What Honda Clarity Owners Want You To Know About Their Car

AUG 28 2018 BY JOHN NEFF 55

Not surprisingly, they really like it.

Too often we professionals review cars in a bubble. We live our own lives while reviewing a car, and those lives may be entirely different from yours. We don’t even have our own hard-earned money on the line like you do.

So rather than give you our straight review of the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, we’re going to hand the mic over to those who really know what they’re talking about: the owners.

Deep within the InsideEVs Forum, there’s a section devoted entirely to the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. It’s one of the most popular forum sections, and there are dozens of engaged owners in there talking about the pluses and minuses of Clarity ownership. Let’s hear what they want you to know about their car…

Zor says: The Clarity is really designed as a mid commuter car for people with 48-mile round trips or more if they have access to a charger at work. The car does well in stop and go. You are likely to see low 60 miles of pure electric with stop and go traffic between 30-50 mph assuming a slightly gentle food on the gas and break.

InsideEVs says: Zor is spot on. During our week with the Clarity, we drove farther on battery power than Honda’s official 47-mile rating. While your all-electric range will vary depending on how you drive the Clarity and whether it’s hot or cold outside (colder temperatures sap range), there’s more than enough all-electric miles to get most people to work and back.

Peter CC: One pedal driving: Select Sport Mode, and pull back on the deceleration “-” paddle selector four times for its maximum effect. The vehicle will remember Sport Mode from your most recent drive, however the paddle process has to be repeated every time the “Drive” Shift button is selected, e.g. from “Park” to “Drive” or “Reverse” to “Drive”. Review the “Deceleration Paddle Selector” section of the Owner’s manual, page 390 in my electronic copy, for more details regarding when the vehicle will override your deceleration wishes. In this Sport/deceleration (“-” x 4) mode, fully releasing the accelerator provides substantial deceleration.

Be aware that although your vehicle may be decelerating rapidly, your brake lights will not be illuminated. This may startle or confuse a driver following you, especially if they are following closely.

InsideEVs says: Peter’s “One pedal driving” instructions are for turning on the regenerative braking system’s strongest setting. This allows the driver to pull on a paddle behind the steering wheel marked with a minus sign to decelerate the Clarity PHEV without touching the brakes. While the vehicle slows, it’s also turning the car’s forward momentum into energy that goes back into the battery pack.

Peter’s warning at the end is important to remember: using the paddles to engage regenerative braking setting does not activate the car’s brake lights. Also, the Clarity’s strongest setting isn’t so strong it can be used to stop entirely without the brakes, like in some other pure EVs.

Ordell98: The driveability, the plug range, the interior size, the trunk: these bread and butter items are what matters to most readers/buyers more than the ability to hypermile like a pro.

InsideEVs says:We couldn’t agree more. Even if the Clarity weren’t a plug-in hybrid, it’d still be a stylish (particularly the interior), comfortable, and practical car that’s easy to live with.

Sandroad: The car has lots of cool features; read the owner’s manual and you’ll get a lot more out of the vehicle!

InsideEVs says: We suggest sitting in the car while flipping through the manual to learn about each feature, so that you can practice turning things on while they’re right in front of you.


1) No one should consider that they’ve driven it unless they have driven it with a charged battery.
2) This is basically competing with the Volt, as one of the two plug-ins where the vast majority of your daily commutes will be all-electric.
3) This forum thinks it’s a great value.

InsideEVs says: The Volt is really the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid’s only direct competitor. There are other compact and mid-size plug-in hybrids like the Ford Fusion Energi, Toyota Prius Prime, Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid, and Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid, but none approach the Clarity and Volt in terms of all-electric range. Indeed, none of them offers more than 30 miles of electric range, while Honda and Chevy offer 50+.

stacey burke: This isn’t a negative about the car but you have to be sure that you’re eligible for the $7,500 Federal Tax Liability. If you are not sure you need to see someone that can help you. And you need to research your state to see what help they can give you. There are also some utilities that give money for chargers. It may take some work to make sure you get what you are capable of receiving.

I got $7,500 Federal and $5,000 State. My Touring most cost $35,000 – $12,500 = $22,500.

