Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
While most electric cars are designed to look a bit futuristic, the Honda e has won over hearts with a distinctly retro vibe. A cute combo of small, chunky looks, simple lines, circular LED headlights and vibrant paint made this dinky city car an instant success. It won’t take you far between charges, however, making it an urban runaround, but won’t take long to recharge, either. Think of it as a smartphone rather than laptop – small and convenient, with frequent charges – and you won’t go wrong.
The Honda e starts at £26,980, rising to £29,160 for the higher Advance trim level. Those prices already include the £3,000 government grant. That puts the car on a par (slightly cheaper, in fact) with the likes of the similar Vauxhall Corsa-e, Peugeot e-208 and Mini Electric. On a monthly finance plan, you’ll be looking at around £340 a month with a deposit of about £2,000.
Don’t forget, however, the much lower ownership costs of an electric car: zero congestion charge and road tax, less servicing and parts to go wrong, and the heater cost of electricity compared to petrol or diesel. You will, however, want a home-charging point, which will cost you about £500.
This car is all about style. We thought nothing could beat a Mini for the ultimate in distinctive design, but then along came this little box of delights. Outside, as mentioned above, the car tells a glossy, Fifties retro design story, with a glass roof on the upper trim level, and a huge shiny black door in the bonnet that pops open to reveal the charging point. Honda has made it a real design quirk of the car, to celebrate its electric credentials.
There is one very futuristic detail: no wing mirrors, Instead, there is a protected camera on each door with the display on a screen at each end of the dashboard. The cameras are coated and protected against the weather, and give you a better view in the dark than traditional mirrors.
Inside (the door handles pop out as you approach with the key), there’s lots of open-grain wood and grey lounge fabrics, to create a homely, relaxed vibe. The bench seat in the rear is covered in the same fabric as the doors and the seatbelts are a pale brown.
The connectivity in the Honda e is yet another step change for cars. We thought it couldn’t possibly get any better than Peugeot’s 3D twirling graphics, but Honda has configured the car with one massive series of screens, like some Japanese Starship Enterprise.
There’s one screen behind the steering wheel showing fairly normal stuff like speed, then two huge screens, one for the functions you use most like satnav and DAB, the other giving access to apps and the Honda Personal Assistant function which will assist you like Siri does – just start any command with “OK Honda”.
Standout features include an aquarium button, which turns both large screens into a fish tank with tropical species floating through coral, and is surprisingly relaxing while driving. You can also switch screen displays across for comfort, and choose from different wallpapers across the large display.
The car is silent on the move, with supportive seats and lots of light. There isn’t a huge amount of room – think of this as you would a Fiat 500, Peugeot 208 etc, but in return you get a small car that you won’t sweat about parking in town.
There’s a USB charging point at the front, a couple of pockets, a central space for storing your phone, keys and wallets, which has vertical dividers that you can lift and move to create bigger spaces. There’s also, strangely, an actual three-pin plug socket in the front, in case you want to charge your entire laptop en route.
Choose between the entry-level 136 horsepower and “Advance” 154 horsepower versions of the Honda e. We’d suggest the latter with its acceleration time of 8.3 seconds. Put it in Sport mode, and you nip around town like a little, retro, urban avenger.
While the maximum range of the Honda e is only 137 miles (so call it 100 miles in real world driving, and hardly anything if you nip onto a motorway), the upside is a charging time on a home-charging point of just four hours, compared with more like seven hours for something bigger, like a Nissan Leaf. Honda wants you to use this car more like an iPhone than a tablet – charge it little and often for best results.