Are you a loyal Honda buyer but want to leave the world of gas-only engines behind so you can save more money at the fuel pump? Then you might be curious about the 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid. The Clarity Hybrid has two variations to choose from, but the Fuel Cell variant can only be bought in California and Oregon. As for the EV, that was phased out already due a lack of interest from buyers. So buyers are essentially left with is the plug-in hybrid (PHEV, for short).
Whether you get it in its base form or as the Clarity PHEV Touring trim level, you get standard LED headlights, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, a push button start feature with the remote keyless entry system, heating for the front seats, an 8-speaker audio system, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with the 8-inch infotainment touchscreen set-up, and - of course - Honda Sensing (more on that in a minute). Upgrading to the Touring will nab you finer features like built-in navigation, front seats that have power adjustability, and chic leather upholstery. But those are essentially the only big changes.
Power-wise, the PHEV comes with a 1.5-L 4-cylinder gas engine fitted up with an electric motor hybrid system and lithium ion battery for a grand total power output of 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. It gets 47 miles of pure electric range on a full charge before the gas engine will kick in.
If you do live in a state where the Fuel Cell is available, this vehicle is a bit different than the PHEV since its fuel cell assembly converts hydrogen into the electricity needed to power the electric motor, creating 360 miles of electric range. The total power output for the Fuel Cell is 174 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. However, features-wise, the only real differences between it and the Touring are that it adds a standard head-up display and a 12-speaker premium sound system which includes a subwoofer.
So, which 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid should you get? Are there other vehicles in this segment to consider, or should you just keep with your favorite gas-powered Honda? Let's go through what is new for the model year, what we like about the Clarity Hybrid, a few things we'd like to see improved, and how this vehicle stacks up against the competition. In the end, we will give you our final verdict on the new 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid and its variants.
What's New for 2021?
No changes have been made to the 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid line-up. The first generation was introduced back in 2017, and 2020 only brought mild alterations, including the Fuel Cell getting standard heated side mirrors. Also, that was the year that the EV was axed from the line-up.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid – The Pros
1. Quick Acceleration For a PHEV
For a PHEV, the 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid PHEV's 1.5-L 4-cylinder gas engine and electric hybrid powertrain is remarkably quick. This vehicle is easy to cruise around in due to the electric power that gets delivered when you accelerated from a total stop. It does lose some steam as you go up to highway speeds, but that is also relatively normal for a vehicle in this segment. Overall, though, this PHEV puts in a solid showing as far as acceleration goes and - dare we say it - even feels kind of fun to drive.
2. Precision Steering and Handling
While feedback from either system does not come through aplenty, both the steering and handling offer enough precision and control to give the driver a strong sense of reassurance while cruising along. There is little in the way of body roll even when the vehicle can tend to feel heavy, and the steering has just the right amount of weight to it.
3. A Quiet Ride
Take this vehicle up to speed on the highway, but you will not hear much of a peep from the engine. You can barely hear it when the gas engine kicks in, as the transfer is just nice and smooth. Also, you hardly get any wind or road noise coming into the cabin since the active noise cancelation does a thorough job of filtering it out. This is just the type of tranquility you should expect to find in a vehicle like the Clarity Hybrid.
4. Comfortable Cabin Appointments
Comfort reigns supreme inside of the Clarity Hybrid. The rear seats are padded well enough, but the front seats are truly a bright spot. They are padded to perfection for lumbar and lateral support, and whether you get the standard or upgraded leather upholstery, the trim looks stunning when paired with the surfaces. The suede accents and simulated open pore wood bring the Clarity Hybrid a step closer to luxury and look far from tacky.
5. Getting In and Out is Easy
As is the case with many Hondas, the Clarity Hybrid has a low enough ride height to make it accessible for those with mobility issues. Getting in and out is made easy as well due to the grab handles placed in each door way, and the roof does not have a sloping line in the back that gets in the way for rear seat occupants. No heads should be bonked in the process of entering and exiting the vehicle.
