Consumer Reports Drives Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: Video


Fails to point out the positive.

The Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, released for the first time as a 2018 model, brings a lot to the PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) table. It’s a full-size sedan with a substantial amount of all-electric range (AER) with somewhat polarizing looks. In person, this writer thought it looked quite handsome, however. Now, Consumer Reports weighs in on their experience with it in a rather short video (above). It doesn’t seem to come away as impressed as we might have thought.

When it comes to reviewing cars, the product testing publication is almost always controversial and this brief review is likely to raise the ire of some Clarity owners and supporters. Limited to just over 3 minutes, it mainly focuses on what it perceives as negatives and fails to point out many positives.

There’s no mention of its EPA rating of 48 miles of AER or its pretty remarkable 42 mile-per-gallon combined consumption rating. There’s is likewise no discussion of how its 110 MPGe is a little better than that of its nearest competitor (drivetrain-wise), the smaller Chevy Volt (106 MPGe). We think a mention of its $33,400 base MRSP (before incentives, like the $7,500 tax credit it’s eligible for) is also worthy of noting.

It also faults it for poor performance on the track, though obviously it’s engineered for comfort. Calling it “sloppy,” they at least concede that it is “secure” when pushed to its limits. To its credit, CR does point out that the ride quality is good, effectively removing imperfections in the road.

One point in particular that may be contentious is the noise of the gasoline engine makes when it comes on. The InsideEVs Forum has a large community of Clarity owners and some have reported the internal combustion lump can be excessively loud at times. They refer to this as the “angry bees.” However, it seems to occur infrequently.

No doubt the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid community will have some opinions about this review and will hopefully express them, both positive and negative, in Comments. They are, overall, a terrific and helpful group, so if you have any questions feel free to raise them below or come on over to the Clarity section of the Forum and start a discussion there.

Source: YouTube

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47 Comments on "Consumer Reports Drives Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: Video"

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The Honda Edsel.
Built ugly to not sell.

That back seat in the Clarity makes the Volt and Prius Prime back seats look like solitary confinement.

I will gladly trade “ugly” for breathing room for back seat passengers any day, especially with 48 miles of EV bliss, and no buzzing of the angry bee swarm.

I fully understand why you’d buy it.
But, as an BMW i3 driver, I know there’s an ongoing conspiracy to make these advanced non-gas vehicles ugly to stop sales.

I wouldn’t say i3 is ugly. It’s pug-ish quirky, sure, but not ugly. The real hatchet job on i3 is the rear door. At one point, I had considered i3 and then saw how the rear door is major PITA. Never i3 for me (and never Tesla X with them stupid rear doors)

If you drive by yourself most of the time, the backwards doors on the i3 are an advantage—there is a large opening and it’s easier to load things into the rear seats.

I3 is ugly but not near to the Honda.

I’d take the i3 over a clarity on looks. i3 is ugly, but the clarity is FUGLY.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

The i3 manages to have a quirky aesthetic that has some appeal. The Honda is just, well, blah.

ROFL. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… I don’t think the i3 looks any better (quite the opposite… It’s hard ot make a hatch look bad)
And your vehicle also has a gas engine (which is absolutely fine in my book — EREVs and PHEVs will important for the next two cargenerations until BEV range has caught up)…

I love the backseat of my Clarity. I get chauffeured around by my kids any chance I get.

It’s a good car. I do think it’s probably still an “enthusiast” vehicle and not 100% ready for prime time, but it’s 95% ready. I’m kind of surprised that Honda sold them given that their other plug-in vehicles have been and are lease-only. I bought mine, but I’m considering selling it next year as I’m just a little worried about long term reliability on a one-off vehicle. However, in my experience, Honda usually makes things right so maybe I’m being paranoid. Anyway, I’m happy with it.

Tell that to the Honda Civic Hybrid battery owners….. Premature failure and little help. They were as bad as Nissan with the early Leafs in Arizona. I vowed to never buy another Honda product again. Maybe Toyota has the right idea to be so lagging in tech – at least they won’t fail miserably. But I would never buy a Toyota again either after growing up on a Celica which was fantastic….

Never heard anything bad about civic hybrids or insights

The bad sign is that Honda isn’t selling the clarity (BEV or PHEV) in Europe, even though it would seem to have very little competition there (no Volt), and Honda has a good rep.

