Electric/Hybrid Car Best Buy of 2018
As easy to drive and live with as an Accord, Honda's all-new plug-in hybrid packs stellar efficiency, features and value.
The Honda Clarity isn't just an all-new car -- it's a whole new lineup of efficient vehicles. All three models in the Clarity range have a similar sedan shape, but each is powered in its own way. The first model to hit the market was also the most limited -- a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell available for lease in California only. That was followed by an all-electric version for lease in California and Oregon. But it's the third variant -- the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid -- that is a new benchmark among "green" cars, and this year’s Best Buy Award winner among Electric/Hybrid vehicles.
In addition to being available nationwide for purchase or lease, Honda's new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is the easiest to live with and operate on a day-to-day basis. In addition to its electric motor and rechargeable battery that grants a segment-leading 47 miles of all-electric driving, the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has a 4-cylinder gasoline engine under the hood that acts as a generator and can directly power the wheels when need be. Because of this you never have to worry about the "range anxiety" that can come with all-electric vehicles or the requirement to live or work near a hydrogen fueling station.
Drives Like a Normal Car
One of the best things about Honda's latest ultra-efficient vehicle is that you soon forget you're driving an ultra-efficient vehicle. The powertrain's transitions between electric motor and gasoline engine are seamless, and its dynamics are laudable. Acceleration is respectable, and the Clarity is even a little fun in corners despite its high-efficiency tires. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were driving an Accord.
One of our editors summed it up like this: "What appeals to me about this car is how normal it is to drive. Once you get past the odd styling (which seems to be a requirement in this category), you start up the Clarity and drive. That’s really it. There’s no drama -- acceleration is good, the ride is comfortable, and there are features like CarPlay and seat heaters. The brakes feel wonderfully normal -- none of the weirdness still found in many hybrid vehicles."
Easy to Live With
While all-electric cars make a good case of pointing to what many see as the future of vehicles, the fact is that most just don't have the range of a comparable gasoline-powered car, and none can be recharged as quickly as a fill-up for a traditional gasoline car. And while electric cars can be charged at home, gasoline cars can be filled at any corner gas station.
The beauty of plug-in hybrids such as the Clarity is that they offer the best of both worlds by combining all-electric capability with traditional gasoline advantages. You can drive cross-country or to another state on a moment's notice in the Clarity PHEV. This Honda will be its most efficient when its battery is charged, but it can run just fine using its gasoline engine -- like a traditional vehicle.
You also won't make sacrifices in overall comfort and livability. One key differentiator between the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid and last year's winner in this category, the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in, is that the Honda has room for five passengers, where the Toyota is limited to four. Another is that the Honda comes ready to play with Apple iPhones and Android devices thanks to built-in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Then there's the value proposition of the all-new Clarity plug-in, and it's a strong one. The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid starts at $34,290 (including destination) for the standard model and $37,490 for the Touring trim. At those prices it's in line with today's average new-car transaction price. But each is eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, which effectively reduces the starting price to $26,790. Additional incentives such as state rebates can save even more money. In California, for example, there's up to an additional $1,500 on the table.
Finally, there's the predicted resale value. Where all-electric vehicles have traditionally performed poorly in this aspect, plug-in hybrids tend to buck that trend, and we predict the Clarity PHEV will hold its value well relative to other alternative-fuel vehicles.
It all adds up to a vehicle that's mindful of both budgets and the environment, all while being satisfying to own and easy to drive.
Video Tour: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
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