda Folks can potentially offer the 2020 CRV, with more PHEV range than a PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander (22 mi.ev/25 MPG), here in the US, then YES, “Honda is really serious”.

Until then, as of 2018, the HH Folks are still stuck in a huge puddle of Heinz Ketchup weak sauce, that is coming off of the CRV bottle, in a slow as molasses drip mode.

Will

Pilot will be PHEV

Paul Stoller

I look forward to seeing the specs on it.

Will

👏👏👏👏👏

Will

I would buy a 180 miles range

Will

We need gifs like twitter. It’s one the cars I want

Brad

I’ve had my Clarity for 8 months and over 15 000km. Just put my 7th tank of fuel in (26 litre tank; small!). If you want my insight have a look at bradoncars/2018 Honda Clarity 8 month review.

Dave Samson

LoL

J.W

Mostly Except for that it’s Ugly!!!! Yes that comes from a volt owner.

lf

When function drives form like in the Clarity- it is by definition beautiful

Speculawyer

Congratulations on finally having a decent plug-in hybrid car….just as as the market moves to full electric for cars as show by the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt.

Jonathan B
I’ve had mine for a few months and it has been fantastic. It is my third electric vehicle and my first that isn’t fully electric. My purchase decisions was mainly driven by the fact that (1) in the Bay Area there’s so much EV saturation that you can hardly find chargers these days, both my wife and I have trouble at work as well because there’s so many. (2) We needed a larger car and wanted to be able to drive it long distances and fit all of our stuff and kids. No other plug in (and few BEVs) have this and offer 40+ miles of electric range. (3) I really wanted both adaptive cruise and lane keep assist, which are both standard in the Clarity. (4) I wanted a reliable brand. (5) I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. The Model 3 (in most basic form) was going to be $42K after taxes, fees, and deduction of incentives, and this didn’t in get me adaptive cruise or lane keep features (which you need EAP for). The Clarity was $25K after taxes, fees, and deduction of incentives. I went ahead and bought a 120k warranty as well from… Read more »