Nissan Leaf vs. Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid: Comparing the Value Green Cars of 2018

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid | Eric Schaal/The Cheat Sheet

As you’re browsing the market for a pure electric car or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) in 2018, you’re going to notice a few things. For starters, there is no 200-mile EV on sale below $35,000. (Chevrolet Bolt EV comes close.)

The best value EV play is the 2018 Nissan Leaf. This model offers 151 miles of range at $30,875 (includes delivery charges).

Meanwhile, there are only two plug-in hybrids offering over 45 miles of electric range and over 300 miles total range. Of those two, only the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid ($34,295 with delivery) slots into the midsize sedan segment.

Both of these plug-ins check most of the boxes green car drivers want; both are available now in dealerships; and both qualify for the $7,500 tax credit. Here’s a look at how the two rate for consumers looking for value in the EV and PHEV segments.

Leaf dominates the EV pack around $30K.

A red 2018 Nissan Leaf in profile

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

If you scan the list of 2018 electric cars by range, you’ll see the 2018 Leaf offering 20% more than the competition at the same price. That’s important because the extra battery capacity means more driving and less charging.

Meanwhile, this Leaf is a hatchback that can achieve 125 MPGe in city conditions, offers one-pedal driving, and has a small footprint. For city dwellers, we can’t think of a better all-around EV package. Leaf costs about $1.00 to drive 25 miles, based on an average of electricity prices.

As for the negatives, we’d point to a lack of interior quality and less-than-exciting styling. In base models, consumers aiming to buy or lease a Leaf probably won’t mind. However, those going for the SL trim we drove ($37,085) might expect more.

Another thing worth noting: This car is on the small side. Leaf has less passenger space than a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

Clarity PHEV’s overall package shines.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid | Eric Schaal/The Cheat Sheet

While Leaf is the best EV value at the price point, we see the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid as the better alternative if your budget can stretch another $4,000. This model drives 48 miles in EV mode (110 MPGe) before switching to hybrid power (42 mpg). Its total range is 340 miles with the seven-gallon gas tank and battery full.

But that’s just the green-car specs. What makes this model a breakthrough plug-in is the fact there are few (if any) negatives. In terms of size, it about matches the Ford Fusion midsize sedan for passenger and cargo space. Interior quality and design are also superb in the Clarity PHEV.

Meanwhile, its 212 horsepower tops the base Toyota Camry, so you don’t have to worry about highway driving. Honda Safety Sense comes standard as well, so that question is also easily answered.

In brief:

  • The Clarity PHEV is a comfortable midsize sedan you can mostly drive electric. If you take the tax credit, you can get one for less than $30,000.
  • Leaf is the pick for all-electric drivers on a budget in 2018. With the tax credit, it drops below $25,000.
  • In terms of value and staying power, Clarity’s 48 miles EV range is one of the high-water marks for plug-in hybrids. It won’t be topped anytime soon.
  • Leaf’s 151 miles of range is solid but will be topped soon. In fact, the 2019 Leaf will top its range.
  • Both cars are among the greenest vehicles you can buy on the U.S. market.
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