2019 Honda e prototype review

We’ve driven the all-new Honda e to show you what to expect from Honda’s first electric car

When Honda first revealed its tiny ‘Urban EV’ concept in September 2017, the company couldn’t have predicted the high level of interest from eager buyers. Now renamed the Honda e, the prototype model is near production ready offering a claimed driving range of 125-miles, retro styling with a price-tag expected to start at around £32,000.

As of June 2019, Honda has received over 31,000 expressions of interest, including over 9,000 from the UK. With its compact dimensions and shorter range, the Honda e will be particularly suited to urban drivers; especially as its range figure falls short of the amount offered by the Renault ZOE, BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf.

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First impressions of the interior are good, with a premium and hi-tech feel to it. The ultra-wide central dashboard screen immediately catches your attention along with the wing mirror screens located on either side. Side-mounted cameras feed these side screens in place of traditional wing mirrors and are fitted as standard (not even the Audi e-tron offers that), giving the cabin a futuristic and cutting-edge feel.

Although the amount of screen space in the cabin can be a little daunting at first, the menu system is smartly designed and easy to use. This setup can be adjusted for night driving, by dimming the brightness or turning off the main screen off completely. A couple of plasticky switches don’t detract from the e’s stunning interior either, which has a certain wow factor about it.

If you’ve registered your interest in the Honda e already, you’ll be pleased to know that the car drives very nicely too. Its combination of short overhangs, a wide stance and rear-wheel-drive means it should be easy and fun to drive around town. It also has a useful 4.3-metre turning circle - much less than a Smart ForTwo.

Its electric motor pushes out 148bhp, but the Honda e doesn’t feel as fast as similarly priced electric cars. It doesn’t quite have the instant acceleration you get in an i3, but it’s zippy and quick enough for the majority of drivers. Honda says that 0-62mph takes under eight seconds, and it has a similar amount of torque to a Honda Civic Type R. Unlike most EVs, there’s very little body roll through fast corners and the whole car feels light and responsive.

There are seven brake-regeneration modes available, with four lighter settings in Normal and Sport modes a ‘single-pedal’ mode allows you to navigate heavy traffic without using the brake pedal, with three heavier settings designed to maximise braking regeneration to help top up the 35.5kWh battery during driving. Overall the brake regeneration is smooth, and the settings can be adjusted quickly via the steering wheel paddles. The amount of number of available modes could be too many for some, but this is unlikely to be an issue for most owners as the Honda does have a radar-control system that adjusts the braking force to automatically maintain a safe distance from the car in front when driving.

In terms of practicality, interior space is very good for a small city car, with enough space to easily accommodate a taller driver with an adult-sized passenger directly behind in the rear seat. The rear-mounted electric motor does slightly compromise boot space and with a high lip. Despite this, the amount of storage space on offer should be enough to accommodate city drivers. You can charge the Honda e using a 100kW fast charger (20-80% takes around 20 minutes) or a 7kW wallbox that takes around six hours for a full recharge. According to Honda, until battery technology improves, there’s no plans for a higher capacity battery version.

A limited range and high expected price could dent the Honda’s appeal to some buyers, but you can level both those criticisms at the upcoming electric MINI Cooper SE, a car that’s expected to boast a similar range and price-tag. Regardless, many buyers will be drawn in by the Honda’s stunning retro looks and the technology on board, but it will only be a success if buyers can live with its 125-range.

To learn more about the Honda e, read our full preview here. Or why not check out our guide to the best small electric cars you can buy.

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