It’s likely that a great many E owners won’t need another reason to buy than the car’s striking exterior design. Much as we might quietly regret that the slightly bolder forms and more perfect proportions of Honda’s 2017 Urban EV concept didn’t make it on to the final production version of this car, this is still a really impactful, characterful and visually appealing piece of work.
The E isn’t quite Honda’s very first all-electric passenger car (there was also the experimental, lease-only EV Plus supermini of 1997) but, even so, it was bold of its maker to fund an all-new dedicated electric car platform for it, rather than adapting an existing one. The E has an all-steel chassis that, like most EVs of the type, carries its lithium ion drive battery under the cabin floor.
Unlike most rivals, however, the car’s electric motor (which develops either 134bhp or 152bhp at peak, depending on which version you buy) sits at the rear and drives the rear wheels, while the power electronics and on-board charger are packaged at the front, where you’ll find the car’s charging port.
That layout has enabled Honda to deliver a near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution for the car, as our test scales confirmed, but that’s not the only benefit. As many a post-war compact passenger car has proven, a rear-engined mechanical layout can be particularly space efficient, making for more interior room than you would expect in a car that’s less than 3.9 metres long.
It also makes more space available to the car’s front wheel houses, which in the E’s case deliver abundant steering angle and a turning circle between walls that, depending on wheel specification, can be less than nine metres.
Staggered-width wheels also contribute to that effect, those on the car’s front axle being half an inch skinnier than those at the rear. Suspension is all independent (via MacPherson struts and coil springs at each corner), which ought to encourage keener drivers.
Slightly less encouraging is the car’s overall kerb weight: our range-topping 152bhp Advance-spec test car came in a bit lighter than the manufacturer claim but was still 1535kg. That made it 120kg heavier than the BMW i3 we tested in 2013 (which had a piston engine as well as an electric motor) and only 31kg shy of the MG ZS EV compact crossover we tested last year. In this case, small clearly doesn’t mean light, then – not even by compact EV standards.