I think it looks good. Certainly better than BMW i3 or Chevy Bolt.

When the form of a car, particularly a full size one that pushes the envelope of a PHEV by getting 47 EV miles and 40 HV, is driven by function it is beautiful.

Terrible review. Two of their complaints were valid:
1) blind spot detection is a joke. Horrible design.
2) infotainment is very slow but I have no problem with the layout.

The rest is bs. Never had “confusion and frustration” trying to select drive or reverse. That was a ridiculous comment. The engine at 75 mph on a long trip was barely audible. The comment about the suspension was dumb too. It gives a great ride and was never designed to race around a track. News flash: the Clarity is not a sports car.

I think if it just had a big rear wing spoiler….lol

Yup, approximately 95% of auto journalists want to delude us and themselves, that all cars should be sports cars and judged accordingly. #FAIL.

Petrol heads at CU trying to stop the revolution.

The shift buttons may have frustrated the reviewer, but claiming they would remain frustrating “every day” falsely implies that they don’t work. Consumer Reports did a hack job on this review, but no worse than Honda’s lame marketing efforts for the Clarity PHEV. We drove our Clarity Plug-In Hybrid for nearly 10 months before finally visiting a gas station. For those 10 months we were using the same amount of gasoline as a Tesla, but we always had the gas that Honda put in the car as a back-up for emergencies–or simply for greater convenience. We heard the engine a few times during those 10 months, but it was not loud. Consumer Reports didn’t explain that the only time the engine gets loud is when you’re climbing a significant grade or accelerating after the battery power is used up. The interior of the car is comfortable and well-appointed. The handling is competent–as far as the low-rolling resistance tires can take it. If Consumer Reports wants a track-day car, they should have done what some owners have done and put stickier tires on the Clarity PHEV. Those owners report superb handling. A large number of very satisfied owners who participate on… Read more »

You mean the ads that have a driving in electric until the electric runs out and gas turns on. Ok 👍

I have been a CR customer for decades. I realize their car reviews are best left to the experts (C&D, MotorWeek, etc.) I LOVE my Clarity, had it since June, some initial new model bugs but resolved with Service Bulletin software updates. CR is so wrong, thinking about dropping my membership.

If you do drop them make sure you tell them why…

I just drove 10000 km in my clarity in 3 months. Bought less than 60 dollars of gas.

95 percent of the drive is in blissful silence so when the motor kicks in yes its jarring.

With is as the same amount of mileage would have cost me 900 dollars in my already super efficient diesel vw

CR’s Clarity review is much more negative than their 2016 review of the Volt ( “2016 Chevrolet Volt Quick Drive | Consumer Reports”). They describe the Volt’s transition to gas as “commenably smooth and unobtrusive” (versus the Clarity: “the gas engine is loud when it kicks-in”); “handling is sound and responsive” (versus the Clarity: “not particularly adept… sloppy but secure when pushed to its limits, which it reached quickly”).

Does CR really feel that the Volt’s handling and gas/electric integration are that much better? Or is this change in language also the result of the passage of time? I noticed that the 2016 review seems to spend extra time explaining just what plug-in hybrid means; and describing how cool it is to drive on just electricity. Perhaps we’re “over the (PHEV) honeymoon,” and in 2018, a PHEV needs to be more than just acceptable to get a positive CR review. The whole demeanor of CR’s reviewer in the Clarity review sounds like my grumpy uncle, before he has his morning coffee.

Besides high efficiency, the big PLUS the CLarity has is that it is the only Mid-Sized PHEV sedan – and therefore has the market all to itself – so its handy that the car is reasonably priced.

Isn’t the Fusion Energi a pretty direct competitor? (Inferior by specs, but direct.)

It’s far from the only mid-size PHEV sedan — BMW & Mercedes have some as well, as do Hyundai/Kia (Sonata/Optima), the latter being reasonably priced — but it’s the only one with decent AER.

Why does every car review seem to want every car to handle like a Ferrari? Yeah sure, make it firm enough that it does’t lean 45 degrees through a slight corner, but not every car has to be “sporty”. I bet if you polled consumers, 75% of them would be happier with a softer ride.

It’s one thing if the review came from an enthusiast publication like Road & Track, but Consumer Reports have no business on the track at all. They’re hacks, and scammers, and nothing like the consumer-interests org they like to project themselves as.

