For most people, automotive transportation is a necessary part of suburban life, and for them, the best car we’ve driven – since the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid is likely to be discontinued next year – is the plug-in hybrid version of the new Honda Clarity, powered by a four-cylinder engine and an electric motor.
For typical use getting to and from work in one of the adjacent towns and running errands on a daily basis, the 48-mile range from a quick charging-station or overnight charge is more than sufficient to drive this car only on electric power for weeks at a time.
It’s only when you make a longer trip that the gasoline engine would come into play, extending the range to 340 miles on a full tank of gas with the electric engine bringing power up to a solid 212 pound-feet of torque when required and recharging the battery in between power spurts.
What we drove: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in four-door, four-plus-one passenger, sedan
Powertrain: Front-wheel drive through continuously variable transmission from Inline 4-cylinder 1,498cc gasoline engine producing 103 horsepower and 99 pound-feet of torque coupled to electric motor with combined 212 horsepower and torque of 212 pound-feet.
Range: Gasoline engine charges 17-kW lithium ion battery, which can also be charged in 2.5 hours (240V Outlet) or 12 hours (110V Outlet), with 48 miles pure electric range and 340 miles combined range; equivalent to 110 mpg.
Price as tested: $36,600, including destination charges for Touring model that includes navigation system and leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel. Base model is approximately $34,000.
Basic specifications: Length 192.7 inches; weight 4,052 pounds; rear leg room 36.2 inches; trunk capacity 15.5 cubic feet.
What we liked: The ability to drive virtually indefinitely using only the electric motor; gasoline engine assurance that a discharged battery isn’t going to strand you; full safety features, including lane-keeping assist and intelligence cruise control.
What we would change: With the battery pack, luggage is limited to 15.5 cubic feet, so you’ll need to have or rent a car or pick-up for long trips and heavy-duty cargo hauling. We wouldn’t spend the extra money for the Touring model, preferring practical vinyl interior and navigation from our cell-phone.
Bottom Line: Bland but functional environment-friendly transportation appliance that isn’t expensive to buy and should be inexpensive to own.