InsideEVs says: Stacey is right in that you should do your homework to find out how many federal and state incentives you’re eligible for when buying a Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. The easiest solution, though, is to lease one, because the tax incentives are all applied up front. This way, you realize the cost savings immediately rather than having to wait until next year’s tax season.

Insightman: Everyone naturally compares the Clarity to the Chevy Volt. Chevy calls the Volt a range-extended electric car; Honda called this variation of their Clarity a Plug-In Hybrid.

As a range-extended EV, the Volt runs on battery power until the battery is exhausted, then it starts up its range-extending engine. In a non-intuitive contrast, the Clarity PHEV uses both its EV capabilities and its engine to maximize overall efficiency. As a result, the larger and heavier Clarity PHEV matches or exceeds the efficiency of the Volt.

InsideEVs says: Insightman brings up a small but important distinction between the Volt and Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: The Volt will operate in pure electric mode when you want it to, while the Clarity doesn’t offer that option. With its battery pack full, it will mostly operate in pure electric mode, but its computer brain reserves the right to kick on the engine if it calculates it would be more efficient in a given situation. Usually this occurs when you mash the accelerator all the way down and the Clarity requires both power sources to marshal its full grunt. Otherwise, it mostly operates as a pure EV when the battery pack is charged.

GTO 409: THE LACK OF A FULL SIZED SPARE — should be noted.

InsideEVs says: Noted! Many efficient vehicles these days have ditched heavy full-sized spare tires in favor of a 24/7 roadside assistance program and can of Fix-a-Flat.

V8Power: Honda went to great lengths to make the ride quiet including sound reducing glass & wheels with Honda developed noise reducing resonators.

InsideEVs says: It is very quiet inside the Clarity, especially so when operating on battery power alone. You can hear the whine of the transmission, but otherwise it’s luxury car quiet inside.

dstrauss: You can just get in and drive it. In fact, the ONLY decision you should make is whether you want to conserve battery for end point driving on long distance trips (in other words, switch to HV drive mode and save the battery), or burn down the battery and increase the effective mpg for the entire trip. I’m firmly in the “former” camp.

InsideEVs says: What dstrauss is talking about is the strategy of saving your EV-only miles for the end of a long trip. For instance, if you’re driving a few towns over for some all-day errands, you may want to select the HV drive mode while you’re on the highway, which keeps the engine running to maintain the battery pack’s charge. Then, when you exit the highway, you have your full 50 miles of electric range to drive around in city traffic where it’s most efficient to do so.

Carro con enchufe: I would like to point out that many reviews complain about the “small” size of the gas tank. I take issue with this for the following:

1. If you use the car as a commuter vehicle, you’ll likely go thousands of miles between fill ups. Why carry around extra fuel?
2. For long trips, you’ll get about 250-300 miles per tank. So you may have to stop every 3-4 hours to refuel. You may wish to research how many humans can hold their pee longer than that. I certainly can’t.
3. Most people getting the clarity are into electric cars. Even if you’re on a road trip and have to stop every 250-300 miles, that is exactly the same range as most Tesla’s, more than the Bolt, and definitely more than the new Leaf. So it’s hypocritical to praise those cars yet criticize the Clarity for lack of range.
4. Most BEV owners I know also have a backup ICE car in their garage for long trips. The Clarity is the complete package. You don’t need a backup car for trips, because of the gas backup engine. It’s now replaced my wife’s SUV as it’s more comfortable and fuel efficient on long trips. I mean… that trunk fits a ton of stuff!

InsideEVs says: Fueleconomy.gov lists the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid as having a total range of 340 miles and an electric-only range of 48 miles. As we’ve already mentioned, it can easily exceed its official electric-only range. And 340 miles, gives or take a few, does not strike us as exceedingly short for a new car’s total range, regardless of whether it’s a gas-powered car or includes electrification.

dstrauss: They really need to make the next model a hatchback. I can’t begin to explain how good of a cargo hauler my little Prius Gen 3 was compared to my Clarity by being able to drop the seats and lift the hatch.