We have had a Clarity PHEV for six months now and are quite happy with our choice. It is hard to differentiate true assessments from people with vested interests such as a Tesla fanboy or GM shareholder. For the price, size, battery and fuel mileage, I do not think there is a better choice in the market today. There is room for Honda to make it better and hope they continue to invest in such technologies in cars and SUVs

CR is always biased against Honda no matter what.

as a former owner of 1st gen Volt, Clarity PHEV is better in nearly every way. More room, smoother ride, better mpg (ev and gas). ICE drone is hardly noticeable at highway speeds. Active safety included in base model, and I find ACC and LKAS more than useful. Only cons are old Civic’s infotainment (no volume knob), old safety stuff (no cross-traffic or blind spot alert), meh handling (but it is a big car and you expect trade-off with ride). It is definitely fugly… but don’t we all love our fugly pets?

Consumer Reports is OK – but becoming more irrelevant when it comes to car reviews. There are now much better online options to get comprehensive vehicle reviews. I generally listen to CR’s opinion – but they are just another voice in the crowd. AlexOnAutos, Edmunds, KBB, and Driven do a much better job than CR reviewing vehicles for the average consumer IMO.

Alex OA is by far the YouTube champ for getting reviews right for the “average joe” new to EV consumer.

Another vote for Alex OA. He seems like the least biased reviewer I have encountered.

TheStraightPipes is also very good. They go in depth but keep it real. They have one of the best reviews of the Honda Clarity on their YouTube channel.

.. and another vote for Alex. He does an awesome job. The CR guy sounds like he’s in perpetual whine mode and delivers very little useful information. Then when you consider the big budget CR has vs. what I imagine Alex is working with. Just goes to show ..

For someone who a) needs 250+ miles of highway range at any speed and temperature b) wants to do their city driving on electricity c) needs mid-size sedan room and d) isn’t willing to spend $45K+ on a Tesla model 3 mid-range or long range these cars seem like the only game in town. The Volt might beat it powertrain wise but no other vehicle beats the combination interior space and PHEV range the Clarity offers. Even though I own a BEV now I applaud PHEVs that allow most driving to be done on electricity but provide a one car solution for people unable or unwilling to pony up for a Tesla but who also need to be able to take long road trips.

I’m not a fan of the Clarity myself, and even I feel this is poor journalism. It doesn’t sound like an objective review at all.

Very flawed review

Honda’s two electric motor hybrid system is designed to allow the gas engine to operate at maximum efficiency. As a result the togas engine sometimes runs at a higher rpm than would be expected with a non-hybrid car. Consumers Report calls this moter boating and they don’t like it. They also downgrade the Accord and Insight hybrids for the same reason. I have a Accord hybrid and you soon get used to this unusual characteristic.

This characteristic is likely to be more common on high efficiency hybrids going forward since the engine is only needed periodically and making it smaller (running flat out only when needed) cuts costs.

It will be interesting to see if the upcoming Mazda hybrid with the rotary extender will be measurably quieter and less obtrusive. The rotary has high efficiency when running at a constant rpm, plus much less vibration, so could be a big advantage.

So my wife came home with a CR magazine from Costco and told me that our purchased Honda Clarity Plugin Hybrid was in question?
After we drove it for 6 months clocking over 6,000 miles, we spent about $140, we looked at each other and could understand what the crackhead CR authors were talking abou???
The car is an engineering marvel inside out. It’s comfort yet very sophisticated. For the price you pay after the Fed tax credit and local sales tax (Seattle, Wa) you will get a heck of a deal.
Someone from CR management should test these guys blood for THC!!! Lol

I own the Clarity. This reviewer just doesn’t know how to drive a car. The transmission works just fine, back seats is one of the most comfortable I have sat in. My complaints are minor and the pros far far outweigh the cons.

I lost 90% respect for CR years ago. They often would highly recommend a product that breaks in a week and not review a product that I have used for 20 years with no issues.

CR in my mind is now downgraded to My-Fathers-Magazine and will go away with Sears.

The buzzy engine would be the only thing that would bother me, everything else is fine with this car. It would be what I’d buy if I totaled my Volt tomorrow.

I bought one in Nov and already 4000 on it. I paid less than 30 gl gas on it and I feel it offers luxury for the price. Value for the money. It offers all features like a luxury car. Ride is smooth and fuel efficiency is excellent. What else I get for 26k (after tax rebates)