Honda e review

The Honda e is one of the best small cars out there, electric or otherwise

Honda e
£26,660 - £29,160
Electric

Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Packed with equipment
  • Striking looks inside and out

Cons

  • Small boot
  • Short range
  • Pricey insurance
Car type Electric range Wallbox charge time Fast charge time
Electric 127-136 miles 5hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW) 30mins (10-80%, 100kW)

BMW proved that premium doesn’t have to come in a big package when it launched the reborn MINI. And look at how well that’s done. Now Honda has a point to prove with this pure-electric Honda e. If we gloss over the apologetic and unimaginative ‘e’ name, the squat stance and owl-eyed expression look the absolute business. And it needs to, because Honda is pitching its retro-chic electric city car upmarket.

Two versions will be offered. The entry-level car gets 134bhp and will cost less than £27,000 after the government grant, while the Honda e Advance gets its electric motor tweaked up to 152bhp and will cost around £2,000 more. Finance deals are very good, with monthly costs starting from under £300.

Even the standard Honda e gets side cameras in place of mirrors and the full bank of touchscreens and infotainment kit – including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat nav, intelligent voice command, multiple USB ports, HDMI input and the ability to cast TV and films from your phone to the screen. 

Go for that entry-level car with its 16-inch wheels and the official range is 136 miles, while the Advance with its optional 17-inch wheels (16s are standard) drops the range to 127 miles. The Advance also adds a heated windscreen and steering wheel, automatic parking, blind-spot warning and a sound system upgrade.

Everything from the range of the Honda e to its high-tech finish and dinky size makes it a direct rival to the MINI Electric, while the Renault ZOE delivers a less premium experience, but nearly double the driving range and a bit more interior space for a similar price. The Skoda Citigoᵉ iV is also a close rival, offering a much more basic interior, but at a drastically lower price.

Sit inside the Honda e and it’s clear how the price might be justified. When you slide into the driver’s seat, which has lovely, tactile upholstery, you’re faced with a touchscreen horizon stretching the width of the car. Screens for the side cameras (in place of door mirrors) bookend the digital driver’s readout and two central 12.3-inch touchscreens, and even the rear-view mirror doubles as a rear-facing camera in the Advance, should you want it.

This plethora of screens is chief among the Honda’s selling points. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but the menus are logical and the screens are responsive, while you can also dim the central screens or turn them off altogether for night driving.

Charging happens through the gloss-black panel in the bonnet of the car, which pops open to reveal a socket for CCS and Type 2 cables, which are the standard socket types in Europe and give you access to the vast majority of public charging points. Plug the Honda e into a 50kW charger – common in UK motorway service areas – and you’ll get 100 miles of range in under 40 minutes, while a 100kW charger will do the same in about 30 minutes. A 7kW home wallbox will deliver a full top-up in five hours.
 
The Honda e is great to drive, too. Being short and wide, with stubby overhangs and rear-wheel drive (courtesy of the single rear-mounted motor), the e swings into corners with proper relish. The steering is fairly slow, but has a lovely, natural progression that makes this car a pleasure to drive on faster roads or in town.

One of the Honda's best tricks is a turning circle of under nine metres, which is right up there with the Smart EQ ForTwo and makes the e feel like it’s turning on its own length. Body control is neatly tied down, too, and while you notice coarser surfaces and sharp-edged bumps, the Honda strikes a sweet balance of pliant yet tightly controlled suspension.

The Advance does 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds, and while there’s no sharp surge of acceleration that alternatives like the BMW i3 deliver, the Honda still feels nippy and responsive. One niggle is that there are almost too many brake regeneration modes. In the default drive setting, you have four levels to toggle through using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

The Honda e is the company's first pure-electric production car and, between the achingly cool retro looks and tech-laden interior, it puts a whole new spin on the premium small car. Vicky Parrott goes to Spain to have a drive ahead of the Honda e arriving in the UK later in 2020.

However, hit the ‘single-pedal’ button and much stronger brake regeneration kicks in to deliver three levels of Nissan Leaf-style, one-pedal driving. It bleeds in smoothly even in the most aggressive mode, so you easily get a feel for the pedal response and how quickly the car will stop. While the number of modes is a bit much, being paddle-controlled, it can easily be used to scrub speed off as you might use downshifts on a conventional automatic gearbox, which many drivers will like.
 
Practicality is perfectly good in the Honda e. In fact, for a car that’s shorter than a Ford Fiesta, it has impressive rear headroom and legroom, so you can easily sit an adult behind a long-legged driver. The boot’s rather pokey, but will likely be all that most urban dwellers need. All of which is great news for the admirably characterful Honda e. After all, it’s not just a great-looking and original car; it’s also very practical yet fun for city or suburban life. Practical yet also achingly cool – enough to justify the premium price for many buyers, we suspect.
 
Given the sort of mileage that the potential audience for this car does on average, you’d hope that the relatively short range won’t put people off. If the advent of the Honda e and MINI Electric can inspire a shift in buyers' perceptions of what is, or isn’t, an acceptable range for a short-hop lifestyle, then the Honda e promises to be a huge hit.

For a more detailed look at the Honda e, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.