InsideEVs says: Many fuel-efficient vehicles are hatchbacks to begin with, not just because it’s a supremely practical shape, but also because it lends itself well to being aerodynamic. We’re not sure why Honda made the Clarity a traditional sedan, but we’d welcome a switchover to being a hatchback like dstrauss suggests.

DaleL: I have read several reviews and people’s comments on this forum as to how noisy the engine is in HV mode. In particular, Consumers Reports’ review states: “…its loud gas engine….” and “…the four cylinder engine awakens with a ruckus that’s strikingly loud.” I now have over 4,000 miles on my Clarity Touring and I find the engine to be so quiet that it is almost impossible to tell when the car’s engine is on.

InsideEVs says: We agree with DaleL. In most situations when the gas engine comes on, it’s not that loud at all. In fact, it’s more felt than heard. It’s loudest when you’re driving on the highway with HV charge mode engaged, and that’s because the gas engine is both contributing motive force to keep the car going as well putting energy back into the battery pack. That said, it’s not a mode you’ll use every time you’re on the highway, and the engine’s volume isn’t so loud that it would discourage us from using this mode.

jorgie393: Most here are baffled that it is not sweeping the market, based on its luxury feel at a low price (esp. if you can take advantage of the tax credits), and we blame poor visibility/knowledge. Many of us were looking around at other cars, tried the Clarity as a long shot/by chance, and instantly jumped on it.

InsideEVs says: This just goes to show that you should test drive all cars you find interesting before you buy one. You never know which dark horse candidate might surprise you.


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55 Comments on "What Honda Clarity Owners Want You To Know About Their Car"

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“Be aware that although your vehicle may be decelerating rapidly, your brake lights will not be illuminated. This may startle or confuse a driver following you, especially if they are following closely.”

We were considering a Clarity hybrid, Volt and the i3 REx…Clarity hybrid wasn’t available in my area yet…decided on getting a second i3 vs the Volt in the end…kinda glad the Clarity wasn’t available for a test drive back then – we probably wouldn’t have checked if the brake lights came on during regen while test driving.

The always available heavy regen (enough to stop the car) was one of the deciding factors to go with the i3 REx over the Volt ….however in our driving area we need to have the brake lights come on, some really overly aggressive drivers in the area that rely on those lights to slow down….

The regen in the Clarity PHEV using the paddles is very weak, weaker than Gen 1 Volt in L that also did not illuminate brake lights. If the braking exceeds a G threshold the lights should illuminate, but don’t think you could hit that unless at high speeds. It isn’t an issue for the car.

The Clarity PHEV blends regen with friction brakes when you step on pedal, so regen is very strong with light brake pedal press, you just don’t notice it is regen as they blend it so smoothly. Just use the brake pedal for regen and you won’t have to worry about it.

I have both i3 Rex and Clarity and they are both great cars. The Clarity is much better for highway getting better MPG than the i3 Rex at pretty much any speed, and i3 is more nimble around town. The Clarity is a much better family vehicle, i3 a great commuter vehicle.

Thanks for your additional thoughts on the Clarity – From the reviews it seems the Clarity beats out the Volt in every category except running EV only when hitting the accelerator hard….

I wonder if the regen on the Clarity hybrid is about the same as the gen 1 insight? (what got me interested in practicing efficient driving/mild hypermiling) – the one redeeming factor of the lighter regen with no brake lights – was that it was easy to bleed off speed without attracting attention when approaching/going through speed traps.

Yes…the i3 is really a commuter, but a really fun to drive commuter that doesn’t have interior materials that feel like they were skimped on. After coding it, it does well enough on our short 200 mile trips…Hopefully Honda puts its Clarity Hybrid drive train into the Odyssey in the near future with a stronger electric motor and bigger battery – that’ll be the vehicle we would want to eventually transition to, when the kids get too big for the i3’s rear seats/having to haul more of their stuff/etc…

> From the reviews it seems the Clarity beats out the Volt in every category except running EV only when hitting the accelerator hard….

That’s basically the gist of it. The only other quibble from some people is the exterior design.

