Expert Reviews

First Drive: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Friday 28 April 2017

First Drive: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Summary

Honda recently announced its Clarity model will eventually come with electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen variants, marking the first time a model has offered all three on the same platform. We’ve been driving the updated hydrogen model, which isn’t yet available to the general public.

The big news is that engineers at the Japanese manufacturer have managed to reduce the size of the fuel stack so that the whole powertrain can fit beneath the bonnet. Before, the stack was beneath the cabin causing space to be reduced.

Looks & Image

The Clarity’s futuristic design makes it rather odd-looking, particularly from the front. However, there are some nice aerodynamic touches around the wheels that improve airflow.

It’s pitched as a premium executive saloon, because Honda can charge more for the car to help cover the cost of research and development, while the size of the hydrogen technology means a larger car is needed to fit it all in. 

The styling and quality of materials inside hold their own against other premium rivals from German manufacturers.

Space & Practicality

Hydrogen vehicles typically struggle to offer a lot of interior space because the powertrain parts are so big. However, Honda’s packaging results in an extremely spacious cabin that offers plenty of legroom.

One of the hydrogen tanks intrudes into the boot making it a weird shape, but the actual volume of space available isn’t too bad.

Behind the Wheel

Considering this is such a rare car and representative of Honda’s vision of the future, the biggest compliment you could pay to the Clarity is that it’s underwhelmingly normal to drive.

It’s quiet and responsive as we’ve come to expect from an electric car, while the hydrogen and battery pack combination provides better accelerator response on the move. It’s not fast by any means, but at no point did it feel like it would run out of puff, even at motorway speeds.

Value for Money

It’s hard to rate the Clarity on value since it’s not on general sale and Honda remained tight-lipped about potential pricing. However, when it does go on sale in the earl 2020s, expect it to be pitched against the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E Class, and impressively the materials in the Honda stack up well.

Who would buy one ?

Honda expects the plug-in hybrid variant to be the Clarity’s best seller. However, it sees the hydrogen model as the most environmentally friendly option, so it’ll appeal to those who need a high quality, long-distance cruiser but want the ‘greenest’ car available.

Facts at a Glance

Model tested: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Engine tested: Fuel cell stack with electric drive unit
Power: 174bhp
Torque: 300Nm
Max speed: 103mph
0-60mph: 8.8 seconds
Range: 403 (NEDC, claimed)
Emissions: 0g/km

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