2018 Honda Clarity PHEV First Drive: Plugging Into The Mainstream

– Calistoga, California

The Honda Clarity isn’t just one car, it’s three: a family of vehicles built on a shared battery-centric architecture, with hydrogen fuel cell, full-electric, and plug-in hybrid powertrains. But as far as I’m concerned, the only one worth your attention is the plug-in model tested here. The fuel cell car can only be leased from 12 dealers in California, and hydrogen as a fuel source still doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of people. The EV is available to lease in California and Oregon, and only has an electric range of 89 miles which, going into the year 2018, is kind of laughable. The plug-in, however, offers an alternative powertrain solution that’s usable for most people, most of the time, and it’s available at Honda dealers in all 50 states.

Relative to other plug-in hybrids, the Clarity has a unique position in the market. It’s larger than a Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius Prime, but has more than double the electric range of a similarly sized Ford Fusion Energi. It comes nicely equipped, with a truly premium-feeling cabin, and it’s affordable: $33,400 for the base car, and $37,490 for the top-level Touring. Assuming short-sighted U.S. Republicans don’t eliminate the country’s EV tax credit, that means a fully loaded Clarity Plug-In could only cost about $30,000. The smaller Chevy Volt will get you a few more miles of electric range, but comparably optioned, it’ll cost about $4,000 more.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive

The functional air curtains along the body side...