Review: Honda E (2020)

Rating:

Quirky electric city car. Excellent, tech-packed interior. Fun to drive.

Expensive. Small boot. Range won’t be long enough for everyone.

Honda E (2020): At A Glance

The Honda E is the Apple iPhone of cars. It’s small, expensive, and will need recharging regularly. But many buyers will be happy to overlook its shortfalls in order to drive one of the most desirable electric cars on sale.

It has an official range of 137 miles, dropping to 125 miles if you spec the oh-so-pretty 17-inch alloy wheels. That’s better than the new Smart EQ Forfour, but not as good as recent competitors like the Skoda Citigo-e iV, Renault Zoe and MINI Electric - all of which are cheaper, too.

While, like an iPhone, its specs don’t stack up against competitors on paper, it’s the way the Honda E goes about its business that makes it ultra desirable. For a start, look at it. It’s a superb balance of modern and retro design - not that different to the Urban EV concept car that wowed audiences at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. If there’s a car designed to appeal to millennials, this is it.

That’s true for the technology on offer, too. There are no fewer than five screens spread across the dash, including two infotainment displays and even digital screens instead of conventional mirrors. If you prefer an old-fashioned switch or rotary control for changing the radio station, this probably isn't the car for you, but it's all fairly intuitive to use.

Tech aside, the inside is superb, using a mixture of wood and contemporary materials to provide a lounge-like feel. Despite its compact dimensions, a flat floor means it feels surprisingly spacious up front, although room for rear-seat passengers is limited. It's got quite a small boot, too.

The Honda E builds on the usual benefits of an electric car (instant acceleration and excellent refinement) with a tiny turning circle which makes it a boon to negotiate a tight car park. That's because the electric motor is positioned in the rear, meaning the front wheels can turn more than in a standard city car.

There's plenty of performance on offer, too - and it can hold its own out of town. It feels stable at motorway speeds, although its direct steering can make it feel a little darty during lane changing.

Justifying the Honda E’s £26,120 start price is difficult, but finance deals from £299 a month help make that hefty list price a little more palatable. And while its range might not be as impressive as rivals, it'll be enough for many buyers, and it makes up for it by being fun to drive and packed with technology.

What does a Honda E (2020) cost?

Honda E (2020): What's It Like Inside?

Interiors of electric cars always used to be a weak point (development budgets had been spent elsewhere), but the Honda E’s interior is simply superb. Despite its wooden dash, it feels ultra modern, with a minimalist feel and airy, walk-through cabin.

There’s a dual-screen display running along the width of the dashboard and cameras instead of the door and mirrors (and a digital rear-view mirror, too, on the high-spec Advance model). More evidence that this is a car for the iPhone generation, you can pinch and swipe to access features and move things around. You can even switch things between the two main 12.3-inch screens - ideal if you want your passenger to search in the navigation or change radio station, for example.

The infotainment system has its quirks and we suspect most people will simply end up using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to access their phone's features, but it’s a thousand times better than anything we’ve ever seen in a Honda before. It’s quick to respond and intuitive to use, while there are some very cool features to keep you entertained when parked up and charging. 

There’s a built-in WiFi hotspot, while an HDMI input takes entertainment to the next level - plug in a Google Chromecast to watch streaming services like Netflix or Youtube through the car’s displays, or even connect your game console as choice. Combine this with a premium audio system on the Advance model and you’ll soon forget the thought of sitting in a drab service station while the Honda E charges.

Things aren’t quite so great for rear-seat passengers, but space is reasonable compared to other city cars. You can fit a pair of adults in the back and, being a five-door, access is easy. Just don’t expect to complete a long journey with four adults without a few complaints, but that’s not what this car’s about. It's an occasional four-seater at a push.

The boot’s pretty small, too. At 171-litres you should have just enough space for the weekly shopping trip, with the rear wheel arches noticeably impeding space. The actual boot opening is quite small, too, although there isn’t much of a lip - which’ll help if you need to load heavy items. The rear seats fold flat easily, too, if you do need more room.

