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Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid promises blue skies for everyone

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Completing the trifecta that is Honda’s Clarity lineup, a plug-in hybrid joins fuel cell and electric models for 2018. If it looks suspiciously like Honda is angling to get a foothold in the electrification business, this is indeed the case. The Clarity PHEV is being sold in all 50 states.

Honda predicts electrified passenger cars will comprise two-thirds of global sales by 2030. As do its Clarity siblings, the Plug-in Hybrid version of the five-passenger sedan delivers premium appointments, an exceptionally quiet and smooth demeanor, and outstanding fuel economy.

We’re talking 42 miles per gallon and a 340-mile range for an automobile with a footprint similar to Honda’s flagship Accord sedan. The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is also capable of traveling well in excess of 40 miles on electricity alone. Even better, you can realize this kind of range driving perfectly normally.

You can pull away from traffic signals with the rest of the pack and accelerate to highway speeds, all on electricity. The powertrain produces a total system output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb.-ft. of torque.

You also have the flexibility of choosing to cruise around town on electrons, while only burning dino juice out on the highway. This, in fact, is the most efficient use of the powertrain. Gasoline engines deliver their best fuel economy at cruising speed on the highway and fall down when forced to deal with stop-and-go city driving. Electric motors have no such qualms. You can also set the powertrain to recharge the battery when you’re on the highway, so you have a full charge with which to negotiate city streets when you arrive in town.

If you’re like us, the first time you see any of the 2018 Honda Clarity models in person, you will be struck by the size of the car. Given its mission as an extremely fuel-efficient mode of transportation, you almost expect it to be a compact. However, the Clarity family falls firmly into the midsize sedan category.

Five adults can ride in comfort over extended distances. Yes, the rear middle passenger will be in hip contact with seatmates, but there’s more than adequate leg- and headroom. Ingress and egress are easy too. Long story short, Clarity can easily serve as family transportation — or as an exceptionally fuel-efficient ride-sharing solution. What’s more, offering 15.5 cubic-feet of storage, trunk space solidly approaches generous as well.

As impressive as all the above is, Clarity’s quiet will absolutely blow you away. Even when the gasoline engine is powered up, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it’s running. Yeah, you’ll hear it out there doing its thing when you give it full throttle, but, by and large, it’s as if the reciprocating internal combustion engine is non-existent.

Now, with all of that said, let’s address Clarity’s styling. Yes, it’s solidly in line with the contemporary Honda family, but regardless of the angle from which you view the sedan, it is one plain-looking car. Yes, we understand those rear fender skirts improve the aerodynamics. And yes, we know all of those slots and vents in the body are functional, too. But this is an exterior design very few people (if any) will characterize as lovely.

Meanwhile, the interior is one of the nicest we’ve ever seen in a Honda. In fact, they could’ve badged Clarity an Acura and we would’ve been just as impressed. High-quality finishes abound. Handsome shapes please the eye and the ergonomics are outstanding. Well, except for the audio system. Honda still insists on going knob-less in that regard and we’re solidly in the, “Oh, no not again,” camp in that regard. Would it kill them to give us a rotating dial for the volume and tuning controls?

However, this is the only real issue we could find inside the beautifully turned-out sedan. What’s more, you can feel good about it, because 80 percent of the materials are either recycled or originate from sustainable sources. When Honda says it’s down for doing its best to ensure blue skies for our children, moves like these leave us believing they’re serious about it. All in all, we think the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is a great addition to Honda’s electrified fleet and you’ll do well to go take a look for yourself.