Premium Class: Why We Think the Loveable Honda e is Justifiably Expensive

By Rob Clymo on at

There’s definitely something about the Honda e that makes it almost impossible to dislike. It starts with the aesthetics. Honda’s little run-around-town electric car is an endearing thing, featuring a clever blend of modern innovation with a decent smattering of old school retro. It’s like a restomod edition of Honda’s dinky Civic from the 1970s, complete with a modern-day take on its steering wheel to remind you of Honda’s long history of making special cars.

Some people moan that it’s not as edgy as the prototype, but the Honda e still turns heads, which is more than can be said for most small cars. The range of colours helps, with Crystal Black Pearl, Modern Steel Metallic, Crystal Blue Metallic and Charge Yellow all vying for your attention. The latter shade is the only one that doesn't incur a £550 additional charge incidentally. But, aside from cosmetics, the Honda e gets better the more time you spend with it.

There are basically two different models, with the Honda e Advance being the more loaded of the pair. £26,000+ gets you the basic edition, while £29,000+ buys the Advance. They share the same 35.5kWh battery capacity while the basic model delivers 100kW/136ps of power from the motor. The Advance edition boasts a tad more with 113kW/154ps. If you plump for 17-inch alloys on the Advance then you’ll get slightly less range than the model with 16-inch wheels, as it drops from 137 to 125 miles.

In many ways Honda isn’t shouting enough about what they’ve come up with. It’s all quite clever, but in an understated way. Having a good poke around inside and out the overall feel is one of quality components and an almost fanatical attention to detail. Honda has even managed to make the coloured seat belts seem interesting. There’s a neat little pull out cup holder that hides in the front of the centre console and nifty spotlights in the headliner for folks in the rear.

A forthcoming feature will be the ability to unlock and ready the car for driving using the My Honda+ app and the power of NFC as part of the increasing move towards digital keys. Oh, and the circular headlights have 12 individual LEDs, which light up in sequence when you approach the car. It’s another nice touch.

There are other bits that to some might appear purely of novelty value only, like the digital dashboard, divided into chunks of tech that can display an aquarium should you want to see one before you set off down the shops. To be honest, you can spend hours dragging and dropping the various dashboard segments around to create your own personalised creation. Or you don’t ever need to touch it. Get in and go and you’ll still get all of the driving aids you need to get on down the road safely.

Then of course you get digital cameras instead of traditional door mirrors. These take a little bit of getting used to, but they’re not quite the things to fear that many seem to think they are. You can even adjust their angle to suit your driving position. There is a tendency to keep looking outside the door, instead of inside it at the screens on each end of the dash for your side views, but it starts to come naturally after a little bit of bedding in.

The same could be said of the digital rear view mirror. When we drove the Honda e in Spain during appalling weather there were one or two issues with the mirror fogging up a bit. But on the UK car we’ve just driven all seemed well. In any case, if you’re a Luddite then you can always flick a switch and it’ll revert to a regular mirror. And if you really are a Luddite then the Honda e will probably have already scared you off anyway.

As for driving the car then zipping off down the road in the Honda e and all is good. Even on crappy UK roads the hunkered down body sticks nicely to those crumbling tarmac surfaces, aided and abetted by a great 50/50 weight balance with the batteries and motor at opposing ends of the car. Independent suspension gets you round bends very nicely indeed.

In fact, the experience is a little like driving an electric go-kart, with the short wheelbase allowing the Honda e to be thrown around without ever feeling like it’s going to end badly. There’s an accelerator and brake pedal, so it’s basically a stop and go machine. Meanwhile, you can also adjust settings to make best use of the Honda e’s Single Pedal Control, which puts you in charge of its regenerative braking potential.

Oh, and that turning circle is something else. The car is rear wheel drive, which means no driveshafts hinder the front wheels, so the reports of steering lock akin to a London taxi are true.

Manoeuvrability is therefore ace, but there are driver aids as part of a Sensing package, along with the Honda Parking Pilot to make things even easier. The latter is especially useful in town where there are often perilous car parking spaces to tackle. This automatic parking tech works a treat. Mosey on past any available spaces, the car will spot them and you then select one, which is highlighted by a green square on the dashboard screen.

With your foot nursing the brake the Honda e will then proceed to park itself into the space, while making an infectious silly noise in the process. This provides hours of fun even if you don’t actually need to park up for any particular reason. There’s lots of other daft but brilliant stuff in the Honda e, like the row of ports down below the dash that includes USBs, HDMI and a three-pin domestic plug socket.

There have been some other moans though. The Honda e is expensive, but so is an iPhone. Who cares? Most people will buy it on a finance plan, paying about £300 a month, which to many is kind of affordable. Well, it was until coronavirus hit town. We drove the Advance model, which costs more but comes with all the trimmings including heated seats and steering wheel as if Honda is trying really hard to dispel any worries you may have about range anxiety.

And sure, we’ll admit that the boot is quite small for a car that is most likely going to spend half its time hauling stuff back from the shops. The new all-electric Renault ZOE that we tried recently has twice as much space. The rear seats feel quite cosy too, not cramped, but if your child is growing like a weed then they’ll be joining you in the front passenger seat before long. While you can move house with pensioner’s favourite the Honda Jazz, it’ll take a few more runs back and forth with the Honda e. The rear seat folds down, but it doesn’t split.

Perhaps the thing that people moan about the most is the range of the Honda e, with a WLTP figure of 137 miles. But we spent a couple of hours driving it on all kinds of roads at many different speeds. We still had over half battery capacity when we got back to base, and that was even using the car in Sport mode for about a third of the journey. Steady driving and sticking to the speed limits means the Honda e’s range is plenty for what the car has been designed for.

Going on holiday to Cornwall might prove a challenge, but this car is so keen to be driven that you may well find that you’ve got there anyway without really trying. It’ll take a few stops along the way, but the seats are comfy and the in-car audio is decent.

Using a fast charger you can get the battery up to 80% or so in about 30 minutes using a CCS2 DC rapid charger, which is long enough to use the toilet and eat a pasty at the services. If you fancy a longer break then it’s possible to show a movie on that madcap dashboard, so why not recline those funky seats, kick back and enjoy the show.