The Irresistible Honda e is Finally Here But it's Up Against Stiff Competition

By Rob Clymo on at

One of the highlights of this week’s enormous Frankfurt motorshow has been the arrival of the production ready Honda e. The compact and very cool urban cruiser will come in two model variants; the 100kW version, which starts from £26,160 and the £28,660 Honda e Advance that features a beefier 113kW battery and more tech features.

The pricier model is the one to go for if you’re looking to squeeze the most from this cute little car and, as Honda spokespeople were keen to point out, getting the better specification model would cost ‘just another £50’ a month if you’re looking to acquire the car on finance. They’re right, though, as having picked over the new arrival, both inside and out, we think the tech treats make the Honda e Advance a very decent package.

It’s been a long time coming this car, as Kohei Hitomi, Head of Honda e, underlined during a chat we had with him and Mirai-Aki, Head of Connectivity, at the show. Originally it seems not everyone at Honda was quite so keen on the idea of a small electric car with all the supposed limitations that come with it. However, having pressed on the Japanese manufacturer has developed a battery-powered vehicle that is perfectly suited to shorter commutes, trips into town and general A-to-B stuff.

The end result is a great looking small five door car, with the outside being really distinctive. There are whiffs of the early Honda Civic Mk 1 of yesteryear blended with cracking new features, like the distinctive circular lights at each end. It’s not actually much different from the prototype creation that we’ve seen a few times prior to this point and is certainly going to be more interesting to look at than close rivals like the new Mini Electric or Renault Zoe as a couple of examples.

There’s the Side Camera Mirror System too, which replaces the usual side view mirrors. A small camera mounted on each front door delivers live images to twin 6-inch screens located at each end of the dashboard. Not only do they work surprisingly well, with a normal or wide view option, Honda reckons that the smaller components help reduce drag. Similarly, there are pop-out doorhandles, which also aid aerodynamics.

Climbing into the back of the Honda e for an overview of the dashboard and its features with Mirai-Aki the car feels compact, cosy but cute. The seats are sensible, practical and ideally suited for what the car is designed to do, but four large adults might perhaps feel it’s a little too cosy. However, it’s that lively dashboard that commands your attention as there’s a lot going on, but in a good way.

Prior to getting in, Mirai-Aki also demonstrated opening the car with his ‘digital key’, which was actually his phone, by holding it next to the door and using the power of the supporting My Honda+ app. Granted, he had a bit of a challenge to demonstrate it as eager show goers started opening all the doors and the bootlid too as soon as he approached the car, but it’s a neat trick. And also a feature that we hope is as safe and secure as it can be.

As for the dash, well, the launcher system means that you can use your favourite apps on the two 12.3-inch touchscreens that dominate the main central area. This arrangement seems to work very nicely, and you can drag and drop preferred apps as and when you want to. The other bonus is that you can use more than one app on the screens, which can subsequently sit side by side, so music and maps for example. Both the driver and passenger can also customize settings to suit, with menu options on both sides.

There’s also the voice control aspect of the Honda e, the Honda Personal Assistant, which uses machine learning to get to know the owner of the car and adapts its settings accordingly. Simply say “OK Honda” along with a question or instruction, which Mirai-Aki did for a pretty straightforward foray into what the weather was like. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see the potential for this aspect of the Honda e.

Other tech trimmings with the costlier Advance model come in the shape of a semi-autonomous parking mode, while the rear view mirror becomes a digital reversing camera when you’re going backwards into a parking space. Wireless connectivity is improved in the premium edition too says the manufacturer. The boot, meanwhile, is fine for shopping and what not, while around at the front there’s the flip-up lid that gives you access to the charging points for the car.

Of course, we’ve yet to drive it although the facts and figures surrounding the Honda e sound promising enough. The electric motors feature adequate power for the job in hand, driving the rear wheels and providing a good 50/50 weight distribution for extra agility. The 100kW model has 136ps while the 113kW option delivers 154ps plus 315Nm of torque, underlining just how zesty even small electric cars can be. It’ll do 0-100km/h in around 8 seconds says Honda.

Adding an extra edge for around town duties is the 4.3-metre turning circle, which should get you in and out of tight spaces easily enough and add a bit of handling fun into the ownership equation. And, as for charging, expect a fast one to get you 80% in around 30 minutes from a 100kW rapid outlet. A home wallbox will take around 5 hours, which is fine to get you topped up overnight. From a fully charged battery you will be able to cover around 136 miles reckons the manufacturer, although again we’re yet to see how the figures stack up in reality. But we think that’s fine for what most people are going to be doing with the Honda e: short hops whilst enjoying lots of admiring glances.