WHAT IT IS: The Clarity is Honda’s green-focused line of mid-size cars. There are three main versions: a pure electric, a plug-in hybrid and a fuel cell-powered version. I’ve only driven the plug-in hybrid version, but that is what almost all consumers would choose.
First, what is a plug-in hybrid? It’s a car that has both an electric motor and a gas engine. The Clarity has enough battery capacity to drive up to 47 miles without having to use the gasoline engine at all. When you come home at night, you plug the car into an electrical outlet and as long as you never drive more than 47 miles in a day, you’ll never use a drop of gasoline. However, beach trips, runs to Pearland for Killen’s Barbecue, visiting grandma in San Antonio, etc. all happen in life. The Clarity’s small 1.5-liter gas engine combined with the minuscule 7-gallon gas tank will happily add another 293 miles of range, giving you the best of both worlds.
The size of the Clarity is roughly the same size as an Accord. It certainly appears more sophisticated than the Civic. Honda’s suite of safety features called Honda Sensing is standard, which includes Lane-Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Road Departure-Mitigation System, and automatic emergency braking. You also get LED highlights and an 8-inch infotainment screen. An additional $3,200 upgrades you to the Touring trim which adds leather seats, navigation, power-adjusted front seats and remote climate pre-conditioning.
The Clarity feels quick with a 180-horsepower electric motor. When running on gasoline, the engine only powers the electric motor, so the driving experience is the same either way. It doesn’t provide the utility of a hulking three-row SUV, but the Clarity is surprisingly comfortable and roomy with a decent-sized trunk.
MPG: 114MPGe under electricity. 42 combined/44 city/40 highway under gasoline.
PRICE: $33,400 base price.
UPSIDES: Great mileage. More sustainable.
DOWNSIDES: Small maximum range.
WRAP-UP: The Clarity is good, maybe even great, but it’s not spectacular. For casual buyers that are indifferent to wanting an electric car, there’s not a great reason to buy a Clarity. With a $7,500 federal tax rebate available, the $10,000 or more price difference above an Accord, shrinks considerably. There is still a question of large-term battery maintenance, but Honda has a decent track record on battery longevity. If you want to dip your feet into the pool of electric cars, then a plug-in hybrid is a great idea and the Clarity is a great choice.