6. Clear Outward Visibility
With the lack of a sloping rear roofline, rear outward visibility is kept wide and open for the driver. The slender roof pillars fore and aft also help, and there is plenty of glass to go around. Blind spots are mitigated by the blind spot monitoring system but are small enough to be dealt with by the naked human eye. A standard rear-view camera can help with backing out if need be, but again, your own eyes should be able to see quite clearly.
7. Voice Control Understands Natural Speech
Despite there being some issues with other aspects of its technology, the Clarity Hybrid quite impressively has a voice control system that is able to recognize and respond to natural speech patterns. The same cannot be said for many of the vehicle's rivals. This gives you some leverage when controlling the phone, audio, and navigation, letting you keep your hands on the wheel and off of the infotainment system's confusing buttons.
8. A Lot of Small Item Storage Areas
Strategically placed throughout the cabin are a number of well-sized small item storage areas. The center bin is deep enough, and the door pockets can hold more than you might expect. You also get enough cup and bottle holders that are also sized rather generously. Your pricey devices are easy to conceal here.
9. The Fuel Economy
Real-world tests show that the Clarity's EPA estimates hold up well in mixed driving scenarios. The PHEV has been able to average 52 miles of all-electric range, besting its projected 47. Even on a depleted battery, it was able to get 48 mpg combined, which is a good showing for a PHEV sedan.
10. Honda Sensing
The Honda Sensing bundle is a suite of standard driver aids that comes equipped on every trim level, on every new Honda released this year. This means that, regardless of which Clarity you get, you will have some peace of mind with features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane keep assist. These features work well and are not known for issuing too many false warnings, so do not expect them to be too terribly invasive.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid – The Cons
1. The Fuel Cell is Not Widely Available
The biggest qualm we have is that the Fuel Cell is only available in California and Oregon, which are known for their tighter legislation on fuel emissions. But we'd like to see the Fuel Cell go wider since the EV is no longer an option. The PHEV is still a decent enough option, but the technology behind the Fuel Cell is something we would like to see come full-circle on a broader scale across the US, and if anyone can do it, Honda can.
2. The Overly Soft Suspension
The PHEV's standard suspension is too soft for the liking. This means that smooth roads will feel peachy keen, but bumpy roads show just how much the Clarity Hybrid struggles to get its weight under control. It will send too many shockwaves through the cabin if you travel along a bumpy dirt road where having a stiffer suspension would keep things feeling smoother.
3. A Finicky Touchscreen
The 8-inch touchscreen display is one of the less appealing of its kind. It is not that quick to respond to input, and the interface comes off as being dated. The touchpoints on the screen are way too small for even small fingers, and the slider control for volume is bothersome, to say the very least. Controlling basic functions should be a lot less stressful.
4. Brakes Don't Deliver Much Feedback
In everyday driving situations, the brakes perform just fine. But, when you put more stress on them (like, say, during a panic stop), they become numb. This lack of feedback during high-pressure situations is a little perturbing since this is the time when you need it most.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid vs. 2021 Toyota Mirai
The 2021 Toyota Mirai is Toyota's answer to the Fuel Cell. It has an exceedingly long drive range, a particularly spacious interior, and has thousands of dollars worth of free hydrogen that it comes with. On top of that, it is jam-packed with a lot of standard safety and infotainment features. The downsides? There aren't many hydrogen stations around in the US, hence the limited availability of fuel cell vehicles. That's why you can only get this vehicle in California.
2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid vs. 2021 Toyota Prius Prime
The 2021 Toyota Prius Prime gets 25 miles of pure electric range before its gas engine kicks in, which isn't quite as good as the Clarity PHEV. Its acceleration is sluggish and engine noisier, and its cargo area is even smaller than the regular Prius'. On the flip-side, the Prius Prime does have comfy seats and is one of the most affordable PHEVs on the market.
PHEVs and fuel cells are a burgeoning technology that Honda is striving to develop. PHEVs are more widespread at least, but fuel cell vehicle availability is limited since hydrogen stations can only be found in a few states. Times may change, and Honda is helping to shape that future. But, for right now, buyers looking for a PHEV will enjoy that variant of the 2021 Honda Clarity Hybrid since it is quiet and delivers a good amount of acceleration from a stop.