Mid-2000s cars are still ‘new cars’ in my mind. I’m captivated by the presence of automatic sensing wipers in my Clio 182, for instance. To me that’s advanced tech for a car. For that reason I was expecting to hate the digital wing mirrors on the Honda E. I thought, what’s the point? Who needs this pointless feature? And yet it’s one of my favourite things on the car.
They work flawlessly. No glare, no latency, and the lack of wide wing mirrors give you ten times the confidence to throw the E into small gaps and parking spaces. Long live the camera wing mirror as far as I’m concerned.
One of the options you get on the ‘Advance’ version of the E is the camera-based rear view mirror. If you flip the tab on the back of the mirror it switches to a digital feed from the rear camera on the car. Great, just like the wing mirrors right? Not at all.
The option must have been a last-minute decision, as I don’t think the mirror is made by Honda. The UI is completely different to the car, and it has buttons on it that don’t do anything. No harm, no foul, I can respect outsourcing parts if it shaves down the car’s price. However because it hasn’t been designed with the rest of the system in mind, there’s a lag between what you see in the side mirrors and what appears on the rear view mirror in the most vomit-inducing way possible. In your peripherals you have three screens, but one of them is ever so slightly behind the other two. It’s safe to say I’ve been using the traditional rear view mirror ever since finding that feature.
It takes 16 hours it takes to fully charge the E from a three-pin UK wall plug! Yes, you read that right. Obviously if you were buying one you’d install a wall box that allows faster (usually 7kW) charging. However if you find yourself in an emergency situation with only a wall plug at your disposal, pull up a nice comfy chair. You’ll be there a while.
The E being rear-wheel drive sealed the deal on how much I adored it back at its announcement. I was expecting instant torque with such a short wheelbase to make it absolute yob to throw around an empty car park closed course. Sorry to disappoint my fellow hoons, but as it comes from factory, the E’s electronic aids can not be fully turned off. Boo. I’ve tried tapping the VSC button. I’ve tried holding the VSC button. I’ve tried praying to Keiichi Tsuchiya. Nothing. Only partial disablement is possible. No matter how much you try to induce oversteer, it cuts power the instant it feels tyre slip.
All is not lost however! If you treat it like a FWD hatchback and lift of abruptly after turning in, you can get the rear to swing around nicely. The bonus to this is the E’s mega turning circle, you can save skids from obscene angles. It has essentially got a factory fitted angle kit.
Serious and valuable research going on here at CT. Thank us later.
The E has two battery systems. The main ‘engine’ for driving the car, and a traditional 12-volt battery under the bonnet used to power accessories.
Recently I’ve been using the car around town for errands, and after getting home with two per cent battery, I left it a few days before going to charge it. After clicking the fob and hearing nothing I realised what had happened. Once the main battery is depleted, the 12-volt must kick in to try and keep the system going. However with that now depleted, it was completely dead.
Okay, not a problem, I’ll just plug the charger in. To do that I just need to lift the charging cover…which is locked electronically. So I had to jumpstart the 12-volt battery off the clio, so that I could open the charging hatch, so that I could plug the charger in, to charge the 12-volt battery. Seems a bit counter intuitive to me. Maybe there’s a simpler way, but my research online and in the handbook did not present one.
I don’t expect much from EVs when it comes to fun. They’re mind blowing for the first pull you do, but after that you can only push a pedal to the floor and accelerate at the same rate so many times before it becomes boring. The E feels fun to throw around and use in town though. The ability to accelerate into any gap and nip around so quickly packaged into such a small package (relatively for 2021) is great.
However if I wanted a fun little car to nip around town in, I could not justify spending £30,000 to do it. You could buy a £2,000 hot hatch and achieve much the same result, or a brand-new ICE hatchback for considerably less. You really need to be sold on having an EV.
The elephant in the room has and always will be the E’s range, and for very good reason. My issue with small electric cars is not the relatively short range, it’s how much variation occurs with those range numbers. It’s cold out? There goes 25 per cent of your range. You want your heater to be on? Well fine but that’ll cost you 10 per cent of your range. You’re taking it at motorway speeds? Well then you might as well not even try. It’s a losing game that means you’re on the edge of your seat every time.
I took the E to the brilliant Caffeine and Machine - a round-trip of 129 miles. On paper the E can do 137 miles, so cutting it close, but still, eight miles less than its theoretical range. By the time I had arrived, I had just 34 miles of range left, some 30 miles short of what I should have had. Now you may say “Edwin, you drive like a yob, of course that would happen.”. And normally that’d be true, but I was so conscious of not wanting to stop and charge on the way home that I sat behind a truck at 60mph the entire way there. I carried speed into roundabouts and corners as best as possible. I used regenerative braking down every hill I could. And yet. Regardless of my efforts, I was rewarded with needing to stop on the way home to charge.
30 minutes of charging later, I had 60 miles of range to do the final 35 miles of my journey. When I got home, I had just three miles of range left. Why’s that? As it got dark, the temperature dropped and sapped more of my range.
Driving an electric vehicle close to its range limitations turns you into a nervous, cold, wreck, and the reason for that is the stakes you go against. In an ICE car, if you’re running low on fuel, you just pull into the petrol station, fill up, and then you’re off again. In an EV, at a minimum you’re pulling over for at least 30 minutes. That’s a significant amount of time that no one actually wants to be sitting waiting to charge up. Although it’s not anything like as cool as the Honda, I can see why you might want to buy the Peugeot E-208 with its bigger battery instead.