2020 Honda E
It’s good to be back in an electric car. Research has proved that deciding to own an EV is pretty much a one-way gate; few take the plunge and then go back to internal combustion. Yet my automotive CV has yo-yo’d wildly back and forth in recent years – from a BMW i3 to a Tesla Model S, via an Audi A8 (diesel, yuk!), Lexus RX450h (hybrid halfway house) and on-thespectrum Bentley Continental GT (V8, petrol, sledgehammer fast and farewelled on these very pages).
It’s one of the perks of this job that we move between brands, segments and motive powers. And I’m glad to be in a battery car for the next six months.
Why? Because EVs are inherently interesting to live with and write about. Electrification is an irresistible tsunami transforming the car industry, and the benefits are manifold and tangible. I’m hoping I’ll again enjoy the silence and peace of driving an EV every day. The feeling that I’m not pumping noxious pollutants into the local environment from a tailpipe. The addictive thrust so readily on tap from a 152bhp motor driving the rear wheels. And waking up every morning with a ‘full tank’.
So I’m feeling optimistic about life with the Honda E. I have good reason; I penned the Giant Test back in the August 2020 issue, where it took on and damn nearly toppled the Peugeot e-208 and Mini Electric. This is a very special car, one of those once-in-a-generation cars for the marque – ‘the most significant Honda since the 1989 NSX’, I mused. Only its short range and cramped boot held it back from sweeping to victory. Whoops, I’ve blurted it out early: the E does have some compromises, but this test will allow me to judge them afresh.
2020 Honda E interior
Ours is a top-spec Advance model, likely to be picked by most buyers. And just look at it! It’s unlike anything else on the roads and is already garnering interest left, right and centre. I imagine the looked like this – that crisp, minimalist vibe that Silicon Valley would kill for, but backed up with the reassuring Honda badge.
The early omens are good. The exquisite engineering integrity that so impressed on the group test reminds me of the i3 I lived with back in 2016: the compact footprint, rear-wheel-drive handling and steering feel, extraordinary turning circle and bold purity of concept. The baby Beemer was all the more impressive for arriving seven years ago and Honda’s blazing fewer trails as a result.
Get past the cartoonish exterior, slide into the cabin and prepare to be amazed. The first thing that grabs your attention is the wall-to-wall digital interior, huge touchscreens stretching from A-pillar to A-pillar, bookended by electronic door mirrors like on the Audi e-Tron.
Will it stand the test of time? I can’t wait to see if the virtual instrumentation works, or whether it’ll be used as much as those dozens of apps you download when you get your first smartphone and never use.
But you then notice the woolupholstered seats, the well-judged wooden trim, the carpet-trimmed door caps and the wonderful sense of space cultivated by the flat floor and lack of centre console. You it’s all beautifully built – and the materials are a step up from the usual Honda stuff.
It’s safe to say I’m really looking forward to spending time in the E. The raw maths of its tiddly 36kWh lithium-ion battery mean I’m expecting to be hamstrung by the limiting 125-mile range, but I’m trying to adjust my mindset to accept that. It’s aimed at day-to-day chores and shorter inter-city hops, not long drives to the airport or far-flung family holidays. It has points in the bank for its utterly captivating charms, but real life is about to test the Honda E’s mettle harder than any streetside cooing ever will. Stay tuned.