MSRP
$33,400
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2019 Honda Clarity Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.2

Whether using its hybrid, all-electric, or fuel cell powertrain, the 2019 Honda Clarity has a smooth ride and fantastic fuel economy estimates. However, compared to nonhybrid rivals, its highway acceleration and handling are underwhelming.

  • "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 (2018)
  • 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 (2018)
  • "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 (2018)

Acceleration and Power

The powertrain in the plug-in hybrid Clarity is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor. It makes 212 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (e-CVT) comes standard.

As is common with plug-in hybrids, the Clarity is well-suited for city driving, but highway passing requires you to really floor the gas pedal. The gas-electric power transition is usually smooth, though it can get noisy when stepping on the gas. According to the EPA, the 2019 Clarity has an all-electric range of 47 miles. It also achieves 110 MPGe combined on electric and gas propulsion and a still good 42 mpg combined on gas alone.

  • In terms of driving experience, each of the three Clarity versions feels similar when accelerating, exhibiting the ultra-smooth and torque-rich thrust of an electric motor. The only difference is where that electricity comes from. When the Plug-in's gasoline engine does come on, it stays mostly in the background unless you really gun the accelerator, and although you do notice an increase in vibration and noise, it's far from objectionable. The Fuel Cell's hydrogen fuel cell is largely undetectable, lacking the whirring and whizzing of the Mirai's." -- Autotrader
  • 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 (2018)
  • "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 (2018)

Alternative Fuels and Charging

The Clarity Electric is only available for lease and only in California and Oregon. It uses an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery to produce 161 horsepower, and it's paired with a single-speed transmission. Honda claims that the Clarity Electric has 89 miles of all-electric range and a rating of 126 MPGe in the city and 103 MPGe on the highway. The battery can be recharged in 3.5 hours with a 240-volt outlet or 19 hours with a 120-volt outlet. DC fast charging is standard, which lets you recharge up to 80 percent of the battery in 30 minutes at a fast charging station.

The Clarity Fuel Cell is only available in California. It has the same transmission, lithium-ion battery, and electric motor, but it adds a hydrogen fuel cell stack that boosts the horsepower rating to 174. It is estimated to have a combined 68 MPGe.

Handling and Braking

The Clarity has a smooth, comfortable ride, and its regenerative braking system feels natural and operates smoothly. This Honda is not going to win any awards for athleticism though. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is not available.

  • 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 (2018)
  • 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 (2018)
  • "Braking … 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 (2018)
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2019 Honda Clarity

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