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First Drive

First Drive: Honda e

2020 Honda e
The story: Honda’s first all-electric vehicle is a small rear-wheel drive hatch designed for urban environments.
Key rival:Mini e
On sale:Now

Honda’s entry into the electric vehicle segment is one of the most eagerly anticipated new cars of 2020. The small hatchback has stayed close to very well-received the Urban EV concept car first shown in 2017, with the biggest change being the name switch to a simple e.

First Drive- July 2020- Honda E- Image 7

2020 Honda e

The new model slots in below the Jazz in terms of size, although not price, as we’ll come onto later, and hosts a number of technological developments for the Japanese brand, not least replacing the door mirrors with cameras on the higher of the two trim levels. The e also has almost full-width touchscreens, with the mirror screens being 6.0 inches on either end, an 8.6-inch driver’s display and a pair of 12.3-inch touchscreens across the central area that display all the regular infotainment and car information and data. These central two can be customised with an array of displays, each have six shortcut tiles and can be swapped in terms of which is on which side. Honda gives the example of the passenger setting the sat-nav in front of them and then swapping the screens to move it nearer the driver. The system works well, and is more user-friendly than the one in regular Honda models that has received criticism for its usability.

Interior materials are excellent quality, although the seats could be a little thicker and more supportive. Larger rear passengers will appreciate the width the doors open to aid entry, although there is a predictable limit to both head and legroom once in there. The boot is also notably tiny at just 171 litres, and so shallow that it’s debatable whether a full shopping bag will even stand up under the shelf.

First Drive- July 2020- Honda E- Image 6Honda has hit the jackpot with the driving experience, with the rear-driven layout and claimed 50:50 weight distribution, as well as a miniscule turning circle, making for a fun and nimble little car that’s adept out of town as well as in it. The short wheelbase is betrayed when hopping over larger bumps, but otherwise it’s a smile-inducing experience. The is the option of driving in single-pedal mode, where the level of regeneration is increased to the point where the car will bring itself down to a complete stop on release of the accelerator pedal, or the regeneration can be controlled using the paddles behind the gear lever to adjust across four levels, although disappointingly it reverts back to the minimum level within seconds so won’t hold the one the driver wants.

First Drive- July 2020- Honda E- Image 5But there is one pretty large elephant in the room. Range. The Honda e has an official range figure of just 137 miles at a time when the likes of the Renault Zoe and the Peugeot 208/Vauxhall Corsa siblings are able to offer over 200 miles. On the test drive event, Honda came up with a clever analogy about developing a smartphone and people asking why they hadn’t developed a tablet, with its larger size and better battery life, but 137 miles of official range will prove restrictive for anyone trying to use the e as their only car. Which limits its market in a way that rivals bar the electric Mini, which has only a marginally better range figure, don’t. The smaller batteries make for an enhanced driving experience, and Honda wouldn’t have been able to package more batteries and still achieve the same agility, but it does as a result limit an otherwise characterful, fun and very appealing electric car.

The pricing is also something of an issue, given the Honda e sits at around the same level as those models from Peugeot, Renault and Vauxhall that offer longer ranges, although it does sit a little below the Mini. The lower of the trims costs £29,660, rising to £32,160 for the Advance car which adds the more powerful motor and the mirror cameras, as well as heated steering wheel, a central rear-view camera display, blind-spot detection, the Parking Pilot driver aid and a choice of 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels, the latter cutting the official range figure by 12 miles.


paul barker

The verdict

Range and, to a lesser extent, price are big barriers to what is an otherwise excellent little car. Practicality is compromised for the sake of style, but it does it that very well.