As you all know, it’s not easy to admit difficult truths to yourself. Sometimes you can remain in denial for as long as possible, until you find yourself confronted by cold, hard reality and you have no choice but to accept what’s right in front of your face. At the New York Auto show this week I had such a moment, and I can no longer deny what I feel: the Honda Clarity seems a lot like a modern Citroën DS.
Hey, hey, everyone just calm down. It’ll be okay. If you’re about to fling a chair at your computer, I’m going to ask you to just pause, place the chair back down, apologize to the people around you in the coffee shop/office/opium den and hear me out.
I love Citroën DSes, and have been around them, driven them, enjoyed them. They have a certain strange, almost otherworldly presence that not many other cars have.
Now, I’m not saying the Honda Clarity has all of these qualities, but I have to admit there’s an odd visual similarity, and even a certain rich weirdness to the car that you just sort of feel when you’re around it that, well, reminds me a bit of the legendary DS.
Visually, these cars feel like expressions of a common theme, separated by six decades or so. The overall elongated-tortoise shape is there, the optional two-tone style between the greenhouse and the body, and while the overall body rake is opposite on both cars (Clarity up, DS down), there’s still something that feels familial there.
Mostly, it’s the rear quarter of the Clarity, with that partially-skirted rear wheel, that feels so Citroën-ish.
This rear quarter I think is what really drove this home for me.
Also, like the Citroën, the Clarity is deeply weird, mechanically. Where the Citroën had the novel and unusual hydropneumatic suspension, with its green and red juices and green spheres under the hood, the Clarity has versions with such exotic, arguably dead-end tech like hydrogen fuel cell power (only available in California, where the only hydrogen stations are), a conventional hybrid that’s strangely complex and lacks a transmission of pretty much any kind, and a battery-electric version that gets 89 miles of range, like some kind of sick joke.
So, we have two oddly-shaped, sporty-turtle-shaped cars with skirted rear wheels and unusual mechanical solutions and a certain vague sense of otherness about them. I don’t think Honda ever intended it to be like this, but I think they’ve somehow managed, by accident, to make the closest car to a modern Citroën DS.
Congratulations, I think? I mean, I’d be proud.