Okay, Cold Start is late today because my kid missed the bus and I had to drive him to school and on the way I saw a car that you don’t encounter very often: a Honda Clarity. This looks like one of the 2017-2021 Clarities, the plug-in hybrid ones, and I think these may be one of the more honestly weird modern cars on the road today. They remind me of a modernized Citroën CX, with their skirted rear wheel and long-fastback design. I think in the future, bringing one of these to the Cars and Coffee in New Fresno on the Lunar Colony will be like rolling up in a Citroën DS now.
I think the reason the Clarity feels this way is that it was designed for one rational goal – aerodynamics, for energy efficiency – and everything else took a back seat to that. So the result is just a bit weird, but not because it was trying to be, it just ended up that way.
Everyone forgets about the Clarity. Ask people to name all the Hondas they can think of, and I suspect most wouldn’t even mention the Clarity at all. It feels ignored and forgotten, and I think that’s kind of a shame.
Anyway, everyone take a moment of Clarity.
I’m a 2018 Clarity owner, it’s quite a pleasant car to own. It’s quiet(double pane glass), comfortable, has a pretty big trunk and for the 45k miles I have put on it it’s been great. It is still after over 3 years of owning it’s kinda weird, like a French Accord if the French were Japanese. I originally leased it and because of Honda taking the tax credit it was a no brainer to buy for 15k at the end of the lease. Only downside is how the engine stays pegged @ high rpm on long steep hills it’s a little off putting since it really just sounds like a Honda generator going at full blast, but I just turn up the pretty decent stereo.
YES! The Clarity is a delightfully weird car. I love the spats. LOVE the spats. I just wish more of them came in real colors. I’ve only ever seen them in grey.
2018 Clarity owner here, bought it for 19k in June 2020 with 24,000 on the clock. I’ve got 53,000 miles on it now. It’s a game-changer, the perfect PHEV sweet spot of electric range (35 winter, 50+ summer, New England, even with non-LLR tires) coupled with enough gas range (270-300) to do road trips with no sweat. As Thevenin pointed out so nicely, the drivetrain is so well-engineered and fascinatingly weird.
DUDE – the rear window on the Clarity is the weirdest part. Or should I say, multiple (interior and exterior) rear windows? Here’s what Edmunds said:
“Below the sloping main rear window there’s another tiny vertical window between the passenger compartment and the trunk. And then there’s another smoked glass window that’s cleverly disguised as black paint beneath the trunklid’s spoiler. This weird arrangement lets you look through the trunk to see a little patch of road below the main bit that’s visible through the sloping main window.”But this intricate plan goes pear-shaped if you’ve got your trunk packed full of luggage, at which point you see luggage in the lower third of your rearview mirror. Or dirty laundry, if that’s what your trunk is full of. The possibilities are endless, especially for writers who tend toward gangster-movie scripts.” — Dan Edmunds
Huh. So somewhat similar to the Citroën XM which had 3 rear glass (glasses?) wimdows
Also similar to the 2nd gen CRX
I bought mine used and actually didn’t know they existed until about a week before I purchased mine summer of 2021. Was looking at eGolfs, Bolts, and Prius Primes before finding the Clarity and my local dealer actually had 2 on the lot at decent prices.
I have a similar experience to other owners on here in that it has been a thoroughly satisfactory vehicle for what I needed which is something to drive from suburban NJ into BFE Brooklyn 3-4 days a week. It doesn’t get road trip or weekend duty but that wasn’t what I needed it for.
My only complaint is that the heat in the winter drops the electric range by about 30% on cold mornings but I have put 15,000 miles on it with less than $500 in gas at 2022 NJ prices so it’s hard to complain.
Frankly I’ve never been fond of the skirted wheel look of any generation of cars.
I think that we should be very proud of our wheels and fully display them.
RIP Patrick Swayze: “nobody puts baby in a corner”
Good tech, ugly as hell. Even non-car people comment on the revolting looks when walking past one in a parking lot.
Huh? It looks just like it could be an Accord refresh.
At this time of the year, sure, I’ll take a Clarity for the weirdness, and a Claritin for the rhinitis. Make it a double. No don’t, I actually do want to sleep.
I have put nearly 70k miles on my 2018 Clarity PHEV. I love it to bits. Forgive me for the wall of text, I don’t get a good excuse to talk about it often.
Economy: I bought it new; between dealer discounts and tax incentives, it was about $23k. It cost $15k less than the cheapest EV that served my needs, and the savings on gas and oil changes have completely paid for the depreciation of the vehicle so far (that may change if used car prices regain their sanity).
Mileage: About 60% of my miles are on electricity. I get 2.8 mi/kWh as measured at the wall. That’s lower than most get because I exclusively use 120V through an extension cord, which is safe if done properly, but lossy. EV range started around 48 miles and is now down to about 45. Some of that is degradation, some of it’s due to a change in climate and driving mix thanks to moving out of state. On gasoline, its lifetime average is close to 46 mpg.
Driving behavior: Driving the Clarity is better than you’d expect. It corners flat thanks to macphersons and multilinks, and with wide tires it has way more grip than you’d expect for an Insight successor. It’s easy to keep it on electricity, because the center gauge explicitly shows throttle demand and the level at which the engine will activate given current conditions. It has a dizzying array of drive modes, some of which overlap. “Charge Mode” for example, activates the engine to recharge the battery to 55%, and it’s activated by holding down the “Hybrid” button. It can be entered in Eco Mode, Normal, or Sport Mode. Super useful for the mountains, but not very intuitive.