Standard equipment (from launch):

The standard Honda E features a side camera mirror system, electronic parking brake with auto hold, regenerative braking strength control, My Honda+ app compatibility, pre-conditioning climate schedule, charging wait time schedule, single pedal control, leather steering wheel, climate control, front heated seats, under-boot charging cable storage, ambient lighting, mobile phone pocket, rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, 12.3-inch dual touchscreen display with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, HDMI input, four USB inputs, six speakers, steering wheel infotainment control, charging port, pop-out door handles, sky roof, rear privacy glass, rear spoiler, automatic LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, high-beam support system, 16-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, intelligent speed limiter, lane keeping assist system, road departure mitigation system, traffic sign recognition, lead car departure notification system, alarm and immobiliser.

Honda E Advance adds a front windshield de-icer, Honda parking pilot, heated steering wheel, 230V electrical outlet, premium audio with eight speakers, choice of 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels, centre camera mirror system, blind spot information, cross traffic monitor.

Child seats that fit a Honda E (2020)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Honda E (2020) like to drive?

We’ll tackle the elephant in the room first: the Honda E’s range. On 16-inch alloy wheels, the Honda E, with its 35.5kWh battery, will officially cover 137 miles from a charge, dropping to 125 miles when fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels. In the real-world, you’re not going to be able to cover more than about 100 miles before you start getting anxious about where the next charge comes from.

A lot of drivers rarely cover long journeys and the E's limited range will be plentiful for these buyers. A quick top up at a 50kW public charger will take the E’s battery to 80 per cent in around half an hour, while a 7.4kW home wallbox will top it up to full in a little over four hours. Plugging it in using a standard three-pin socket takes just under 19 hours.

So, how does it drive? It’s got all the typical characteristics of electric cars - instant acceleration and no engine noise. We’ve driven the Advance model with the more powerful 154PS motor (the entry-level car makes do with 136PS), and it feels plenty quick enough, darting around town and even joining the motorway with little drama.

Another electric car characteristic is a firm ride, and it's fair to say the Honda E is a little on the crashy side - especially when fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels. It's not a deal-breaker, though, and it's certainly no worse than its rivals.

By positioning the electric motor in the back, driving the rear wheels, and the batteries under the floor, the Honda E is extremely agile. With a turning circle tight enough to impress London cabbies, it’s a piece of cake to park or thread through congested city streets, helped by a variable steering rack which means the wheel only take 3.1 turns lock-to-lock.

Honda’s proud of its 50:50 weight distribution and NSX-like low centre of gravity, which means it’s also fun to drive on open roads. There’s not a huge amount of steering feel (you’d be wrong to expect something so analogue as steering feel in a car like this), but it feels very happy making progress along a twisty road.

Drivers can select from two selectable drive modes (we reckon it’s best left in normal mode), while the amount of retardation when you lift off the accelerator can be changed using the paddles located behind the wheel. There’s also a single-pedal mode which, with some careful driving, means you can resort to one-pedal driving. It’ll slow the car down as soon as you lift off the accelerator, pumping energy back into the battery and preventing you from having to use the brakes around town.

What have we been asked about the Honda E (2020)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

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Is an EV the best choice for a second car?

I want to replace our Smart Fortwo with as small a car as possible but that still seats four. As it's only a shopping car, we are looking at the Renault Zoe, but my car having been a faultless series of Civics I am worried by the reliability feedback on the Renault. The most important thing for me on our potholed roads is a comfortable and quiet ride. If less than 1000 miles a year is not worth it for electric, what are the best riding small city cars to look at? Cost is not the first priority on something we may keep for 10 years?
If cost isn't a major issue and you can charge a car at home, an electric car might make a lot of sense. They don't have as many moving parts as a petrol or diesel, so require less maintenance. I'd recommend the new Skoda Citigo-e iV. Or you could wait for the excellent new Honda E, but it's a bit more expensive...
Answered by Andrew Brady
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