The little Honda e makes you smile, makes your heart beat a little faster and makes you fall a little in love with it, writes Sean O’Grady
The Honda e is that rarest of cars – a genuine object of irrational desire. Of course you see plenty of super cars and Uber luxury sedans that people salivate about, and a select group of smaller, trendier motors (Fiat 500, anyone?), a small four-seat electric town car… don’t make me smile.
Well, of course the little Honda e does you make you smile, does make your heart beat a little faster and you fall a little in love with it. It is adorable. You’ll want one. And you’ll probably cough up the steep price that Honda is demanding for their latest, revolutionary product. Like most new cars the Honda e is in short supply, and so desirable is it that you’ll be lucky to get any discounts. This is a £30,000+ shopper with a very modest range, but it has that gem like quality that exerts an irresistible desire. It’s not so much that you buy a Honda e, more that you’re willingly paying a ransom.
OK, check out the cute face, housing the round headlights/indicators, which is precisely mirrored on the back end, where twin round brake/indicator lights, to maintain the symmetry. The overall neat proportions are reminiscent of the peerless Giugiaro styling of the original 1974 Volkswagen Golf. If you have a good memory and a bit of imagination you can also see hints of the first Hinda Civic (1972) as well. The key point, however, is that this is a radically smaller car. Whereas the current pastiche Mini and Fiat 500 are bloated tributes to their illustrious forbears, the Honda e is the real retro thing – downsizing for crowded urban streets, which has to be its natural habitat.
Given its modest real world average range of 105 miles (nearer to 70 miles on a cold day on the motorway), it’s just as well that it is explicitly your cheery urban companion. It tops out at 90mph, by the way, and its electric motor is notably whiny at the legal limit. On a standard home charging point it takes about five hours to “fill up”. Cleverly they’ve moved the “filler cap” from its usual location on the rear wing to a hatch on the bonnet, which is far easier to use, given how heavy and awkward commercial fast-charging nozzles are to manoeuvre. Another joy.
The party trick is of course the door mirrors; it doesn’t have any. Instead there are neat little cameras stuck where the mirrors usually sit, leaving the car looking like one of those puppies that have had their ears cropped. You see the road behind via two 6in colour screens, just indoors at the ends of the full-width screened dash. You don’t even have to try to get used to them, but the image can sometimes be less crisp than a normal mirror, and things such as the indicator boards in buses strobe. I also had doubts about the durability of the kit, and the cost of replacing it one day, though that goes for most things on modern cars.
Betwixt the “mirror cams” we find two central 12.3in screens that you can customise to show the sat nav map, radio and audio controls, games from the HDMI cable, trip computer and, if you’re bored and stationary, a variety of in car videos including an on-board aquarium. Competing the wall of screens is the 8.8in instrument binnacle, again customisable. Beneath that is a tasteful-wood effect ledge holding the audio controls, like a high-end 1970s hifi, and below that an ultra-simple retro heater. They use three buttons for gears, and you can use sport or bumper car mode for added fun.
It is very much like Honda has gone back to its small-car roots for inspiration for its first all-electric battery powered model, and it was a smart thing to do, creating this compact aspirational personal accessory that oozes style, discernment and quality. It comes in two flavours, base with a smaller battery, and Advance trim, which gives you heated sets and steering wheel and goes a bit faster; another £4,000 or so. I’d have to add, the heating system generally takes its time to get you warm. It all depends on how badly you need a hot botty. Either way, the Honda e has a nice big-car feel.
I was going to add that I don’t know how they do it, but of course I do. They’ve been making excellent reliable little cars for a half a century, and they charge the earth for this latest product. The list of competitors that offer better value, superior performance, wider ranges or vastly more space for the same money is long indeed – VW e-up!, Renault Zoe, Peugeot e-208, Mini electric, Fiat new e500, MG5 EV…all excellent, but none of them make you feel quite as good about the world as a Honda e. It’s automotive therapy. You can’t put a price on that, especially these days, eh?