I’ve test driven the Clarity and own a 2017 Gen2 Volt. I would only consider a Clarity if I wanted more interior room. The Volt is not comfortable for 2 adults in the back seat on anything but short trips, but the trunk has more usable space in most cases. The volume calculation favors the Clarity, but it has a small pass-through opening into the back seat that limits anything but narrow objects like golf clubs. And the Volt’s hatchback design provides easier access and space for taller objects. The Clarity is a fine car and is quite similar in design to the Volt, but the Volt has the technology advantage with the following. Much better paddle-activated regeneration enabling almost one-pedal driving (brakes needed for a complete stop from 2 mph), side blind-spot monitoring and warning both sides, auto parking assist, tire pressure monitoring of individual wheels, heated steering wheel, and an unsurpassed by any PHEV information display, particularly for driving efficiency feedback. On the other side, the Clarity has better lane maintenance technology and has Home link. The 2019 Volt adds memory power seat and faster charging. Considering performance, published road tests show the Volt has quicker acceleration (thanks… Read more »

Volt has heavy regen. Use the L mode and the paddles will easily be one of the strongest regen on the market.

Thanks for the great summary John and mixing in your own comments. I am incredibly pleased with our Clarity and we should have 20,000 miles in a few weeks. I can’t believe how low the operating costs are on it, and besides the occasional drone from the engine if it revs high or the questionable entertainment system I really love the car. I use Android Auto (both it Apple Car Play and Android Auto are included for no cost) anyway, so don’t really care so much, it does the job. It is the first EV, well PHEV, that is luxurious and affordable and has no range anxiety but still mostly EV for day to day driving. I have cut around 900 gallons of gas in 9 months vs my minivan.

No electric-only mode? That’s a disappointment 🙁

Unless you floor the accelerator the engine never comes on around town or even on a flat highway. 90% of my driving is all EV, the other 10% is on the highway. Even the Volt has to switch to HV after 30-40 miles on the highway.

If, does it come back automatically to our EV mode once the acceleration is finished?

“Unless you floor the accelerator the engine never comes on”

But I’m constantly flooring it so that would become annoying very quickly. They should have just given it a more powerful motor and left the ICE out of the equation. Or at the very least simply given us the option to run in EV only mode even if it means reduced acceleration. That is simply a matter of programming. There is absolutely no excuse for the lack of this feature.

If you feel the need to constantly floor it, you’re free to purchase a different vehicle. I rarely feel the need to floor it, yet I find the pick up of the electric motor more than sufficient for everything from merging to passing. 4800 miles in and 35 gallons of gas later, I love the Clarity.

Even the lame Ford Energis have an all-electric mode. Though even that will not prevent the ICE from coming on 100% of the time.

“But I’m constantly flooring it”

Perhaps you need to do the old-school EV trick of adjusting the nut behind the wheel.

The car has an engine, it really doesn’t need an EV only mode. Although it can run almost entirely EV in Econ mode if you don’t push past the pedal stop or “detent” (a place that feels like you have pushed the pedal all the way but you haven’t really). It also seems to start the engine sometimes on downhill slopes if fully charged.

It’s not a hatchback because it started out as a fuel cell car, from what I understand, the design is set up to allow space for the hydrogen tanks.

That has nothing to do with it! It’s the body work and design.

Not at all. Sedans and hatchbacks can (and often do) have the same footprint. The sedan just has less interior volume and worse aerodynamics. Mostly because we are dumb and have decided sedans>hatchbacks. Similar to our dumb decision to value SUVs over minivans.

Everything about the Clarity is great except for its “full power mode” where it can’t stay in EV mode and its quirky trunk see thru and its questionable styling.

If you can get over those 3 things, it is a great car. (The questionable center console shifter button configuration is a generic Honda problem, not unique to Clarity).

and the fact that it’s FUGLY!

I’ve never really understood people’s hate for “ugly” cars – unless your career revolves around you projecting a certain image – who cares? You don’t drive your car from a third person perspective – how much time do you spend looking at the outside of your car vs the inside/interior…

Same thing applies to clothes for example — yet almost everyone prefers wearing clothes they consider good-looking…

I wonder how many of the Honda Clarity PHEV’s would be sold, if the form factor was a CRV body type (compact crossover PHEV) and still with 50+ mile EV range?

