Honda E review: Is it more than just a pretty face?
Can Honda's impossibly cute EV take on the big boys?
There have been a handful of cars I’ve driven that have got some serious attention from passers-by and other drivers: the Ford Mustang, Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, Mercedes-AMG G 63... and the Honda E.
One of those cars might seem slightly out of place among two V8s and a V12, but the impossibly adorable Honda E is one of the most hotly anticipated new cars since, well, probably the new Suzuki Jimny (which we’re not allowed to buy any more in the UK because of emissions and things).
I mean, look at it. It’s got the retro vibes of a Mk1 Golf – although it’s got a bit chonkier since we saw the Urban EV concept back in 2017 – mixed with the future. It’s like looking at a concept car from the 80s where the brochure says, “and in the future, you’ll be driving THIS. It’s electric and has a million screens and you can turn it into an AQUARIUM and play your Sega Mega Drive on it.”
The Honda E is the company’s first fully electric mass-production car, and finally, it’s an EV we don’t have to compare to a Tesla. Very much for the gal/lad about town, the E has an official range of 137 miles and 136hp or 154hp, depending on which version you go for – the Honda E or the Honda E Advanced. When I hopped in to the ‘sanitised for your protection’ seat (yes car launches are socially distancing too these days), the battery showed 98% charge and an expected 93 miles range. Is this the time to admit that’s when I start to think about filling up with fuel? Like I said, very much for the gal/lad about town and you'd have to be happy to live with that range.
Prices start at £26,160 for the base spec, and jump up to £28,660 for the Advanced model. The one I was driving was £29,710. That puts it into the territory with some of the big boys: the Mini Electric, Renault Zoe, Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e. All this cuteness does not come cheap, but the amount of tech you get for that cash is substantial.
Standard kit includes turning your wing mirrors and rear view mirror into cameras; rapid charging capability so you can get some precious miles back in around 30 minutes; an app which allows you to virtually unlock it, pass the ‘key’ to someone else, find it in a car park and pre-condition it; loads of fancy safety tech (auto high-beam, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, auto braking for starters); and approximately 29 screens.
I was driving one in the most boring colour, grey, and it still got loads of attention, but it’s also available in white, black, a lovely electric blue and DEAR GOD MY EYES fluorescent yellow.
What’s it like to drive?
The ride could be terrible and it could handle terribly and have rubbish acceleration and get away with it, because how could you ever get angry at a car with a face that cute? It would be like yelling at a puppy. But fortunately, the ride isn’t terrible and it doesn’t handle terribly and the acceleration is nice and nippy. Phew.
The 154hp Advanced model has the same amount of torque as the 136hp model (232lb ft), so there isn’t much difference in the 0-62mph numbers: 8.3 seconds or 9.0 seconds. Either way, it feels speedy and if you’re mostly driving it around town, are you going to care about going flat out? Still, the acceleration is enough to make you smile (yes, another thing about this car that makes you smile), but not enough to shove you back in your seat and cause you to make a really weird guttural noise like that time I was driving a Tesla with Ludicrous mode.
If you need to hop into a gap in traffic, you’ll have no problems, and it’s never jerky or jumpy, even if you like to get jabby with your right foot. The steering is ace: just over three turns lock to lock, direct and light, and you can manoeuvre the thing out of the tiniest spots with its crazily tight turning circle. The car feels like it’s pivoting from the middle.
The fully-independent suspension does a good job of sorting out lumps and bumps on our delightfully pot-hole-filled roads, but the car does feel a little bit fidgety at the back. Despite being a car for towns, it’s fun to chuck around on a B-road as well, with a relaxing lean into corners that once again will make you smile. Despite its size, it does weigh more than 1,500kg, but you wouldn’t know from driving it.
And yes, there is a Sport mode, which just gives you a bit more access to powerrrr, and nothing else.
How's about all that tech?
Where to start? There’s so much. First up, you can turn the car into a ‘one pedal’ thang by whacking up the amount of re-gen braking using the paddles behind the wheel. There are three settings and you can get to a point where you don’t have to use the brake.
Now, about those wing and rear view camera ‘mirrors’. Yes they reduce drag (by almost 4%), and slim it down and are a cool bit of tech, but well, I think the jury’s still out… You can switch between a normal and wide angle view, which distorts things a bit, and the resolution could be a bit better, and well, they’re just a bit distracting. Your eyes have to adjust to looking at a screen rather than a mirror, which is a bit odd. Same with the rear view, which you can actually flip into being a ‘normal’ mirror if you so desire.
The rest of the interior is ‘lounge style’, and I would be very happy if my lounge resembled anything like the inside of the Honda E. The fabric seats in the front are comfy and squishy, the fake wood (which sounds awful but looks great) gives it a really nice vibe. It’s just bloody great. The rear bench seats will fit a couple of ‘me’s quite happily, but I am 5ft7 and anyone much taller will be a bit squished. And the boot, at 171 litres will fit a few bags of shopping, with much else also getting a bit squished.
All that’s before you come to the screens. And boy are there a lot of ‘em. You’ve got the two 6.0-inch ‘wing mirror’ displays and rear view, an 8.8-inch screen behind the wheel, then two 12.3-inch screens sat side-by-side stretching across everything. The driver gets one, and the passenger gets one.
Screens for days
If you get constantly annoyed by the crap music your pal is playing, you can swap the screens and sort it out, and never let them near your ‘lounge style’ car again. You can have navigation on one, music on the other. Or any combination you can think of really. If that’s all too much, stop the car, and turn the lot into a relaxing aquarium. Seriously.
There’s also an ‘OK Honda’ feature, like Alexa or Hey Google, which is fun, but you have to be quite specific with your requests. The intro video suggested asking for an Italian restaurant with free WiFi and parking. OK Honda...
If having access to an aquarium in your car isn’t good enough, you can plug in pretty much anything to run on the screens. There’s USB sockets all over the place (well, four of them), a 12V socket, 230V three-pin plug socket and a HDMI input. So you could genuinely plug in a games console and have a quick go on Spyro while you’re waiting to pick someone up. Naturally you can only do this while the car is stationary.
With a car like this, it could probably cost £40k and have a range of 50 miles and people would still fall in love with it and buy it. When cars and car design are becoming a little soulless, and things just generally seem a bit crap in the world, the Honda E is a welcome ray of adorable, cute quirkiness. If you live in a town, and don’t really like leaving your town, except maybe to visit the farm shop 20 miles away, it’s the perfect car for you. But do make sure you can live with the range, the price and the tiny boot.