2019 Honda Clarity Plug-In Touring by Ben Lewis

If you love Honda, and want a full-on EV, there’s some bad news. You can’t get one. Honda has decided to discontinue the 100% Honda Clarity Electric. If you really want to be on the edge, there’s still the Hydrogen-powered model Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, but it’s a California-only model, and you’re really limited for fueling stations.

But there’s good news, too. The Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid continues, and it’s one of our favorite PHEV’s as they’re known. In fact, you might love it, even if you have no interest in hybrids or EV’s at all!

Honda Clarity Design – Future-lux

It’s interesting that the Clarity came out about the same time as the all-new Accord, two years ago. The Accord is a pretty car, loaded with European style. But there are a lot of them, and people have gotten used to seeing them. Still good looking, though.  The Clarity is different. Different from the Accord, different from other sensible plug-in hybrids, different from the Honda fold.

We love the futuristic lines. Up front, it looks sleek and simple, with a tasteful chrome bar spanning the width, with wary LED eyes peering underneath. The profile has presence, too – this looks like a large hatchback shape (it’s actually a sedan), turbine-style 18-inch alloy wheels, and signature ¾ cut rear wheel wells would look entirely at home prowling the city at night in a Blade Runner or Christopher Nolan movie.

There’s more unique at the rear, with a small split rear window that pays homage to the second-gen CRX, or the Lamborghini Espada depending on your tastes. Either way, it’s more cool than ultra-functional, but we love it. We especially loved our tester’s Crystal Black Pearl paint, which just made our Honda look a little ominous and elegant at the same time.

And it doesn’t just look high-tech, it is, with weight-saving aluminum on the hood, front fenders, doors, trunk lid and rear parcel shelf.

Honda Clarity Interior – Eco Space-ship!

Big on the outside means big on the inside here. Five sit comfortably, and tester stepped up in the luxury department being a Touring model, with goodies like soft perforated leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. And even though the wood trim is faux, we really like the matte finish. It looks elegant and faintly Volvo-like.

You know you’re in a Honda though – the controls are a familiar and well laid out. The large LCD digital display is crisp and clear, and the 8-inch touch screen has a friendly tablet layout that’s easy to use. On our Touring it gives access to Navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Pandora, Sirius XM, and a sweet sounding 180-watt, 8-speaker audio system. It hasn’t caught up with current Honda design in that it lacks a volume knob, though.  We ended up thumbing the remote on the steering wheel, but maybe next time?

One nice party trick the Clarity Touring does have – thanks to the ability to run in pure EV mode – is a remote climate pre-conditioning system lets you use your smartphone to preset the temp before you get in. Never get in a hot or freezing car again!

Honda Clarity Performance – Smooooooooth operator

The drive is special, too. First of all, it’s got one of the best all-electric ranges of any plug-in hybrid – up to 47 miles. That’s a game changer, compared to most others that can barely make 30 miles or less. The EV mode works at all speeds, so you can even enjoy whisper-quiet cruising on the freeway.

Around town it feels potent, too, with 181 hp and 232 lb.-ft of torque coming from the electric side alone, off-the-line acceleration pushes you in the back, and the smoothness and silence makes it seem even quicker. We stayed in Sport mode most of the time, just to enjoy the rush of power. We easily got a full-charge at our office in 2.5 hours with its 240-volt charger. If you charge at home, you’ll probably need overnight.

If you drive like George Jetson – and this car does make you do that – you probably won’t make it to the full 47 miles of range, but we didn’t mind. Once you’re out of battery power, the Clarity works like a traditional hybrid, shuffling gas and EV power, and does an excellent job being smooth and efficient. In fact, in gas-only mode, the Clarity is rated at 42 mpg combined, which is pretty phenomenal for something so large and luxurious!

If you’re more of an EV fan, there’s an HV button you can use to sustain the battery’s charge – and you can actually get it to recharge up to about 58 percent while driving. The paddle shifters even let you choose one of four regenerative braking profiles, so you can add back some charge while braking or cruising along.

And the Clarity is a big cruiser. You don’t feel the desire to toss it around a curvy road, although it does hunker down well in the turns, it feels happiest gliding along serenely, barely sipping away at energy. The future is cushy.

The future must include safety, of course, so the Clarity features Honda Sensing, with standard Forward Collision warning and Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Departure Warning, and Adaptive Cruise Control. It also has the very cool Honda Lane Watch, that shows a camera image of the right hand side of the Clarity when you activate the right turn signal – great for merging and passing.

A Clear Value

Pricing for the Clarity PHEV is pretty simple now. The plug-in hybrid comes in two models – the standard Plug-in Hybrid starts at $33,400 and is luxuriously equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ integration, pushbutton smart and keyless entry, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and the Honda Sensing® suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies.

Stepping up to the Touring model will cost you $36,600, but it adds a lot of goodies, including perforated leather seats, navigation with charging infrastructure information, an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 2-position memory, and Ultrasuede interior trim.

Tempted? Well, there’s more. The government still rewards you for plugging in, with a federal tax rebate of up to $7,500 and various state rebates, including $1,000 in California where it’s also eligible for single-occupant HOV access. (You’ll notice the carpool stickers on our test vehicle). That makes the Clarity a bargain in our book!

There have been a lot of new plug-in hybrids in the last couple of years, and we liked the Kia Niro Plug-in, the Kia Optima Plug In hybrid and the Prius Prime. But none of those have that luxury feel that the Clarity brings.

For that luxury goodness you’d have to step up to something like the BMW 330e – and at $49,100 that’s a significant step up. And worth noting, the Clarity is a unique Plug-in Hybrid vehicle, the competitors all have non plug-in models on the same model. So this Honda has a bit extra cache all its own.

The Clarity remains our favorite plug-in hybrid, with great looks, quality, performance, EV range and value. And it’s one of our favorite sedans too!