And, not copying a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV AWD body style, and its 33 mile-“ish” EV only range.

I wonder which manufacturer will put this type of compact crossover 50+ mi. PHEV vehicle, into the market first?

Probably the only plug-in that can actually pencil out as a (U.S.) value purchase. (vs a comparable ICE vehicle)

At every trim level, the Pacifica Hybrid is less expensive than the equivalent ICE trim. This does require consideration of the federal tax credit, but does not require consideration of other incentives or differences in fuel cost.

Sound system sucks on the Clarity. Everything else checks the marks. It is a subdued drive though. Very low cost to own. 8 months in mine already now.

What do you think the mpg is at 70 mph?

I get over 40 mpg at 70 mph (like 44 mpg, but varies on hill etc). I drove a 2000 mile trip and got between 40 and 43 mpg or so and speeds were 75-83 mph. This was real MPG based on filling the tank, not the trip computer that was estimating about 10% higher than that. Worst I have done on the highway is 36 mpg or so.

Ok thanks. That’s pretty good (better than I expected) for those speeds.

Hi, my Prius plugin gets 63 mpg over 1200 miles range!

With 0-60 taking a little less than a year.

That’s great! I’m going to be trying to learn how to drive in the 65mph range and still get good mpg from the Clarity

My 2016 Honda Civic coupe (automatic trans) can get 56 mpg if I keep it under 70 mph on flat freeway.

Its combined mpg for the entire time I’ve driven it since I bought it new is 40 mpg.

But what was the cost of the electricity you used?

Honda could have designed a better looking car.
Just say’en…

The look us on to me but I want it in hatchback form! Better yet, make it into Odyssey like Pacifica hybrid, double the battery pack size!

I’m sure the drivetrain will eventually make it to their other cars….just look at the first gen insight…that IMA Hybrid drivetrain within a generation made it over to the Civic and Accord….

On the other hand, I never really understood people’s hate for “ugly” cars – unless your career revolves around you projecting a certain image – who cares? You don’t drive your car from a third person perspective – how much time do you spend looking at the outside of your car vs the inside/interior…

Yeah, I don’t think it’s so bad, though. Better than people say about the Prius. The color selection is a little funny, maybe. It feels like Honda is being cagey with this market, making sure they don’t offend Big Oil with too big a play. So they cars have to be a little ugly and a little less than perfect. But I’ll take what they’re offering, to give my voice to the market.

I’m a current owner of a Gen2 Volt after leasing a Gen1. The Clarity PHEV is the only PHEV to come out that gives me the slightest tinge of envy. It’s a great car and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who needs more backseat room than a Volt can offer. (The Fusion Energi was the previous option here, but the EV range on that car is pretty tiny and the trunk is an absolute joke.)

I was considering Clarity in Canada and I really felt that it was a great vehicle (I have only done test drives). The one thing which really pushed me out of Clarity was that they replaced (with no option) the memory power seats to manual. That was a dumb decision by Honda to save costs as they had to put electrical heating to battery. While I understand that, I couldn’t understand as to why there was no option to go for power seats.
This might be particular to Honda Canada, I don’t trust them to do a good service on my vehicle (I have complained many a time to Honda Canada with no respite), so I take my Honda Odyssey to Toyota service center as they do a better job

> InsideEVs says: Many fuel-efficient vehicles are hatchbacks to begin with, not just because it’s a supremely practical shape, but also because it lends itself well to being aerodynamic. We’re not sure why Honda made the Clarity a traditional sedan, but we’d welcome a switchover to being a hatchback like dstrauss suggests.

Better yet, they should just not make the same mistake that GM has and immediately stuff the PHEV powertrain into the CR-V or maybe even the Pilot.

I like the Clarity, but 4 levels of regen are a joke, since its most aggressive is wussy. If I ever purchased it, I’d have to learn to do 4 taps of the paddle in a split second. Supposedly ‘Sport’ Mode will keep it the way you’ve set it, but I’m not sure how much the engine will run in sport mode which rather defeats the purpose as I want good regen in battery-only mode.

Only true negative from otherwise a very nice car. Too bad its such a big negative.

