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  • 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Posted on April 6th, 2018 ninarussin

    Fuel-thrifty sedan is an appealing package

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    The Clarity family began with the Honda’s fuel cell sedan two years ago. The name now refers to a group of electrified vehicles that continues to include the fuel cell model as well as a pure electric vehicle.

    As the first manufacturer to offer a gasoline/electric hybrid for sale in the US, Honda now has two decades of experience under its belt. Although Toyota’s Prius remains the best-selling hybrid, Honda knows what American drivers want in terms of fuel economy, but also understands their needs for passenger comfort, cargo space, safety and infotainment features.

    The Clarity is longer than Toyota’s Prius Prime or the Ford Fusion Plug-In hybrids. While the Clarity can’t match the Prius’ fuel economy, there’s a lot to be said for its roomier interior and additional cargo space.

    Fuel economy for the Clarity Plug-In hybrid is 42 miles-per-gallon from the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, on top of which owners enjoy up to 47 miles-per-gallon in pure electric mode. The battery pack recharges in 2-1/2 hours using a 220-volt plug-in.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Engineers located the lithium-ion battery pack under the floor so as not to impinge on trunk space. Rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. The Clarity’s cargo bay is too small to be bicycle friendly, but is easily capable of carrying golf bags, luggage, groceries and the like.

    Pricing for the upscale Touring model starts at $36,600. Honda loads the Clarity up with standard convenience features including leather seats and steering wheel, 8-speaker audio system, HD and satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and USB interface, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats and more.

    Among the standard active safety features are adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and Honda LaneWatch: a technology unique to Honda that projects an image to the right of the car in the center screen when the driver signals. As a cyclist who shares the roads with drivers, I think it’s one of the most important active safety systems on the market.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Over the past week I put close to 250-miles on the Clarity, driving through Phoenix, Arizona’s city center, through sections of the Gila River Indian Community to the south, east valley cities and the far north valley including the town of Carefree. I found the Clarity a willing and appealing partner throughout.

    The engine and electric motor produce 181-horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque for plenty of power off-the-line as well as on the high end for passing slower vehicles at speed. Drivers can choose between normal, econ and sport modes. The sport mode offers more aggressive throttle mapping for a bit more pep. A fixed, single-speed transmission delivers power to the wheels in a linear manner, with none of the rubber band feel that some continuously-variable units suffer from.

    Electric power steering provides plenty of assist at low speeds with decent on-center response on the highway. While earlier hybrids suffered from poor steering response due to the use of undersized wheels (a fuel economy saving measure), the Clarity rides on 18-inch rims, giving the tires ample contact patches for high-speed performance.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Drivers should feel comfortable making emergency evasive maneuvers, if the need arises. The Clarity also has an excellent turning radius for its size: 38.4-feet. U-turns are easy to execute on wider suburban roads.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front and multi-link setup in the rear delivers a supple ride to both rows of occupants. The chassis stays nice and flat during cornering.

    Visibility around the perimeter is good. As with many hybrids, the sedan’s rear window is severely raked for enhanced aerodynamics. I didn’t find it difficult to see out of, nor did I notice any unusual blind spots. The standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back when the driver shifts into reverse.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Although the car didn’t have blind spot monitoring, I had no problems monitoring traffic in the left-hand lanes on the highway. The LaneWatch system eliminates any blind spots to the right of the vehicle.

    At night, standard LED headlamps deliver long, bright beams similar in color and intensity to daylight for excellent visibility.

    Interior quiet is good. There is some noise from the low rolling resistance tires, but nothing an owner couldn’t easily live with.

    Spacious interior

    It wasn’t that long ago that hybrid cars had Spartan interiors in-order-to reduce overall weight. Hybrid owners lived without power seat controls and heavy upholstery materials because they felt they had to.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    That is no longer the case. The Clarity’s interior offers similar convenience features to the Accord sedan including a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, push-button start and push-button shift controls. Fit and finish is, in the Honda tradition, excellent.

    The Clarity accommodates five occupants with plenty of leg, head and hip room along with an ample cargo bay. While the cargo area lacks the versatility of taller crossovers, the car is a practical choice for married couples and small families with modest cargo needs.

    Standard safety

    The Clarity Grand Touring model comes with seven airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, LED daytime running lamps, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist and Honda LaneWatch.

    Honda produces the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid at its Sayama, Saitama Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A spacious hybrid with a high level of standard convenience and safety features.

    Dislike: Pricing is significantly higher than the Prius Prime Advance- one of the Clarity’s chief competitors.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Honda
    Model: Clarity Plug-In Touring
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $36,600
    As tested: $37,490
    Horsepower (gasoline engine only): 103 HP @ 5500 rpm
    Torque (gasoline engine only): 99 lbs.-ft. @ 5000 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 44/40 mpg city/highway

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