What is it?
It’s well-made, well-equipped and extremely cute, but you might as well know from the start that your opinion of Honda’s new supermini EV is going to depend almost entirely on how you view its relatively meagre WLTP cruising range of 125 miles.
This dominant statistic (low compared with most other electric cars currently being rushed to market) directly controls who will buy the Honda E and how it will be used. It’s even more important even than the relatively high price, which starts just over £26,000 for a basic version (after the £3000 government grant) and runs close to £30,000 once you’ve bought the plusher, faster Advance version and added obvious options.
Knowing that range talk will be dominant, Honda is careful to describe the new car as an urban runabout, relentlessly pointing out that the average British motorist’s commute is only about a fifth of the little E’s range, which means its battery has plenty of juice for most suburbanites. If you need more, it implies, better to buy something else. Or own a second car.
The flaw in that argument comes from the E’s innate eye and driver appeal. Its modern, simple reprise of the styling of the 1972 Civic – itself a new kind of Honda back in the day – makes it uniquely appealing among current small cars. Once you’re behind the wheel, it soon dawns on you that the E is also dynamically different from the horde: it avoids the disappointingly oversprung and underdamped suspension of many electric cars (especially those towards the bottom of the size/price range), and that’s another inducement to the driver to use it for more than the low-grade errands implied by the words ‘urban’ and ‘commuter’.
Mind you, it’s easy enough to understand what Honda is saying: the E is a small car, just 3.9 metres long and, even with its modest 35.5kWh battery, the lightest of the two varaints weighs 1514kg. Give it a big battery and you would add 20cm or 150kg and get a car with an entirely different character and price. Other car makers have shied away from uniquely engineered small EVs, and this is why.