2018 Honda Clarity Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 Honda Clarity was new.


Performance: 7.9

Whether it’s powered by a hybrid, all-electric, or fuel cell powertrain, the 2018 Honda Clarity offers a smooth driving experience and excellent fuel economy. Compared with other plug-in hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles, the Clarity touts quick charge times, a good range, and high mpg-e estimates. However, the Clarity trails its nonhybrid rivals when it comes to highway passing power and handling ability.

  • "The Clarity's propulsion systems are certainly advanced, but the beauty of this Honda is that it's so easy to drive. Whether it's running on hydrogen, electricity or a powertrain that has both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, the experience is seamless." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • Really mashing the accelerator, even in full electric mode, fires up the engine to maximize the Clarity PHEV's power output, also increasing the noise. When I floored it to pass another car, I was underwhelmed by the acceleration." -- CNET
  • "On the road, the whole thing is surprisingly quiet. Not just in EV mode, which you would expect, but when the internal combustion engine kicks in – a transition you often can't hear." -- Autoweek

Acceleration and Power

The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid comes with a four-cylinder engine, an electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery. Power output is a combined 212 horsepower, which is enough for decently perky acceleration. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) comes standard.

Like many plug-in hybrids, the Clarity’s has good low-end power, but highway passing and merging requires a heavy foot and some forethought. Transitions between gas and electric power are smooth, and noise is kept at bay in calmer driving. Still, the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid can get noisy when flooring the gas pedal or after you run out of electric power while climbing a steep grade.

The plug-in hybrid Clarity has a 47-mile electric-only range, achieving 110 mpg-e (for more info, read What Is MPGe?). After the gas engine kicks in, expect 42 mpg combined city/highway. A full charge takes 2.5 hours with a 240-volt charger or 12 hours with a 120-volt household power outlet. All of those numbers are good for a plug-in hybrid.

  • With a zero-to-60 time of just under 9 seconds, the Clarity Plug-In is actually peppy for a mainstream electric vehicle, but far slower than a typical mid-size sedan; you'll need to plan well-ahead for any overtaking or freeway merging maneuvers. Things get even worse when the Clarity's on-board battery runs out of juice …" -- Left Lane News
  • "Push the accelerator to the floor and you can hear the engine, true, but in many more mundane driving conditions you can't, unless you really listen closely." -- Autoweek
  • "Giveaways that you're not [driving a Honda Accord sedan] is often in what you don't experience, namely noise. The Clarity Fuel Cell and Clarity all-electric sedan glide along in near silence since there's no internal-combustion engine." -- Kelley Blue Book

Alternative Fuels and Charging

There are two models of the Clarity that are only available in California and Oregon. They are the Clarity Electric and Clarity Fuel Cell.

The Clarity Electric uses an electric motor, a lithium-ion battery, and a single-speed transmission. Power output is equivalent to 161 horsepower, which is less than the plug-in hybrid supplies. With a full charge, you’ll have 89 miles of range with the all-electric model. Charging times vary by method. A 240-volt charger will take 3.1 hours to supply a full charge. Fully charging the Clarity Electric takes 19 hours with a 120-volt household outlet. A DC fast charger gets you to an 80 percent charge in about 30 minutes. Compared to other electric cars, the Clarity Electric’s charge times and electric range are better than average. The all-electric Clarity gets 114 mpg-e combined city/highway.

The Clarity Fuel Cell has a hydrogen fuel cell stack, an electric motor, a lithium-ion battery, and a single-speed transmission. The system produces the equivalent of 174 horsepower, which is a little more than the Clarity Electric. The fuel cell Clarity returns 68 mpg-e combined, which is close to what you’ll get with the Toyota Mirai (another fuel cell vehicle).

Handling and Braking

While it’s not as agile as the Honda Accord, the Clarity is composed in everyday driving and has controlled body lean. It has a smooth ride that is almost in line with some luxury vehicles. Its regenerative braking system provides seamless transitions to the traditional friction brakes, unlike some hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. However, the Clarity can feel like it is losing grip if you take turns too aggressively.

  • On the road, the Clarity feels a lot like an overloaded Accord. Honda says the plug-in Clarity has a curb weight that tops 4000 pounds, which makes it between 600 and 900 pounds heavier than the company's family sedan. While the Clarity has a premium feel to its well-damped ride, the tidy handling of the new Accord is nowhere to be found …" -- Car and Driver
  • The Clarity handled well, too. Smoothness is the key here, and the car felt happy to rotate around corners, though there were instances when the tires strained for grip as we pushed it through tighter turns." -- Autoblog
  • "Braking, on the other hand, is surprisingly organic with a good blending of hydraulic and regenerative systems. Pedal feel is crisp and fairly linear without the two-step and unpredictable response that plagues some hybrids and electric cars." -- New York Daily News

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