A comfortably insulated car in a virtually soundless world.
There are no gears in the vehicle, just the light touch of the accelerator pedal delivers seamlessly smooth power from a source that’s clean and efficient, with zero emissions.
What is the Honda e?
This is the highly anticipated Honda e, an all-electric city car that looks more like a concept than something you’d normally see on the roads.
When Honda revealed the Urban EV concept in 2017, it was met with great excitement thanks to its funky, retro-futuristic styling. It’s one of those cars you really want to love, because it looks so great inside and out and it’s genuinely interesting in an industry of rampant parts sharing.
Now it’s made production, and it looks just as good as the concept did, but you can actually buy it and drive it on the road.
Also boasting a truly unique interior, the Honda e could be one of the most desirable cars of the year – impressive for such a small car.
However, some of the numbers could make it a tough sell – with prices starting at £26k and a range of just 137 miles, similarly priced competitors appear to offer more bang for your buck – or charge for your change, perhaps.
The Honda e has been built from the ground up to be an electric vehicle, so shares nothing with other cars from the firm. It’s Honda’s first electric car, too, so it has developed a lot of this technology to feature on future EVs.
All of the important internals such as the motor and battery are new, as are all of the body panels. It also gets cameras in place of wing mirrors as standard.
What’s most exciting though is the interior, which is packed full of screens and features befitting a next-generation car. There’s the dashboard-wide screens, the all-new user interface, an artificial intelligence system, and an ambience that feels more like a Scandinavian’s lounge than a Japanese city car.
What’s under the bonnet?
There’s a single electric motor that powers the rear wheels, which makes 152bhp and 315Nm of torque. It’s powered by a 35.5kWh battery, which provides a range of 137 miles. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like a lot, you’re right, with many rivals now pushing around 200 miles from a charge.
While performance is punchy and the motor is serenely, smooth when you need it to be, that range figure will be a sticking point for many. While Honda argues that most people just don’t drive enough to need more and will charge at home most nights anyway, there’s no hiding from the fact rivals offer considerably more.
For example, the slightly more expensive Peugeot e-208 isn’t quite as powerful, but promises up to 217 miles of range. For peace of mind, some will find that hard to ignore.
However, Honda is adamant it wants the e to be a city car and thinks that most drivers won’t require more miles from a small car. So if you have regular access to charging and a short commute, it should work for you.
What’s it like to drive?
As with most electric cars, the Honda e feels supremely responsive to inputs, scooting briskly off the line and darting between traffic with a nimble enthusiasm you just can’t find in a combustion-engined car.
Because it’s an electric car, the Honda e has that fun, punchy response to throttle inputs. Unlike petrol and diesel engines that need to be revved to get power, electric motors are always ready to go. This makes the e sprightly and easy to drive around town. Its performance can overwhelm the rear wheels, too, so if you stamp on the accelerator in the wet you’re often greeted by spinning tyres.
This is also helped by the fact it’s tiny, with large windows that make visibility excellent. Perhaps what’s most impressive is that it handles motorways very well, not being too badly affected by crosswinds and remaining quiet and comfortable even at higher speeds.
How does it look?
The Urban EV concept’s funky styling has been brought to production fantastically closely, with the same mix of retro-inspired looks with a hint of futuristic inspiration. It’s genuinely unique and manages to be a real head-turner out on the street as it stands out so much among more mundane traffic.
For some people, the fact it draws glances from passers-by could be a turn-off, but if you want a car that makes you smile every time you see it, there are few others that come close at the price point.
What’s it like inside?
If you thought the outside was unique, wait until you see the inside. The most prominent feature is the wrap-around screens that dominate the dashboard but impressively they don’t obstruct your view and are not distracting.There’s an 8.8-inch screen ahead of the driver, with two 12.3-inch touchscreens in the centre and ahead of the passenger.
The user interface is excellent, which is all the more impressive given Honda’s existing infotainment systems are generally poor. It’s quick to respond to inputs and is easily configurable, with plenty of useful functions and an excellent sat nav. It even has HDMI inputs, so you can watch high quality video through it.
There’s a screen ahead of the driver replacing the traditional instrument binnacle, and two more screens to the right that control and display the infotainment system settings. These are flanked by screens that display footage from the digital mirrors. The material qualities are largely brilliant too. The wood dashboard is a premium touch, and the steering wheel and few buttons present inside feel solidly put together, while the general ambience is that of a high-end Ikea lounge – called kümfikär, perhaps?
Another win for the Honda is cabin space. Its Peugeot rival, for example, feels cramped inside, but the Honda e is light and airy, even for taller drivers – though you’ll be constantly knocking the heated seats on with your knee.
What’s the spec like?
The base model starts at £26,160, while the Advance model starts at £28,660, both after the government’s plug-in car grant is taken into account.
All models get wood trim, multiple screens and wing mirror cameras as standard. For the base model, you get 16-inch alloy wheels and heated front seats to name a few highlights, while it’s also a little less powerful.
Then there’s the Advance, which gets upgrades including a central camera mirror, automatic parking, heated steering wheel and premium audio system as well as a more potent power output. An important note, though, is that there are optional 17-inch alloys on Advance models, which drop the range from 136 miles to 127.
There’s no denying the Honda e is a brilliant car, with unique looks, a lovely interior and fantastic driving experience. The only question that remains is whether you can live with the relatively low range, but if you rarely take long journeys and have access to home or work charging, the Honda e is well worth a look. Buying one could therefore be something of a leap of faith, but those that take it – and fit the use case – will not be disappointed.