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2019 Honda Clarity Plug-In Touring Review by David Colman


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2019 Honda Clarity PHEV Touring

Quack, Quack, Quack,Quack

By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL


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2019 Honda Clarity PHEV Touring
Any way you look at it, the Clarity is an odd duck. It doesn't look like anything else on the road, it doesn't drive like anything you're familiar with, and its MPGe (electric only mileage) puts to shame everything but a bicycle. Let's start with the Clarity's iconic appearance. The side elevation, with sweeping French curves, and aero spats over the rear wheels, make you think that this Honda was perfected in the wind tunnel. But the stubby front fascia and starkly chopped tail make you doubt that the same stylist drafted the fore, aft and side views. Inside, thankfully, the layout of the interior is more cohesive, less startling. The dash, seats, and surface textures are subdued, sensibly designed, and eminently livable. We particularly liked the comfort of the 8-way adjustable, leather trimmed driver's seat, which is equipped with 2 position memory setting. The passenger is relegated to 4-way adjustment, but the seat is otherwise identical to the driver's in terms of comfort and support.

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2019 Honda Clarity PHEV Touring
In keeping with its unique appearance, the Clarity's driving experience is idiosyncratic as well. With its rheostat response to throttle input, Clarity behaves more like a transit appliance than a normal car. Think Muni streetcar powering up noisily from stop to stop. In full electric mode, you would expect this kind of humming crescendo, but Clarity emits a similar whine even when powered solely by its 1.5 liter gasoline fired engine. And with a full charge range of just 46 miles, you can expect to depend on that gas motor more often than not. Honda lists total range of the Clarity using both engine modes at 340 miles. But be advised that the gas tank holds just 7 gallons of fuel. Combined power output is 212hp which is transmitted to the front wheels via a CVT transmission. Recharging a completely flat battery will take 2.5 hours on 240 volts or 12 hours on household current of 120 volts.

In addition to the expected Eco driving mode, Honda surprisingly offers a Sport mode that differs from similarly named offerings in other vehicles. In the case of the Clarity, selecting Sport mode alters the shift logic of the CVT to hold selected engine speed ranges by use of steering wheel paddles. Sport mode also perceptibly tightens steering response. In fact, overall handling of the Clarity is acceptable if not brilliant. Shock settings yield exceptional comfort, even over very rough roads. Thanks to rather busy looking 8 x 18 alloy rims mounted with 235/45R18 Michelin Green X radials, this Honda maintains an acceptably flat stance under cornering duress. The Michelins carry a 430 tread wear (TW) rating. They are M & S rated, and labeled with a wet traction rating of B.

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2019 Honda Clarity PHEV Touring
One of the neatest standard features on Clarity is Honda Lane Watch. This innovation projects a real time image of adjacent traffic whenever you signal a lane change. The sizeable display screen atop the dash runs this footage until you switch the blinker off. Or you can run the image indefinitely by depressing a button on the tip of the turn indicator stalk. The view is informative but can easily become mesmerizing. Honda offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, so you can maximize your cell phone interface. The Touring model of the Clarity is fitted with a standard 8-speaker audio system, Honda Navigation, and Sirius XM satellite radio. The outside rear view mirrors are heated unlike the seats or steering wheel. The driver's side rear view mirror includes a 2-plane surface, with the outer section wide angle, and the inner portion flat. This bi-focal split can be disorienting.

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2019 Honda Clarity PHEV Touring
You can buy the Clarity Plug-In, fully equipped, for $37,520. This seems like a modest investment for a vehicle that will haul 15.5 cubic feet of goods if you flip the split rear seats down for maximum interior space. That's considerably more storage than offered by Plug-In competitors like the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf. There's a second version of the Clarity that Honda deems priceless. It's the Clarity Fuel Cell model, which produces zero emissions. This one also seats 5 adults, but unlike relying on the tardy electric recharge routine, this one refuels with hydrogen in less than 5 minutes. And it's priceless because Honda will only lease it to you.

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2019 Honda Clarity PHEV Touring

2019 HONDA CLARITY PLUG-IN TOURING

    ENGINE: 1.5 liter inline 4 + Electric Motor
    HORSEPOWER: 212hp
    TORQUE: 221lb.-ft.
    FUEL CONSUMPTION: 110MPGe/42MPG Gas Only
    PRICE AS TESTED: $37,520

HYPES: Spacious, Utilitarian, Full Honda Sensing Safety Suite

GRIPES: Weird Looks, Noisy Whine, Unintuitive Shift Buttons

STAR RATING: 7 Stars out of 10