Honda’s latest hybrids hit the mark

Accord Hybrid and Clarity both offer exceptional fuel economy, all the modern conveniences and more than enough get up and go

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honda hybrids
A lively sport-oriented sedan, the Honda Accord Hybrid can more than hold its own even when road elevation changes. It’s well equipped and offers a comfortable ride.

Ted LaturnusAlthough Toyota seems to have the lion’s share of the hybrid market, other manufacturers haven’t exactly been idle.

Honda, for example, introduced the Insight back in 2000 and has unveiled a series of hybrid models over the years, with varying degrees of success.

The first generation Accord Hybrid, for example, was a lovely car in many respects, but kind of missed the mark when it came to attracting budget/environmentally conscious buyers.

Ditto with the quirky little CR-Z hatchback, which wasn’t exactly a sales leader.

Nonetheless, Honda has two new four-door hybrid models for buyers’ consideration: the revamped Accord Hybrid and Clarity plug-in.

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid

With a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Atkinson cycle gas engine and an electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery pack, the Accord Hybrid delivers some 212 horsepower and 232 foot-pounds of torque in total.

The transmission is a CVT and there are three driving modes: EV, Sport and Econ. I spent virtually all my time in Economy, but like its predecessor, the Accord Hybrid has some get up and go.

This is not a lane-hogging sluggard that balks when the road elevation changes, but a lively sport-oriented sedan that can more than hold its own.

And it’s well-equipped. Among other things, it features an electronic parking brake, rear console ventilation, remote start, “walk away” door locks, heated front seats, satellite radio and navigation, and so on.

My tester, the Touring model, also came with leather interior, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, wireless charging heads-up display and all the usual modern conveniences we’ve come to expect from a moderately upscale sedan. In every respect, it’s a very comfortable place to spend time.

And it’s also a bit of a nanny car. Like it or not, you get lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, traffic sign recognition, forward collision warning, driver monitoring, and on and on.

Most of these things I can definitely do without – and disabled most of them as soon as I could figure out how. However, when I attempted to disabled the extremely annoying lane-departure feature, for example, the display monitor went black and I lost radio controls, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and so on, for a few moments while the system apparently rebooted. That’s worrisome.

2018 Honda Clarity

honda hybrids
The Honda Clarity is a plug-in hybrid that offers exceptional fuel economy, good interior elbow room and a smooth highway ride.

Unlike the Accord, this is a plug-in hybrid. On household current, it will bring the 17-kilowatt lithium-ion battery up to a full charge in about 12 hours. A fast-charge setup will do it in two to three hours.

According to Honda, you can drive the Clarity on full electric power for around 75 kilometres. I see no reason to disagree with that, although the type of driving you do will affect the car’s range.

With a full tank of gas and a full charge, you can expect to travel at least 850 kilometres before things get interesting.

Honda is claiming a combined fuel economy rating of 2.1 litres/100 km for the Clarity, which is just about the highest in the industry. The Toyota Prius is considerably thirstier, with a combined rating of 4.3 litres/100 km.

Power for the Clarity is provided by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder Atkinson engine, which in tandem with the electric motor delivers a combined horsepower rating of 212 hp and 232 foot-pounds of torque. It’s mated to a CVT with three settings, like the Accord: EV, Sport and Econ.

The Clarity is definitely not a road-scorcher but it’s not supposed to be. Nevertheless, it has decent reserve power and is actually a lovely highway cruiser.

It’s chock full of nanny features, too: lane departure warning, frontal collision alert and more.

But unlike the Accord, these can be easily disabled via a series of buttons located on the lower left of the dashboard. I really feel these thing should be optional – if you want a car that’s continually beeping at you and taking charge of the steering when you change radio stations, you can order them. Otherwise, they’re distractions and of questionable value.

Of these two, I definitely prefer the Clarity, although at $39,900 to start, it’s considerably more expensive than the Accord Hybrid ($33,090 to start). The Clarity just feels more driveable, with more interior elbow room. It’s a little more spartan than the Accord, but I can live with that.

Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

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