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2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

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2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Expert Review

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The 2017 Honda Clarity isn't one car, but actually three. This isn't some shapeshifter, but rather three distinct models that comprise the Clarity lineup. All are all electrified 5-passenger sedans, but each is powered differently. Launching the series is the Clarity Fuel Cell, a cutting-edge hydrogen car only available for lease. It boasts a range of 366 miles and can be fueled in about five minutes. But like the Toyota Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, the new Clarity is only available to select California residents. Still to come is the Clarity Electric, a battery-powered variant available in select states, and finally the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, which uses a supplementary gasoline engine and will be available nationwide. All bring striking efficiency and low- to no emissions in their own way.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you're looking for an alternative-fuel car that seats five and boasts Honda's high standards, there's likely a Clarity for you. Though very limited, the fuel-cell is an enticing lease offer, while the electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid will attract a wider range of eco-conscious drivers.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Due to a small (albeit growing) fueling infrastructure, only select California drivers can even consider the Clarity hydrogen car. The Clarity Electric will also be limited to certain states upon debut and faces a stiff rival in the Chevrolet Bolt. The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, meanwhile, has to compete with the established Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion Energi.

How It Ranks

#15

out of 16

Horsepower

#8

out of 16

MSRP
View all rankings
What's New for 2017

The 2017 Clarity is a brand new Honda sedan lineup. It consists of a hydrogen fuel cell, battery-powered electric vehicle, and gasoline/electric plug-in hybrid. The fuel cell takes the baton from the prior FCX Clarity, while the plug-in is the de facto replacement for the Accord plug-in hybrid (a regular Accord Hybrid remains).

Driving the Clarity Fuel Cell
Driving Impressions

While the premise is futuristic -- a car fueled by hydrogen gas -- the Clarity Fuel Cell drives and feels much like a standard electric vehicle. Ultimately, that's what it...

... is. But instead of the energy being stored in a rechargeable battery, it's made on-demand by via a chemical reaction of the hydrogen, with the only byproduct being water vapor and, ultimately, energy powering the front wheels. If not for the lack of engine noise and faint whine of the electrified powertrain and rubber on asphalt, you might think you're in an Accord. The Clarity Fuel Cell's 174 horsepower grants it more than acceptable acceleration, and there's even a Sport mode that livens throttle response. Compared to a Toyota Mirai, the new Clarity has a slightly firmer ride and is more fun-to-drive on winding roads, but that doesn't get in the way of its smooth and quiet highway manners.

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES
No matter which flavor of Clarity you go with, you'll get the Honda Sensing roster of safety and driver-assistance features that include lane-departure warning and lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control and Collision Mitigation Braking.

$15,000 IN FUEL, REBATE & HOV ACCESS
Every Clarity Fuel Cell sedan includes a fuel card good for up to $15,000 in fill-ups, which Honda estimates is plenty for the 3-year lease period. Other perks include the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project rebate of up to $5,000, and eligibility for a carpool sticker.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Details
2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell photo Interior

One big trait that sets the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell apart from the Toyota Mirai is its seat count: While the Mirai is limited to four passengers, the Clarity can seat five like a traditional sedan. Up front, the Clarity has an upscale feel. This is seen especially in the electronic gearshift, which is a series of push buttons. A central, vivid touch screen takes center stage in the dash, but thankfully functions such as climate control use traditional buttons and knobs. Befitting a car meant to be environmentally friendly, the Clarity uses green-minded materials. Note the fuel cell's trunk is more limited due to the size of the hydrogen tank housing.

Exterior
2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell photo

The new Clarity definitely has a futuristic element going for it. This sleek 4-door sedan is a bevy of angles, curves and unique aesthetics, some of which work better than others. Our eyes like the sloped roof that almost appears to float, while the rear reminds of the sleek, latest-gen Civic. Up front, it's hard to miss the massive boomerang-shaped light treatments. While it may bring better aerodynamics, we aren't fans of the body panel that drips beyond the top of the rear wheels. The limited-availability Fuel Cell is also limited in color choice. You can have any color you want, as long as it's white, black or red.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

As it is such a low-volume car being leased only in specific areas of California, the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is pretty much mono-spec. That said, it is a well-equipped sedan. Its roster includes perforated leather seating (heated and power-operated up front), dual-zone climate control, and an infotainment system that bundles a 540-watt/12-speaker audio system and 8-inch high-res touch screen with navigation that includes hydrogen refueling stations. Additionally, the system is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. The fuel-cell vehicle also boasts the Honda Sensing roster of safety equipment (see Favorite Features) and the LaneWatch right-side monitoring system. The Clarity Fuel Cell's 3-year lease also includes $15,000 worth of hydrogen fuel.

Optional Equipment

Beyond which color you want -- and there's only three -- options for Honda's hydrogen car are limited to accessories such as body side molding, decklid spoiler, splash guard, all-season floormats and cargo organizers. Backup sensors are also available to complement the standard rearview camera.

Under the Hood

Though all electrified, each 2017 Honda Clarity sedan is powered in its own way. The Clarity Fuel Cell uses hydrogen gas, and through a chemical reaction creates electricity on demand. It's a futuristic application, but ultimately feels familiar. Similar to filling a car with gasoline, you use a nozzle, fill the tank in three to five minutes, then go on your way. This is a big benefit of hydrogen vs. zero-emission electric vehicles: You don't have to wait hours for it to charge. Plus, with a range of up to 366 miles, it goes distances associated with traditional gasoline-powered cars. Details about the Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid are still to come, and we'll have them closer to their announcement.

Clarity Fuel Cell
Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell / AC Permanent-Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor
174 horsepower @ 4,501-9,028 rpm
221 lb-ft of torque @ 0-3,500 rpm
Driving range: 366 miles
EPA city/highway mpg equivalent: 69/67 mpg

Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.

The 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is only available in select regions of California where there is hydrogen-fueling infrastructure (currently just over two dozen stations are online), and is for lease only. Still, for those who qualify, it's a sweet deal. The terms are a 3-year lease at $369 per month (plus tax), with $2,499 down plus the first month's payment. Here's where it gets tempting: The lease includes $15,000 worth of fuel over the 3-year period, and the car is also eligible for a $5,000 rebate via the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. Factoring time-as-money, the Clarity also qualifies for single-occupant use of California's HOV (carpool) lanes. The Toyota Mirai costs a little less to lease -- $349 per month for 36 months -- with the same due at signing, and also includes $15,000 in fuel. Unlike the Clarity Fuel Cell, there's the option to buy the Mirai for just over $58,000. Pricing for the Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid are still to be announced.

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