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2021 Honda Clarity Review

The 2021 Honda Clarity is a midsize sedan available as either a plug-in hybrid or a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Most alternative fuel vehicles like the Clarity fall into the compact segment, but the Clarity has the dimensions of a roomy midsize car which gives it an added measure of practicality compared to compact hybrids.

The PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) model can run on pure electricity or gas while the fuel cell model is a lease-only car that’s only available in California. The PHEV is available for lease or purchase in all 50 states.

What’s New for 2021?

Following the discontinuation of the Clarity EV in 2020, there are no significant changes to the Honda Clarity for 2021. See the 2021 Honda Clarity models for sale near you

What We Like

  • PHEV has great electric range
  • Roomy cabin
  • Upscale interior
  • Smooth, quiet ride

What We Don’t

  • Unimpressive range from Fuel Cell model compared to rivals
  • Fuel Cell is California-only and lease-only
  • Tiny gas tank in PHEV
  • Tiny trunk in Fuel Cell
  • Outdated infotainment system

How Much?

$33,400 to $58,490

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Honda Clarity PHEV achieves a 110 MPGe rating, a 48-mile electric range, and a combined fuel economy rating of 42 mpg when running on regular gas. The fuel tank is very small which means the total range is pretty limited at 340 miles. If you’re not plugging in daily, you’ll be visiting the gas station frequently.

The PHEV powertrain consists of a 1.5-liter inline-four gas engine mated to an electric motor making a total output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque.

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell has a 68 MPGe rating and a range of 360 miles. This innovative hydrogen fuel cell powertrain generates 174 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque.

Standard Features and Options

The California-only Clarity Fuel Cell only has one trim while the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is available in two distinct trims in all 50 states; the base model and the more upscale Touring trim. The Fuel Cell model shares the same set of features as the PHEV Touring trim.

The base Clarity Plug-In Hybrid ($33,400) comes pretty well-equipped with 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights, proximity entry with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a cloth interior, heated front seats, an 8-inch Display Audio infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two USB ports, SiriusXM satellite radio, and 8-speaker audio. It also comes with Honda Sensing, which is a safety tech suite that includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System, a Road Departure Mitigation System, a Lane-Keeping Assist System, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.

Upgrade to the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid Touring ($36,600) and enjoy a few extra luxuries like a leather interior, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable front seats, navigation, and remote climate conditioning with the HondaLink app.

The Fuel Cell model ($58,490) shares the same set of features as the PHEV Touring trim. As of this writing, it’s available to lease in California for $379/month for 36 months with $2,878 due at signing.

Safety

As of this writing, the 2021 Honda Clarity has not been crash-tested by the NHTSA nor the IIHS. However, the Clarity Fuel Cell uses strong carbon fiber tanks for its fuel which are designed to withstand impacts.

Every Honda Clarity comes standard with traction and stability control, a full complement of airbags, a backup camera, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and Honda LaneWatch blind-spot monitoring. It’s nice that these systems are present, but they’re getting to be a little outdated compared to more sophisticated safety tech systems on newer, more mainstream Honda models.

Behind the Wheel

As is characteristic of many alternative fuel vehicles, the 2021 Honda Clarity delivers a particularly serene ride. It’s quiet, smooth, and has almost none of the harshness or noise associated with traditional gas-powered cars. It’s an overall refined driving experience that you might expect to find in a luxury hybrid. The ride in the Fuel Cell model is similar to the experience you get in the PHEV when running on electricity.

One of our favorite things about the Honda Clarity is a very spacious interior. Many hybrids are in the compact class which means things are often a bit cramped for back seat passengers. However, the Clarity has interior dimensions similar to the midsize Honda Accord. That makes it quite family-friendly on trips of any distance.

Speaking of distance, total range is a weak point for the Clarity. The all-electric range of 48 miles is impressive, but once the battery dies, the tiny 7-gallon gas tank doesn’t get you very far. This makes the Clarity good for around-town driving, but not ideal for anyone doing a lot of long-distance driving. As for the Fuel Cell model, the 360-mile range is great by EV standards, but that number trails both the Hyundai Nexo and Toyota Mirai.

Sadly, the Clarity is being a bit left behind in terms of its infotainment system. It’s using an old and somewhat frustrating version of the Display Audio system, which has been thoroughly updated in recent years in the Accord, Civic, CR-V, and pretty much the rest of the Honda lineup. It works well enough and we’re glad it has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but it feels decidedly outdated for a 2021 model. It uses a now-infamous volume slider in lieu of a traditional knob.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Toyota Mirai — The hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai got a major redesign for 2021 which turned it into a premium sedan. It’s also switched from FWD to RWD making it unexpectedly sporty. The Mirai has a maximum range of 402 miles, which beats the Clarity Fuel Cell’s range of 360 miles. The Mirai is only available in California, but unlike the Clarity Fuel Cell, you can buy a Mirai rather than being lease-only. With a lower starting price, longer range, and the option to buy it rather than just lease, the Mirai is an overall better fuel cell vehicle than the Clarity Fuel Cell.

2021 Hyundai Nexo — The Hyundai Nexo is the only hydrogen fuel cell SUV on the market and boasts a 380-mile. It’s practical for everyday driving, as long as the fuel cell life fits your lifestyle. It also has the distinction of doubling as a generator that can power household items which could prove useful in an emergency. Pricing of the Nexo is very similar to the Clarity Fuel Cell.

2021 Toyota Prius Prime — The Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid hatchback has a nice list of standard features and a smooth, composed ride. Its all-electric range of 25 miles might not sound very impressive, but it’s actually more efficient than the Clarity with a 133 MPGe rating and a 640-mile total range.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid — The midsize Honda Accord Hybrid sedan is a conventional hybrid that cannot run on electricity alone, but according to EPA estimates, the annual fuel costs of the Accord Hybrid and Clarity PHEV are almost identical. That’s because the Accord Hybrid is more efficient than a Clarity with a dead battery. The Accord Hybrid is also more affordable than the Clarity by a considerable margin.

2021 Tesla Model 3 — The lower-end models of the Tesla Model 3 are priced similarly to the Clarity PHEV Touring model. The Model 3 is one of the best EVs on the market with engaging performance, tons of high-tech features, and an unbelievable range of up to 353 miles.

Used Chevrolet Volt — The Chevy Volt was the first mass-market plug-in hybrid car, but was discontinued after two generations. A used second-generation Volt presents an excellent hybrid value with a 53-mile all-electric range and a gas engine as backup to eliminate range anxiety.

Used Tesla Model S — The flagship Tesla sedan is getting pretty abundant on the used market, especially if you live in an area where EVs are popular. Get the performance, technology, and excellent range that the Tesla brand has built a reputation for without breaking the bank.

Autotrader’s Advice

The 2021 Honda Clarity PHEV is a strong choice in plug-in hybrids as long as you aren’t too restricted by the weak 360-mile total range. A 48-mile electric range makes it great for drivers who have short commutes but don’t want the range anxiety of a full EV. The roomy interior makes the Clarity a practical and family-friendly choice in plug-in hybrids.

The Clarity Fuel Cell is hard to recommend. Not only does it have the California-only and lease-only restrictions, but its two hydrogen fuel cell competitors — the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo — both have better range while offering similar or more affordable pricing.

That said, the PHEV is good for anyone who likes the idea of a plug-in hybrid and wants the space of a midsize sedan. We recommend the base trim because although the Touring model is nice, it starts to get into the pricing territory of the Tesla Model 3. Find a Honda Clarity for sale

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