The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid will start at a recommended price of $34,290 including delivery, making it the least expensive plug-in hybrid sedan on the market this year.
Honda says it will go on sale December 1, and it will be offered at all Honda dealers in the U.S.
That means that for the first time, U.S. buyers can choose between two plug-in hybrids with more than 45 miles of range at prices starting under $35,000.
The 2018 Clarity Plug-In five-seat mid-size sedan is rated at 47 miles of electric range, and 42 mpg combined when operating as a conventional hybrid after the battery is depleted.
The 2018 Chevrolet Volt compact hatchback is rated at 53 miles of range and 42 mpg combined; it starts this year at $34,095, also including the mandatory delivery fee.
While the Volt has a fifth “seating position” on a padded hump between two rear seats, it’s functionally a four-person vehicle.
The Volt and the plug-in Clarity are two of the top three plug-in hybrids when rated on battery range, both following the range-extended electric BMW i3 REx with 97 miles of battery range.
All three vehicles are close in energy efficiency, too: When operating in electric mode, the plug-in Clarity is rated at 110 MPGe, against the Volt’s 106 MPGe and the i3 REx at 111 MPGe.
Among plug-in hybrid mid-size sedans, however, the Clarity is the clear leader, surpassing the rated range of plug-in hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima
The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is offered in standard and Touring trim levels.
All plug-in Clarity sedans come with keyless entry and start, an 8.0-inch touchscreen and eight-speaker audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, and LED lights front and rear.
They also include the LaneWatch video camera that shows the right-hand blind spot in the display, and the Honda Sensing active-safety system.
Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid at Honda R&D Center, Tochigi, Japan, June 2017
The Touring model adds a navigation system with charging-station locations built in, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and four-way front passenger’s seat, perforated leather upholstery and imitation-suede interior, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Recommended prices for the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid Touring line begin at $37,490.
All plug-in hybrid Claritys are powered by a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 with Honda’s two-motor hybrid system, which takes the place of a transmission.
One motor, rated at 135 kilowatts (181 horsepower) and 232 pound-feet of torque, can drive the car itself under many circumstances, especially at lower speeds.
The default driving mode, Normal, runs on battery power until the pack is depleted and then essentially turns into a conventional hybrid car.
A separate toggle for “HV” (or Hybrid Vehicle) mode can be selected with any of the three driving modes; it operates the car and maintains battery charge for later all-electric use.
A Sport mode uses the battery and engine more aggressively, while the Econ mode reduces power draw and cabin ventilation to extend the range, along with slower acceleration.
The 17-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is located behind the rear seat, with a quoted recharge time of 2.5 hours when using a 240-volt Level 2 charging station.
The challenge for Honda, as it has been for Chevrolet and other makers, is that car buyers generally have no understanding of plug-in hybrids or why they would be advantageous.