2020 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid vs. 2020 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

To help make backing safer, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Optima Plug-In Hybrid and the Clarity Fuel Cell have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras and available around view monitors.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Optima Plug-In Hybrid its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 59 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Clarity Fuel Cell has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid comes with a full 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Clarity Fuel Cell’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 24,000 miles sooner.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Optima Plug-In Hybrid 5 years and 40,000 miles longer than Honda covers the Clarity Fuel Cell. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Clarity Fuel Cell ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Honda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Honda is ranked 16th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Honda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 20 more problems per 100 vehicles, Honda is ranked 16th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Honda vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 3 places higher in reliability than Honda.

Engine

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 28 more horsepower (202 vs. 174) and 55 lbs.-ft. more torque (276 vs. 221) than the Clarity Fuel Cell’s electric motor.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the Optima Plug-In Hybrid running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the Clarity Fuel Cell (103 city/100 hwy vs. 68 city/67 hwy MPGe).

Brakes and Stopping

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Clarity Fuel Cell are solid, not vented.

Suspension and Handling

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Clarity Fuel Cell’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s wheelbase is 2.1 inches longer than on the Clarity Fuel Cell (110.4 inches vs. 108.3 inches).

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (55% to 45%) than the Clarity Fuel Cell’s (57.3% to 42.7%). This gives the Optima Plug-In Hybrid more stable handling and braking.

For better maneuverability, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s turning circle is 2.6 feet tighter than the Clarity Fuel Cell’s (35.8 feet vs. 38.4 feet).

Chassis

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The Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 350 pounds less than the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell.

The front grille of the Optima Plug-In Hybrid uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has 2.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Clarity Fuel Cell (104.8 vs. 102).

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has .7 inches more front headroom, 3.3 inches more front legroom, .4 inches more front hip room, .7 inches more rear headroom and .4 inches more rear hip room than the Clarity Fuel Cell.

Cargo Capacity

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To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just waiting momentarily behind the back bumper can open the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s trunk, leaving your hands completely free. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

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The Optima Plug-In Hybrid uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Clarity Fuel Cell uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/09/29

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The power windows standard on both the Optima Plug-In Hybrid and the Clarity Fuel Cell have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Optima Plug-In Hybrid is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Clarity Fuel Cell prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Optima Plug-In Hybrid detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer cornering lights.

When the Optima Plug-In Hybrid is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Clarity Fuel Cell’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the Optima Plug-In Hybrid keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the Optima Plug-In Hybrid’s standard heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Clarity Fuel Cell doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/09/29

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid and the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Kia Optima outsold the Honda Clarity by over 8 to one during 2019.

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