I drive in Sport mode with full regen all the time and very rarely have the ICE come on.

Agreed. Aggressive driving will make the car react as such.

Clarity EVs are lease only in CA. Any speculation what Honda will do with them when as the leases expire?

We like our Clarity PHEV so far. I’d like to talk about all the great things, but figure it might be useful to share some annoyances. Here are a few: * The GPS won’t let you make changes from the passenger seat (safety feature). This is super frustrating because the airbags have a weight sensor to know you’re sitting in the passenger seat. Use this data point to allow access to the not-while-driving areas of the computer. Agh. Makes me want to downgrade to the base model. Super disappointing since we came from a Garmin aftermarket GPS which can’t be so police-y on us. * I knew there wasn’t a physical volume button (except on the steering wheel). I’m used to being able to mute or pause with a single click, but because GPS and Audio share the same screen, you always have to perform several steps. Will take some getting used to. * The cup holders in the middle of the back seat are too small for Camelback water bottles (kids). I thought we were done having too-small cup holders in late model vehicles. This one was a real bummer, too. But the holders on the doors are big… Read more »

After 6 months, I’m only getting about 37 miles on the electric charge. Two months ago, I was getting about 47 miles/charge. I suspect that it may be due to the colder winter temperatures (I live in Atlanta).

DO NOT BUY A CLARITY, you will be sorry!! I was unfortunate to get one that has a multitude of electronic problems + the extreme High revs issue with sudden loss of speed (do some research and you will see that quite a lot of people have that problem) and Honda doesn’t do anything at all. I have been fighting with Honda for 6 months and after the latest 4 recalls, my car is still the same POS. I am going nowhere with the dealer and Honda, went to arbitration, Honda found excuses instead of helping and even lied, I am so disappointed that I will never buy a Honda anymore! I should have spent a couple grand more and purchase a Tesla. The 47 miles range is more like 35 unless you drive 40 mph and yes, the sound system is a joke.

It’s warmed up a bit and I am getting over 50 miles on a charge without using the heating unit. My previous car, the Nissan Leaf, modified the heating system and was able to reduce the mileage penalty for using the heater.

It got me when you said that this kind of Honda car is not just energy-efficient, but they are also a good choice due to being aerodynamic. I guess I will be choosing this for my first car since I need a vehicle that will not cost that much in the long run. I am a minimum wage earner, and I have been saving up for this for three years now. So I need to pick a car that I can take care of for a long period of time since I can’t keep it if it is expensive to maintain.

I love my Clarity! The one thing, though, that has disappointed me is that after about 6 months (2500 miles) the maximum battery range has dropped to 36 miles, vs. the initial 50+. At purchase, the dealer told me to plug it in even after short trips. Now, after my repeated complaints, they suggest I drain the battery before recharging. It might regain its maximum battery potential. We will see.

all electrique vehicule lost range in cold weather even tesla.

Our 2016 Honda Civic EX-L coupe 1.5 liter turbo (automatic CVT) can get 56 mpg if we keep it under 70 mph on flat freeway. Its combined mpg for the entire time we’ve driven it (50,000 miles) since we bought it new is 40 mpg. I love its looks (except for the back end) and the way it drives. It’s got great acceleration, braking, very smooth shifting, etc. The one huge issue is its very bumpy ride. The greater Los Angeles area is full of potholed streets, and even the freeways have lots of uneven pavement. My husband is OK, but my neck has taken a beating. When I drive over expansion joints on the freeway, I feel as though I’m vaulted vertically into the air. So we’re going to sell (we paid in full) and look for a high mpg replacement with a smooth ride. So we zeroed in on the Clarity. I test drove one today and the brakes felt as though they weren’t working properly. They were spongy, and depressing the pedal seemed to have no slowing effect on the vehicle. Does anyone have more data on this? Another concern was the seat. The lumbar portion seemed… Read more »

“The easiest solution, though, is to lease one, because the tax incentives are all applied up front.” From what I’ve been able to gather this is not the case in many states: I’ve asked about it in PA, AL, TN, MS, and LA and was told by Honda dealers that they had no record of this being an option when leasing. I’ve heard the same from people in other states, as well.