Honda e First Drive: It May Be Small But The Price Is Mighty

This is Honda's first electric car for the European market, so let's see if it's likely to hit the road in big numbers this year.
Honda e First Drive: It May Be Small But The Price Is Mighty

Some manufacturers have arrived at the EV party a little earlier than others. One latecomer is Honda which, to many, is a little surprising as it tends to be ahead of the curve. However, with the pint-sized ‘e’ – the Japanese brand’s first ever electric car for Europe – it promises to make quite the entrance.

“Very” is the answer you are looking for. If you had to rate this Japanese car’s cute looks on a scale of one to 10, chances are you would probably give it 11. Heavily inspired by the Urban EV concept that wowed the world at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2017, most of what appeared on it has – thankfully – been carried over to the road-going car.

The general shape is pretty simple and straightforward but there are so many elements that make it cool and attention-grabbing. For starters, the round LED head lights – with ‘welcome’ animation – and LED tail-lamps are encased in a black surround to give a real cartoon quality.

Flush-fitting handles for the front and rear doors achieve a minimalist look and help improve drag co-efficient, while slim door-mounted cameras replace conventional wing mirrors – just two other reasons why this is arguably the most intriguing new car to hit the market in recent times.

And you would be correct. Prices kick off at £36,920 for ‘Advance’ models of the e and climb to £37,520 if the premium paint option is requested. For the foreseeable, a red-only ‘Special Edition’ with black roof and wheels has been added to the line-up at a cost of £38,120.

At this point you are probably in need of a lie-down as similar money would get you into a Nissan Leaf with change to spare, or go some considerable way to securing the keys to Kia’s sporting EV6 crossover.
What the e loses out on in size it more than makes up for in respect of standard equipment and the level of technology that, quite frankly, is more commonly found in larger vehicles bearing the logo of upmarket brands from Lexus, BMW, Jaguar, Audi and Volvo. And that takes us nicely into the interior of this little urban run-around.

Honda e First Drive: It May Be Small But The Price Is Mighty

We love how Honda’s crack team have carved out so much space on the inside of a car that has such a small footprint. Measuring nearly 3.9 metres nose to tail and barely 1.8 metres across the front and rear axles, cramped, stuffy and claustrophobic do not spring to mind with four adults inside.

That boxy shape has advantages when it comes to the matter of headroom, too. In tandem with an upright seating position that brings your legs backwards, comfort levels are exemplary – even if it is a strict two-plus-two arrangement for whatever trips you have planned with friends or family.

Honda does provide storage bags for the standard home charge and Type 2 cables, but with underfloor storage in the cargo area sparce, you will have to carry these around in the already teeny 171-litre boot. Still, it is worth pointing out the e is a car principally conceived for the purpose of urban motoring.

Digital screens – whether big or small – are part and parcel of the new car ownership experience right now. With the e, Honda has gone screen crazy as the entire dash is made up of these: an 8.8-inch TFT unit sits in front of the driver and is easy to catch through the top half of the two-spoke multifunction steering wheel, while a dual 12.3-inch set-up join forces to make up the main infotainment display.

Sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included as part of Honda’s ‘Connect’ software and with an HDMI port, owners even can link up a console and play games on the monitors – once parked up, of course. And it is no gimmick, either, as the graphics are sharp and crisp and resist the effects of glare from the sun. The final two screens at either side of the dash show the picture from the door-mounted cameras that ape conventional wing mirrors.

For the doubters amongst us, be assured they work brilliantly because the resolution is 4K-esque and there is minimal time lapse between what is going on around you outside, and what you see when you lift your eyes from the road to check them.

Honda e First Drive: It May Be Small But The Price Is Mighty

The 130-mile quoted range is arguably the e’s Achilles’ heel. Then again, this is a car intended for short commutes: it is horses for courses in the EV world and some thought is required when making your purchase. Taken in that context, this is a real alternative to electric versions of the Mini and Fiat 500.

Performance from such a small car is brisk in ‘Normal’, and a touch more urgent in ‘Sport’ thanks to a rear-mounted e-motor that produces 152bhp and a sizeable torque output. Also impressive is how planted the body is, and the way the e wafts over surfaces with not so much as a twitch. Head into town and it excels further.

Being able to turn 180 degrees in a street 8.6 metres wide is one of the e’s party tricks. Standard safety tech on ‘Advance’ includes autonomous braking with collision warning, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.

CHARGING: Paired to a 22kW public charger, the best part of five hours is needed to replenish the e’s 35.3kWh battery from near zero to 100%; rapid charging (50kWh) will get you to 80% in half-an-hour. The charge port itself can accept both and is integrated within the front bonnet, with this raised by selecting an option found in the touchscreen’s ‘EV’ menu. Real-world range averages 100-or-so miles.

TECHNOLOGY: For being such a petite car, the e packs in an incredible amount of technology. Except for the smartly housed heating and ventilation controls, other selections are made via the dual 12.3-inch touchscreens. Our test car’s frameless rear-view mirror incorporated a system similar to Jaguar’s digital ‘Clear View Mirror’ which gives drivers a choice of an actual mirror or a digital camera feed.

DRIVING: The compact dimensions of the e, coupled with the battery’s weight and low-down position, keep it glued to the road through twists and turns. Being rear-wheel-drive has its advantages too, and as it is quick and light, the steering allows you have fun and get a proper sense of what the grippy front end is doing. In urban settings, the e is a doddle to park and it scythes down narrow side streets easily.

INTERIOR: Cleverly packaged, the cabin has a lounge-like ambience thanks to the in vogue light grey material used to upholster the seats and doors. This works well with the wood finish on the dash and brown seatbelts. Access to rows one and two is good and large windows ensure excellent visibility and allow light to flood inside. Practical touches include seat map pockets, bottle holders and USB points.

Honda e First Drive: It May Be Small But The Price Is Mighty

+Design brims with character
+Futuristic small car technology
+There’s space for four adults
–It isn’t exactly cheap to buy
–Range short of that promised
–Boot feels like an afterthought

Price: £37,520 (as tested)
Battery/motor: 35.5kWh/one e-motor
Power/Torque: 152bhp/232lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Top speed: 90mph
Range: 137-miles


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