New 2018 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Sedan New 2018
Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Sedan

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KBB Editor's Overview

By KBB.com Editorial Staff

The 2018 Honda Clarity isn’t just one car model, but the name for a trio of ultra-efficient sedans, each powered in a different way. Honda’s Clarity lineup launched last year with a hydrogen fuel-cell model only available for lease in California, then an all-electric model for lease to California and Oregon residents. The last variant to arrive is the Clarity with the broadest appeal – a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid that is sold or leased nationwide. Boasting one of the most efficient powertrains available, the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid was named the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award winner among electric and hybrid vehicles, bettering rivals such as the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Prime and Hyundai Ioniq.

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You'll Like This Car If...

If you’re looking for an ultra-efficient sedan that’s easy to drive, packs commendable value and features a slew of technology and safety features, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in is at the top of the pack. For a small niche of eco-conscious drivers, the Clarity Electric and Clarity Fuel Cell can also make sense.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Marks against the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid are few, but one of the biggest nits we’re aware of is its exterior design. Those rear-wheel skirts may help this Honda sedan’s efficiency, but they do no favors to its style. The Clarity Fuel Cell battles a limited hydrogen infrastructure issue, while the all-electric Clarity’s 89-mile range pales against the 238-mile range of the Chevrolet Bolt.

What's New for 2018

The Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is all-new for 2018, completing the lineup’s trio that started with the hydrogen fuel-cell and all-electric models. The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid features both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, making it the best choice for a majority of shoppers and the easiest to live with.

Driving It

Driving Impressions

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. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were in a Honda Accord sedan. Giveaways that you’re not 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. The Clarity Plug-in, the model most buyers will choose, grants up to 47 miles in all-electric driving before the gasoline engine switches on to act as a generator or power the wheels directly. Transition between the gasoline and electric powertrain is seamless. While none of these vehicles have the blazing acceleration of a Tesla, you needn’t fear being the slowest on the freeway. Acceleration is acceptable, and the Clarity’s dynamics are more than respectable for a car so focused on efficiency.

Favorite Features

PLUG-IN HYBRID
The beauty of this system is it offers the best of both worlds: the ability to drive on electricity alone, or via a gasoline engine like a traditional car. That means none of the “range anxiety” that can come with an all-electric car, nor the wait times required for recharging.

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.

Vehicle Details

Interior

One big trait that sets the Honda Clarity apart from rivals like the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in and Toyota Mirai fuel cell is seat count: All Clarity models have room for five passengers instead of the four in those rivals. We don’t suggest long trips with three passengers in back, but it’s possible when needed. The rest of the Clarity’s cabin is also quite practical yet futuristic, with excellent fit and finish. Instead of a traditional gear lever, there are a series of buttons for Drive, Reverse, Neutral, etc., running in a spine down the center. Above is an 8-inch touch-screen display and infotainment system that is CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. The Clarity Plug-in and Clarity all-electric have sizable, 14.3-cubic-foot trunks, but the fuel-cell model’s is more limited at 11.8 cubic feet to accommodate the hydrogen tank housing.

Exterior

The 2018 Honda Clarity lineup of green vehicles 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. We 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 panels that drip beyond the top of the rear wheels.

Notable Standard Equipment

The new Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, the most widely available model in the lineup by far, comes in two main trims: standard and Touring. Even the standard trim brings a strong stable of features that includes 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and LaneWatch, which provides real-time video of the right-side blind spot. Like more and more new Honda cars, the Clarity comes with HondaSensing, a commendable suite of safety and driver-assistance features. It bundles lane-departure warning and lane-keeping systems, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. The limited Clarity Fuel Cell and Clarity Electric are mono-spec models that are also well-equipped with these features and more, including navigation and power driver’s seat.

Notable Optional Equipment

Stepping up to the Honda Clarity Plug-in Touring model adds navigation, power front seats (with 2-position memory for the driver’s seat), leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, and Ultrasuede interior. From there, options are mostly limited to dealer accessories.

Under the Hood

Though all electrified, each 2018 Honda Clarity sedan is powered in its own way. The Plug-in Hybrid model uses the combination of a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a battery-fed electric motor. The pair works seamlessly and intuitively. And while there are selectable drive modes -- Normal, Econ, Sport and HV to maintain the battery’s state of charge -- we think the simplest way to operate is just get in and drive. With a full charge and tank full of gasoline, the Clarity Plug-in has a range of 340 miles. The Clarity Electric is powered solely by an electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged in roughly three hours on a 240-volt line. Its range is rated at only 89 miles. 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. It also benefits from a longer range -- up to 366 miles.

Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
1.5-liter 4-cylinder + Electric motor
Total horsepower: 212 horsepower
Total torque: 331 lb-ft
EPA combined rating: 42 mpg, 110 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent, electric only)

Clarity Electric
120-kilowatt electric motor
161 horsepower
221 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway mpg equivalent: 126/103 MPGe

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
EPA city/highway mpg equivalent: 69/67 mpg

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Pricing Notes

The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $34,290 for the standard model and $37,490 for the Touring trim. The Clarity Plug-in is eligible for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit, plus other local and state incentives. The Honda Clarity Electric is available in California and Oregon for lease only. The terms are $269 a month (plus tax) for three years with $1,730 plus first month’s lease due at signing. The mileage is capped at 20,000 a year. Lessees of this zero-emissions Honda also qualify for a $2,500 state rebate. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is only available in select regions of California, and is for lease only. 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. Included is $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. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price for the latest in pricing information. As the Clarity lineup is all-new, and the Plug-in is the only one you can buy, our number crunchers have yet to predict its residual value. Traditionally, though, plug-in hybrids have fared far better than all-electric vehicles.

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