2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: Plug it in or Gas it Up

Honda Clarity Plug In Hybrid

Did you say hybrid? Let the questions begin!

One advantage of not being an auto “expert” is that I tend to look at a new car in the same way an average consumer would. When I hear hybrid vehicle, I assume it’s powered by both electric and gas. The thought of getting lost somewhere between charging stations in an electric car gets me a little freaked, so it’s comforting to know I can switch over to gas power if needed, but do I have to slow down, pull over, or memorize a complicated technique in order to make that happen? Is the amount of gas just a failsafe that will only give me a few extra miles and then I’m out of luck? What if that happens when I’m in between Barstow and Bakersfield mid summer…and it’s hot? Really hot.

The Truth Behind the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: Gas/Electric Hybrid Means No ‘Range Anxiety’

Forget about range anxiety. For most of us our daily driving or work commute can be handled with the all-electric daily driver. With the 47-mile all-electric range rating, the most in its class of plug-in hybrid mid-sized sedans, many of those daily trips can be made on battery power alone. When the battery runs out, the gas-powered engine takes over to provide additional range; and no, you don’t have to slow down, flip a switch or do anything special for that to happen. The car does it on it’s own.

The electric + gas engine yields a 340-mile combined range. So with the same amount of planning that any road trip inevitably takes, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid gives you flexibility and a long list of benefits.

Read more: Take a look at the 2018 Honda Accord.

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Saves Time and Money

For most people on most days, you can drive on electric power alone, only needing to fill up the gas tank for longer drives. And you can charge at home! Plug in to any standard 120-volt outlet or charge even quicker with a 240-volt charger which has a similar power demand as a clothes dryer and can be installed in most homes or garages. Of course, you can also use one of the thousands of charging stations across the country and there are more charging stations being built nationwide every day.

Honda Clarity Hybrid Plug-In Roomy Back Seat

2018 Honda Clarity Hybrid Plug-in has plenty of room in the back seat. Photo: Meagan Wristen

The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Has a Roomy Interior

I currently drive a 2006 Honda Accord. I know the interior space of my car pretty well. I’ve still got 2 teens at home and I typically pack a lot of gear for the work that I do. I have high expectations for both a spacious interior as well as trunk space. The Clarity Plug-In delivers! The interior easily accommodates five adults and the available storage in the trunk is surprising. Honda successfully created a hybrid that has all the eco-conscious benefits without compromising interior space.


Who This Car is For

  • Anyone looking for a hybrid with a bold, aerodynamic, sleek and sexy design
  • Commuters, road trippers, and small or transitioning families
  • People looking for a multi-generational car backed by the reliability of a Honda
  • Drivers who want to save money in their personal budget with the fuel economy of a hybrid
  • Anyone who wants the peace of mind that comes with an environmentally responsible vehicle
  • Drivers who don’t want to compromise the appeal of a responsive Sport Mode feature while still experiencing the many benefits of a hybrid
  • People who want a car that’s fun to drive!


What It Costs

The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid comes in two Trim models, the Plug-In Hybrid and the Touring. Each model comes with an in-line 4-cylinder engine that generates 181 horsepower.

  • Plug-In Hybrid starts at $33,400
  • Touring starts at $36,600

Key Plug-in Hybrid Features

  • Honda Sensing active safety features, including lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation and crash mitigation systems
  • Deceleration paddles on the steering wheel that, when pressed, feed engine power back into the battery
  • 8-inch display audio touchscreen
  • LED headlights w/auto high beam: set-and-forget-it brights

Key Touring Model Features

Includes all Plug-In Hybrid features, plus the following:

  • Remote start with climate pre-conditioning–great for really hot and really cold days
  • Leather-trimmed seating
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Honda satellite-linked navigation
Honda Clarity Console

The Honda Clarity Plug-In’s center console. Photo: Meagan Wristen

The Honda Clarity Looks and Feels Good 

Why not experience the comforts of a fine automobile every day? The interior design features an advanced modern cabin, combining technology with a spacious and comfortable interior. The Honda Clarity was easy to get in and out of which is important for someone like me who’s constantly making quick trips to the grocery store, picking up kids and running errands.

Honda Clarity Plugin

Great driver control layout and leather wrapped steering wheel. Photo: Meagan Wristen

Driving is Powerful and Quiet

Driving an electric vehicle means no engine noise, and even the gas motor (there are two: one electric and one gas) is quiet. It’s a unique experience driving a car when you’ve learned to expect the sounds and vibrations of an engine and suddenly they’re not there. When there’s no engine noise competing with road noise it becomes more important to have a vehicle that limits noise on the interior from wind or other vehicles. Honda did an excellent job in creating a quiet cabin. Features include:

  • Dashboard insulators
  • Hood insulator
  • Motor undercover insulator
  • Glass with sound insulation function
  • Rear wheelhouse and fender insulation
  • Floor under-cover and carpet insulation

Safe Driving Is a Key Feature, Too 

Honda has made its Sensing suite of intelligent safety and driver-assist technologies standard on every car or available for a small fee on inexpensive base models. The Sensing suite is standard on every Clarity Plug-In Hybrid model, great news for this quiet, elegant car. I was able to test each of these functions while driving the Clarity. Key features include:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System, which senses the speed of traffic ahead and slows the car if necessary to avoid a collision
  • Road Departure Mitigation System–keeps your car on the road
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with low-speed follow–monitors the speed of traffic ahead and maintains a safe speed and distance
  • Lane Keeping Assist System–keeps the car in its lane and alerts the driver if drifting out of the lane is detected

The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is a winner

The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid received the 2018 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award and the 2018 KBB.com Best Buy: Electric/Hybrid Car.

Read More: Here’s the list of Kelley Blue Book winners.

A Few Other Things I Noticed: Good, Bad and Just my Opinion

The door panels are covered in a plant-derived Ultra-suede fabric. I question how this would wear over time or stand up to spills, stains, rain (I live in Portland), and dirty hands. It is soft but “soft” tends to be porous, which might get dingy over time. Time will tell.

I really like the look of the faux wood paneling used in places surrounding the console and driver controls. A complaint in the past has been sun glare off of these surfaces. Honda used a non-reflective material so there’s zero sun glare.

The built-in navigation on the 8-inch wide display is nice, but I noticed that when I wanted to change my route while driving, built-in safety controls prevented it. I don’t like being governed. There may be a way to shut off that feature, but I didn’t have time to investigate it.

Having buttons rather than a stick for shifting between drive-park-reverse takes some getting used to. Certain situations require you to move between those gears quickly so it will take just a little bit of retraining for the button use to become reflex. Ultimately the buttons probably allow for a quicker and smoother transition between gears (police departments love these systems because they are fast, we are told).

I love the storage compartment under the center console. I’m always looking for a place to put my purse and phone when I have a passenger and can’t put them on the front seat. This compartment is perfect, with just enough room to slide in those essentials. My stuff is safer than it is in the front seat because it’s tucked away, but still easy to get to.

A Thoughtful Approach Results in Clarity

It seems Honda has put a lot of thought into the Clarity Plug-In, not just to help customers do their daily driving in a more sustainable way, but also to help them drive more safely, to help them accommodate their things and passengers and make their time in the car more comfortable and relaxing. Overall, the Clarity accomplishes this. It’s an elegant, pleasant car that makes daily driving easy, fun and efficient.

Disclosure: I was Honda’s guest for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided, however, all opinions are my own.


Dawna Stafford @fitguitargirl is an athlete, musician and entrepreneur from Portland, Oregon. She has served on the board of... More about Dawna Stafford