Honda’s first electric car has been due to arrive at dealers for what seems like years. But August 2020 looks like the date when some very excited customers will finally get their hands on their new Honda e. The build-up has felt like the arrival of a new iPhone – and there are parallels with the Apple product, too.
Why spend £30,000 on a small Honda when there are other electric cars for significantly less? For the same reason people spend £1,000 on an iPhone, or £600 on a Dyson cleaner. They are all nice products to own. Honda e buyers are unlikely to be disappointed after their long wait.
MotoringElectric verdict: 4/5 – A piece of automotive jewellery
- Charming retro style
- Incredible dashboard and connectivity
- Pleasant to drive
- Pricey for its size
- Limited range
- Tiny boot
Key EV specifications
- 35.5 kWh battery
- 125- or 136-mile range
- Prices from £26,660
This is Honda’s first foray into the world of electric cars. The e is supermini-sized, so similar to the electric Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 208 and Renault Zoe. But unlike the Vauxhall and Peugeot, which are also sold with petrol engines, the Honda is a standalone electric car like the Zoe. This makes a statement that will be valuable to some. When you see a Honda e, there’s no doubt the owner has committed to green motoring.
It also says they have a fair bit of cash to splash about. The Honda e costs a hefty £30,000 in this Advanced version. Alternatively, assuming you cover 6000 miles a year (realistic for a car in which all trips will be short) the e Advanced with metallic paint is £300 a month over three years on PCP with a £6,132 deposit.
Many other electric cars are in that price range, so what’s the issue? Prompting most of the discussion is the Honda e’s range on a full charge, which falls either side of 130 miles depending upon whether you choose the standard or Advanced model. A £30,000 budget normally buys you more than that.
Still, the trade-off is mighty tempting. The Honda e really is a joyful piece of design, combining retro (round headlights and tail lights) with ultra-modern (door mirrors replaced by tiny cameras). The door handles pop out as you approach and the interior gives the illusion of being bigger than it really is. There’s also real comfort from cloth seats that look like they come from a 1960s Scandi furniture catalogue.
The other big talking point is the spellbinding dashboard. Contrasting somewhat bizarrely with the faux wood trimmings, is a full-width instrument panel filled with screens. At either end is a monitor for the door cameras, while in-between are two 12-inch monitors that can be programmed to display anything from navigation to music to your phone book. Another screen behind the wheel gives more immediate information, such as road speed. The fact you can choose to display fish swimming across the dashboard seals the deal for me.
One advantage of the Honda e’s smaller battery pack is that recharging takes less time than it would for an electric car with a bigger range. With a typical 7kW home charger, that equates to a maximum of 4.1 hours to 100 percent. Charging times can be programmed via the dashboard interface, to make the best use of off-peak electricity rates.
Using a fast charger when you are away from home is the obvious choice. You’ll pay more, but a 50kW charger will, according to Honda, take the charge to 80 percent in 31 minutes. That, Honda reckons, will easily add 82 miles to your driving.
Even so, the Honda e will not be the electric car of choice for a long journey. Argue all you will about that, but why not accept that Honda is entirely within its right to build an urban car where compact size and high tech content take priority over a big battery?
So how far will the Honda e actually travel when fully charged? My car had 97 percent charge when I started off, with a quoted range of 102 miles. The reading stayed at above 100 for almost 10 miles on a mix of urban roads, before gradually ebbing away. My 63-mile route encompassed a 70mph dual carriageway, as well as some hard acceleration. But most of the time I balanced a feather-light foot with always keeping pace with the traffic.
At the end I had 44 percent charge remaining, which equates to a range of 119 miles. That’s pretty close to the 125 mile figure quoted in the statutory test. If you want more, choose 16-inch rather than 17-inch wheels, which add another 12 miles of range
It’s fun. Quick and zippy, the Honda e provides plenty of smiles and should be enough to win over even the most sceptical driver. Like most electric cars, the battery is mounted low, which helps stability in corners. And though undoubtedly a bit on the porky side (290kg more than a Volkswagen e-Up, 110kg more than a Mini Electric) the suspension deals with this weight well. It’s notably comfortable for a small car.
Sport mode gives an extra frisson of acceleration, although as this will adversely affect your Honda’s range, it’s best saved for occasional use. One-pedal driving is possible, once you’ve worked out what to do, which scavenges some regenerative amps when you lift off the accelerator. Paddles behind the wheel (quality items, like so many of the interior touch-points) allow the effect to be fine-tuned to your liking.
The distinctive design encompasses some smart elements that help make the Honda e stand out. With wheels pushed to its extremities, cabin space is maximised. In theory, that means room for four adults, but foot room is limited in the rear and the boot is small. That’s an oversight in an urban car likely to be used heavily on the supermarket run, compounded by the boot being the only place to store the charging cables. Shopping and luggage on the back seats are the only work-around.
Forget that, though, and instead dwell more on the interior ambience, the very low noise levels and the suite of technological possibilities buried within that amazing dashboard. The Honda e does a neat turn in parking itself, too.
Is the Honda e a good buy?
I put my money down on a Honda e 15 months ago and, yes, I am going through with the purchase wholeheartedly. All £29,710 of it. In the last couple of months I’ve agonised that the money would be better spent on another electric car, one that offers a better range and more space, for a similar outlay or less.
Having experienced the Honda e first hand, crawled over it, and had my questions answered, my doubts have faded away. It’s a car to buy with your heart as much as your head.