5.8.2020Honda e first drive
The Honda e is a key car for the Japanese firm. Pitched as a premium product, and not engaging in the race for EV range that many others have, it's an intriguing prospect for EV buyers. Instead of headline-making driving range, the e focuses on its suitability for urban driving, design - both inside & out - and a tech-heavy equipment list. We test it on the Honda e UK launch to see how it all stacks up.
Review by Chris Lilly
There are two subtly different Honda e models available - the e and the e Advance. Much of the difference is in the amount of equipment fitted as standard, but one key change is the motor fitted. The standard Honda e has a 100 kW electric motor, whilst the Honda e Advance has a 113 kW motor. It doesn't sound like much of a difference, and we haven't had the chance to see how it affects things, but the e Advance tested officially has a 0-62 mph time of 8.0 seconds, one second faster than the standard model. As you would expect from an EV, the power is instantly available, and makes for a responsive car to drive. It's nippy, can hold its own on the motorway, and allows the driver to exploit gaps in the traffic with ease.
Honda has engineered the e to be a fun-to-drive car, and my word they've succeeded. It's a great car to get behind the wheel of, with plenty of poise, comfort, agility, and precision to everything. It's well balanced for day-to-day life, but really enjoyable on a twisty road too. Kept in its natural environment, the e is perfect to drive around town, with a really tight turning circle that's the envy of just about everyone barring Black Cab drivers. There are few cars in its class - electric or otherwise - that drive as nicely as the Honda e.
Honda should be applauded for largely keeping the Urban EV Concept as is for the production e. It's a stand-out design, a blend of both retro and futuristic. It certainly grabs the attention, and it's only going to attract buyers, rather than put them off. It should appeal to those that have little/no interest in cars, and that's a significant proportion of the market. The theme continues inside, with a cabin that has hints of 70's lounge to it - but is far nicer than that sounds. Plush fabric seats, fake wood trim, and a plethora of screens are the stand out features, and will again grab buyers in rather than push them away.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The interior stands up to scrutiny too, with that array of screens across the width of the car - five in total - the biggest attention grabber. The driver has a digital instrument panel, plus there's a central infotainment system, and then a passenger infotainment system - flanked each side by screens replacing rear-view mirrors. It could all be overwhelming, but an excellent user interface and design make things simpler, as well as a natural voice assistant. Everything looks good, and works well, with the only downside being a compact cabin - only to be expected considering the exterior dimensions. It's not too small for a city car, as the rear seating space is sizeable enough for a couple of adults (for short distances at least) and certainly comfortable enough for a pair of children. The boot is small-ish, but no smaller than many other cars in its class.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Honda has not pitched for a big range, and as such, the e will be disappointing for some, A range of 137 miles is quoted for a charge, ad a mixed test drive saw a calculated range of 112 miles after driving 71. It's not a bad score considering I was testing the performance aspects as well as the efficiency elements, plus it was a quick test route. As such, I'd comfortably expect a range of 120 miles possible in all but the coolest weather, especially if you drive the e around its natural habitat - built up streets. In that case, you should comfortably beat the official range.
One benefit of having a relatively small range - because of a relatively small battery - is that it doesn't take long to charge it. It's 35.5 kWh in capacity, so charging on a 50 kW rapid charger only takes about half an hour for a large top-up. It will charge at 6.6 kW on AC points, both through the CCS inlet, conveniently located in the centre of the front of the car under the panel on the bonnet. There are other green features, like a B mode to boost brake energy regen and 'one-pedal' driving, plus selectable levels before that which allows the e to virtually coast, through to strong braking once off the throttle. Heated seats and steering wheel help with efficiency, and there's an app for remote control of typical EV features such as charging and pre-conditioning.
Tested was the Honda e Advance, which comes with a pretty full equipment list. These include the stand-out screens, and digital wing mirrors - both standard across the range. Also fitted are a comprehensive suite of safety systems, connected car access, switchable digital rear view mirror, parking assist, heated front seats, rear privacy glass, panoramic sunroof, charging ports, keyless entry and start, air conditioning, automatic wipers and lights, and navigation with Bluetooth, DAB, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
There is no getting away from the fact that the Honda e starts at £26,600, and the test car was a little over £29,000. The Mini Electric is cheaper, has a similar range and 'cool' levels to the e and is a little larger. But it doesn't have the same interesting interior or levels of equipment. The Honda is also better to drive around town. It's not a perfect EV, but it's very good, and will pick up plenty of buyers looking for a practical small car - this one just happens to be electric.
Model tested: Honda e Advance
Body-style: City car
Engine / CO2: 113 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: e and e Advance
On-road price: From £26,600. Price as tested: £29,710 (prices inc. grant)
Warranty: Three years / 90,000 mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars