The Honda e isn't just another car release. Oh no, this electric car is special, real special. From the outside it’s got looks that set it apart from everything else. Yup, we think the Honda e is pretty darn unique with the odd whiff of Honda’s heritage (think old-school Civic) combined with bang-up-to-date features and functionality. That includes digital door mirrors and flush-fit door handles no less. It’s a super-cool bit of kit.
And, if you want to order one then it’s all nice and simple, with two models available. Gizmodo got to try the more expensive model, the Honda e Advance, which is going to be available for £28,660, which includes the government plug-in car grant of £3,500). The slightly cheaper Honda e costs £26,160 and that price tag also includes the government grant.
Having explored much that the Honda e Advance has to offer we’d say it seems to be worth the extra cash. That’s not to say the base model doesn't come packing plenty of cool features. It’s got 16-inch alloy wheels, the digital side camera mirror system, Honda’s Sensing safety features bundle, a rear view camera, heated front seats (in an electric car?), a panoramic glass roof plus adaptive cruise control.
However, stump up the extra for the Honda e Advance and you can pick larger 17-inch alloys instead of the 16-inchers, which incidentally, reduce the range by 9 miles. There are other treats too, including a centre camera mirror system, a heated steering wheel, auto parking, premium audio, blind spot information and a heated front windscreen.
Colours? Honda is releasing the e in a selection of suitably cool shades, and while we're not the biggest fans of white it does seem to show off the contrasting black features of the little car really well. They're even doing it in Charge Yellow too, if you’re looking to really stand out from the crowd. Our money would be on the delicious Crystal Blue Metallic, but they're all good if we're honest. So it’s all hunky dory on the outside.
Inside though it’s a revelation. We’d seen the standout feature, that dashboard, before, so it was good to actually drive the Honda e and experience it first hand. After a video primer on all those features and functions, shown on the dashboard screen obviously, Gizmodo got to drive the Honda e in both wet and dry conditions, which gave us a great chance to evaluate the pros and cons of this tech-laden city car.
Highlights were plentiful, while there were some surprises thrown into the mix for good measure. While that dashboard does appear to dominate proceedings it’s actually not that big a deal once you’re on the road and driving. In fact, there’s quite a lot you don't even need to worry about when you’re driving anyway, save for the sat nav and the all-important information on battery health. This is first and foremost a city car, so we think Honda has got it about right for the range of 137 miles.
Meanwhile, as we made our way out of Valencia the Honda e’s digital side mirrors took a little bit of getting used to, especially as what you see sits at each end of the dashboard instead of out on the doors. However, complemented by a digital rear view mirror they form a comprehensive view of the side and rear of your little Honda e. So much so that you don't need to fret about the chunky rear pillars and small-ish back window.
The Honda e gets around town very nicely too, with the 50:50 weight distribution and fairly squat feel of the car making it feel really agile. It’s also got a fab turning circle of 4.3-metres, and that makes it brilliant for those city streets, tight parking spaces and well, just throwing the car around and having fun. And that’s the Honda e right there really; it’s an awful lot of fun, especially when so many cars simply aren't.
There’s loads of other great stuff about this car though. The interior is finished with almost soft-furnishing-like seat covers and door trims. Our car had brown seat belts too, which are a simple but surprisingly effective trim touch that adds to the unique feel of the Honda e. The boot, mind, is pretty small. It’ll take your shopping but if you’ve got a pushchair then you’ll probably struggle without folding down the rear seats.
But, generally speaking the Honda e is hugely practical. Charging it is child’s play, with a plug-in point on the front of the bonnet. Using a fast CCS2 DC charger you’ll get the battery back up to about 80% in 30 minutes or so. Honda’s Parking Pilot is another boon on city streets and in crowded car parks. Simply press a button on the dashboard and the car will find an empty spot and reverse into it with impeccable precision, while you watch it all happening on screen. That bags it another fun token.
Get the car out on the open road though and you see another side to the Honda e. It’s not the fastest, with the e Advance having a 0-62 mph time of 8.3 seconds and a maximum speed of 90 mph, but it's how you get there that is the real source of the performance factor fun. The Honda e is nicely balanced, and with drive coming from the rear wheels you get a real kick from being pushed through tight corners. And, to be honest, it feels fast enough.
Going back to that dashboard though and it’s what lurks beneath the middle of it that proves most surprising, although the more you learn about it the more it makes sense. What you’ll find down here is connectivity central, with an HDMI port sitting alongside 12V power and a 240v socket, plus the obligatory USBs front and rear.
What does this mean? Well, as Mirai-Aki, Head of Connectivity for the Honda e explained, it could certainly deliver a gaming session. That was the whole point he said with a deadpan look on his face. You could tell he was secretly really, really chuffed with the entertainment possibilities on offer inside the Honda e.
Oh, and fear not, it won’t be possible to play while the car is in motion as none of this will work without the parking brake applied. Sensible. Interestingly, over a plate of paella, the Japanese team who’ve worked on the Honda e underlined the usefulness of having a plug socket in your car aside from plugging in a games console.
One noted that if, for example, your house has a power cut and you’ve got a freezer full of groceries that will spoil, it should be possible to plug said appliance into the car’s socket. Thus saving your frozen peas, fish fingers and more besides. That was food for thought.
The My Honda+ app is, at the time of writing, still going through some final tests but eventually you’ll be able to access your Honda e using a Digital Key that allows the car to be locked and unlocked remotely using Bluetooth and your smartphone. It’ll also take care of things like battery monitoring to notify you of failing charges, or even pop up the window remotely if you’ve forgotten to close it, amongst other things.
So sure, it’s a great little car, but the Honda e is also a place you can head to for a bit of solace from the daily grind. You could, in fact, just about live in it if you like compact and bijou accommodation. It’s probably bigger than some of the apartments we've visited in Japan.
There’s a place to plug in your games console, you can watch movies and, in the Honda e Advance there’s Wi-Fi too. It’s even got the Honda Personal Assistant to talk to if you’re lonely, though we only ever seemed to ask it for the weather forecast. The Honda e is definitely a car with character and a personality. But it might also be your new place to escape the rat race.