The Honda E is everything Honda isn’t. Honda is about conservative design, solid, robust, and reliable engineering. From the appealing exterior design to the zany tech overkill interior, the Honda E demonstrates flair in a manner no other Honda has shown before. This is Honda adopting a punk rock persona, this is Honda’s first pure-electric car. Admittedly late to the electric car game, you get the sense that Honda has put a lot of energy into every area of the E. The exterior design language is an instant winner, no need to say much more because it does all the talking.
The Honda E is available in two “Grades” the 134bhp Honda E and Honda 152bhp E Advance. Prices start from £34K for the entry-level E and jump to £36K for the E Advance. A single electric motor drives the rear wheels, power is supplied by a 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery which is good for an official range of 137 miles. Performance is respectable, the 0-62 time takes 8.3 seconds and the top speed is 90mph.
The Honda E is a 4-door city-sized hatch, and on first impressions, it appears small. Thanks to clever packaging, the designers have managed to disguise the bulk and give the impression of slim proportions. Sitting upfront is more than spacious. However, even for people below 6ft rear passenger space is cramped, to say the least. The rear boot space is just about big enough for three shopping bags.
The rear seats do fold flat opening up more territory for a gluttony-fueled bought of binge shopping at the local supermarket. From the driver’s perspective, the dashboard design is an area of interest. A giant landscape-sized infotainment system wraps across the dash like a digital Berlin Wall. At first, it seems like a tech overkill, but somehow it actually works.
The infotainment system consists of five screens, including one dedicated 8.8 in (220 mm) instrument display in front of the driver and two large 12.3 in (310 mm) infotainment touchscreen displays flanked by two smaller 6 in (150 mm) displays for what Honda calls its Side Camera Mirror System.
The dual infotainment displays can independently run separate applications and are swappable; both support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The car is equipped with the Honda Personal Assistant, which uses machine learning to train its voice recognition. Saying aloud “OK Honda” activates the personal assistant.
Honda has clearly made a lot of effort into making the infotainment system easy and intuitive to use. The graphical presentation alone is nothing like Honda has ever offered before because it feels like next-level user experience design, more smartphone than glitchy Honda infotainment systems of yore.
The Honda E is engineered from the ground up, an all-new architecture designed for the electric car era. It has a 50:50 weight distribution, weighs just over 1.5 tonnes, and is a fun car to drive. The ride is firm but comfortable, the handling is responsive and direct. While the seats look simple they are actually very comfortable. So all in all the driving zen is spot on.
Performance is plenty fast enough. The E Advance on test delivered 154 bhp and 315 Nm of torque from its electric motor. Power delivery is instantaneous and gets you from 0-62mph in a respectable 7.5 seconds. Floor the throttle and the manner in which the power is delivered makes the Honda E feel faster than it actually is.
Equipment levels are very high, you get a full suite of modern safety features, in addition to a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, air con etc. There are no conventional side mirrors, Honda has gone full-future with the introduction of their Side Camera Mirror System. The exterior side mirrors are stalk-like in appearance with the camera embedded into them.
The side mirror camera feed is displayed live by a pair of small monitors flanking either side of the digital display. I found that the camera mirror display worked very well. I didn’t miss the conventional side door mirror at all. While the side mirror display monitors project a clear video feed, maybe for future updates Honda can introduce a higher-def video feed.
Charging the Honda E is straight-forward, you plug-in and let the charging do all the work. You can charge from a normal socket, but that will take up to 12hrs if the range is lingering at around 10 percent. Installing a dedicated wall charger will speed things up by 50-percent. Fast charging from a dedicated supercharger station will take 45 minutes to charge from 20 percent to full. The real problem with fast charging is finding a fully functioning charging station.
Indeed the Supercharger network is growing, you can easily plan a 100-mile round trip and find a fast charger waypoint. But I found the network to be somewhat dysfunctional and located in some odd places. If you are going to use the Honda E on a 160-mile round trip, it’s best to plan your journey ahead with fast-charger stop-overs. Even when you do there is no guarantee that a fast-charging station will be fully functional.
A fully charged Honda E, according to official figures, is 120 miles, the real range was actually 90 miles. Switch on the heater and the range will instantly drop by 10 miles. Switch off the heater and you get your 10 miles back. For some reason, the Honda E could no longer accept fast charging, so I was restricted to a maximum charge rate of just 11 kW, good for overnight charging, but not so great if you are embarking on that 160-mile round journey.
The Honda E is not suited to journeys longer than a 60-mile round trip. It is much better suited to short journeys, driving around a city or town. Then you will be able to make use of the regenerative braking more often which makes the batteries happier and keeps the range constantly topped up by about a mile or so. Drive the Honda E like a sports car and you will drain the batteries quicker than a relapsing alcoholic.
All in all I really liked the Honda E. From a design point of view it belongs in a design museum. For Honda, it is a statement as much as it is a statement of intent. It has been perfectly executed, but it isn’t perfect. It simply needs more range. This can be achieved through software gains, more efficient powertrain tech and batteries. The charging network is great when it is working, but at the moment it is rather dysfunctional.
Clearly, the Honda E is the first step, a significant step for Honda and despite the disadvantages, you can’t quite help but like it. The first generation of any new technology is just a first step, early adopters will take the biggest hit. Honda will need to iterate t like hell to get those efficiency gains.