Those specs (at least, the ones we know so far), then: the car’s electric motor, mounted at the back of the car and driving the rear wheels, produces 148bhp and more than 221lb ft of torque.
Here’s the kicker: the E will use a 33.3kWh liquid-cooled battery, which, Honda says, will deliver just over 125 miles of range. That compares with 193 miles for the BMW i3, 242 miles for the new Renault Zoe and 282 miles for the Kia e-Niro, all of which are likely to cost the same as or substantially less than the E. It's also true that most of those models are bigger and more practical, particularly in the rear seats and boot.
With range anxiety a big issue for prospective EV buyers, the E runs counter to the prevailing industry push that, when it comes to battery size and range, bigger is always better. But Kohei Hitomi, the Honda E’s project leader, says the firm is quite deliberately taking a different approach.
“If you really want to cover all the requirements possible from a customer perspective, then you need to provide a car with a bigger range,” says Hitomi, “but that would bring a lot of drawbacks we believe are somewhat nonsense.
“It would make the car unnecessarily bigger, heavier and more expensive and would also mean it suffers in terms of charging performance. We believe that this size and range is the best balance in terms of overall manoeuvrability and dynamic performance for size and charging.”
In other words, given the types of mileage most city car buyers cover, the E’s comparatively small range is ample – while offering packaging benefits that enable it to better meet its defined purpose, cutting the weight and offering better driving performance and handling.
“This is a car for customers who are satisfied with a driving range of around 125 miles,” says Hitomi. “If they need a longer range, we have to admit this may not be a suitable car. But customers who can live with this range can appreciate all the additional value of this car.”
That’s the theory, then. But until now, we’ve only been able to look at the car. This is our first chance to get behind the wheel of the E Prototype – albeit for a short run at slow speeds on a Honda test track – and get a sense of whether the E is a stylish, cutting-edge premium product or a triumph of form over function.
Time, then, to look past that design. Which is hard, because it just looks so darn good, from the compact dimensions and rounded bodywork to its circular, emotion-filled headlights that evoke the first-generation Civic. It’s delightfully retro, although Hitomi thinks that sounds old so would prefer you to use the term “nostalgia”. He adds: “It needed to have a familiar appearance, because it’s easier to accept than a completely new, somewhat exotic design direction.” Even when you sit inside, the E is achingly stylish, from the unusual, practical fabric to the retro-futuristic dashboard fusing a wood trim-effect veneer with a large touchscreen.