What is the Honda Clarity? Is it a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle? Is it an electric car? Or is it plug-in hybrid? The answer is “yes” to all three. The Honda Clarity is a midsize sedan that is powered by three different powertrains. The first two have definite liabilities. The hydrogen fuel-cell only works if you are close to a hydrogen source. The electric model is limited by a short, 89-mile, drive range. That leaves the plug-in hybrid as the best choice for buyers, and it’s not a bad choice either.

By plugging into an electricity source (2.5 hours with 240 current; 12 hours with 120) buyers can drive 47 miles on electricity alone. That’s enough to cover the average commute. If you are going further, a small 1.5-liter gas engine kicks-in to provide another 294 miles of range. On a long trip, you can drive indefinitely as long as you can find gas stations to fill your seven-gallon gas tank.

Style-wise, the Clarity may put-off some people. Quirky touches, like boomerang-shaped running lights and the odd styling around the rear wheels detract from the otherwise fluid design.

However, the interior of the Clarity easily compensates for this. The cabin is roomy enough for five adults, with plenty of head-and legroom. My test car’s interior, with leather seats and a dash trimmed with fine woodgrain and suede, looked like it came from an upscale Acura.

Yet, the Honda designers went a little overboard with some technology. Push and pull buttons for selecting gears may look cool, but they don’t beat a conventional shifter. The same can be said for infotainment system. It’s almost exclusively controlled by a touchscreen, and is frustrating to use. For instance, you have to take your eyes off the road to make simple changes to the radio. All this seems like too much technology.

But, on the plus side, the Clarity comes equipped with advanced safety features, via the Honda Sensing system. Adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning and braking, lane departure monitoring/assistance and Lane Watch are standard. This last system uses a video feed facing the rear, outside the passenger-side, to warn you of hazards. It projects on the dash screen when you activate the right-side turn signal. Although simple blind-spot warnings on the exterior mirrors, would cover both sides of the car, and be better

Under the hood, Honda powers this Clarity with a 1.5-liter gas engine, teamed with an electric motor to produce a total of 212 horsepower. The transition between gas and electric power is seamless. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) transfers energy to the front wheels. A 17-kWh battery pack stores the electricity beneath the car. The Clarity is peppy enough around town, but could use more gusto in passing situations.

The Clarity’s strong suit, in addition to its fuel economy, is its ride. This car is ultra-smooth, and whisper-quiet on the road. It’s a car that you’ll want to take on long freeway trips. Yet, it also is comfortable on back roads. The Clarity absorbs bumps well, and feels poised all the time. And while it’s no sport sedan, the handling is respectable as well.

The Clarity plug-in hybrid comes in two versions, the base model and the Touring. The base has a sticker price of $34,290. The Touring, which adds features, like navigation, power seats and leather upholstery goes for $37,490. A federal tax rebate of $7,500, and state rebates of up to $2,500, make this Clarity a bargain.



Great Fuel Economy

No Range Anxiety

Exceptionally Smooth Ride

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