Engineering: The drivetrain in the Clarity is just elegant. 90% of the time, the motor drives the wheels, and the inline-4 engine just charges the battery. But it has a neat little trick — between 45 and 55 mph (and for the right throttle demand), it activates a clutch to link the engine through a single speed gearbox directly to the wheels. In this drive mode, it easily hits over 55 mpg. Between the series and parallel hybrid power deliver modes, there are tons of ways the energy can flow, but Honda handles most of that quietly behind the scenes. The only unpolished part of their conteol scheme is what the forums call “The Bees,” which is when the engine activates and hits 9k RPM to compensate for unexpected battery drain. It’s loud, to say the least.
Quality: It’s good. In Japan, these things sold for 5.88 million Yen, which was about $52k USD for the 2018 exchange rate. I don’t know if I’d say it was Acura quality, but the materials and finish are a big step up from what you’d expect with Honda.
The Clarity PHEV was one of the few PHEVs around the 50 mile mark for EV power, and was absolutely worth cross-shopping with my beloved Volt. There’s not really anything like them anymore – most PHEVs are SUVs and the like.
I’ve always liked the Clarity, but it’s too big for my personal PHEV needs.
I just see it as an uglier Volt that doesn’t do the job as well, but to each his own.
This is very weird, Torch, as I’ve also noticed that I keep noticing Clarity’s (Clarities? Seems weird.) around the Triangle area lately. There’s a maroon one I keep seeing in the vicinity of Brier Creek and RDU airport.
Same! I’m in Raleigh and was thinking “Actually I see a lot of them…”
I love it because its so Honda. Idiosyncratic in a very attractive and very Honda way.
That’s dangerously ugly!
By far the worst angle for viewing. Front end is nice, except the oversized H logo that houses all the radar/sensing stuff.
The H is also how people know it’s a Honda
my H is gone
I saw, probably, the same car yesterday afternoon (I can’t imagine there are that many in this area) and did a double take. I hadn’t seen one before and it really does stand out.
I am having a wake N bake moment, but for all my clouded obscurity, I will never own that Honda, even in my clearest of Clarity…
I have a 2018 Clarity Touring PHEV, black, and bought it new in 2019.
It has been great. Just rolled 50K miles, and the only problem it’s ever had is when the service department forgets to fasten the aluminum underbody cover back on properly when getting it’s semi-annual oil change.
Battery range when new was about 50 miles, now closer to 40. Only has a 6gal gas tank, but even when running on fuel only is good for 50ish MPG.
All aluminum, made in Japan, and it feels like a fancier Accord. Dash panels are alcantara. When I bought it in Houston I got $7K on the hood, plus it qualified for the full tax rebate, so now on trade, it’s worth close to what I paid for it.
Is that 50ish mpg typical for the highway too? Puts range around 300 miles then?
300-350ish. Regen is adjustable with little flappy paddles. There’s a full hybrid mode that will run like a hybrid and keep the battery topped up, or run it as the computer says, and you’ll basically run the battery dry and then switch to fuel.
Interesting about the battery degradation. I’ve always thought that was an overblown issue with electric cars. But really I can only say that because I have a really short commute. I have a 2012 volt that gets about 35 miles on electric, but I know I’ll have to replace it eventually. Clarity seems pretty nice.
The tiny gas tank created an issue I didn’t expect. I live in New Jersey where we can’t be trusted to pump our own gas so I have had to learn to tell the attendants to “top it up” so they don’t expect to walk away while 12+ gallons pump and don’t come back to ask “am I sure it’s full?”
The Clarity looks like an embiggened CR-Z. It’s almost like Honda went “well that didn’t work out, let’s make it bigger and try again.”
It’s way bigger than that though. It’s Accord sized.
Not much clarity in the design on that Honda, just too damn much going on.
Love the CX! Owned 2 of those.
Speaking of taking a back seat, it’s even weirder than one might realize. That little black panel below the rear spoiler is actually a window. That looks into the trunk. It has a little interior rear window above the back seats and below the rear deck so you can sort of see out with the rearview mirror. But mostly you could potentially see into the trunk from both sides.
An acquaintance posted a pic of one the other day as a new car announcement. Don’t know any details other than assuming it’s a PHEV, but that got me wondering how they’ve held up. I know I certainly forget about them even when new. But used, it seems like they are cheaper and/or fewer miles than a Prius Prime of similar vintage, while being a larger, more substantial vehicle. Accordlike space but maybe less money than a hybrid Accord too. I know the looks aren’t for everyone but I liked them, and it seems like it’s not as low-slung as the Accord and the last Insight.
I’ve always liked the Clarity. It feels more like a successor to the gen 1 Honda Insight. The gen 2 Insight missed the mark on the weirdness and character its predecessor had. So this feels more like the natural progression of things. Much in a way where hardcore fans of a movie trilogy might overlook the second entry and write it off as head canon.
No, the most interesting thing about the Clarity is that it was the successor to the lease-only fuel-cell FCX Clarity, and as such was offered for a while in fuel-cell, plug-in hybrid, and full EV versions. I’m fairly confident this is the only car ever to have been sold with these three different drivetrains.
I guess the plug-in hybrid version was basically a more advanced Insight? Honda doesn’t always seem to know what direction it’s going.
It was the gap filler before the new Insight, which is the rest of the world’s Civic Hybrid. Insight is smaller though.