Honda e: If the cutesy little EV's paltry range doesn't put you off, its price probably will
Were you to drive most car-makers' models back-to-back you would generally know what you're going to get each time, writes William Scholes.
Take Volkswagen, for example. A Golf is essentially a bigger Polo; a Tiguan is what a Golf would be if it ate its Weetabix and grew into an SUV. Engineers work hard at this stuff, believe it or not. They've settled on what a VW should look and feel like - everything from the design of the instruments and the action of the indicator stalk to how it steers and brakes. It's all been thought about and an effort made to infuse the whole range, from little to large, with consistency and coherence.
Just about everyone does this. Apart from Honda, that is, which seems to revel in being consistently inconsistent.
Wander into a Honda showroom today and in one corner you'll find the latest Civic. As we have established elsewhere, this is supremely accomplished and arguably one of the best new cars on sale today.
Elsewhere in the garage you'll find the Honda e. If the Civic is Honda at its most rational and focused, the little electric e is the Japanese marque at its most screwball.
That's not to say it lacks appeal. The cutesy retro styling will sell it on looks alone to some people - though perhaps not too many, judging by how few are seen in the wild.
Highlights include digital screens which run the full width of the dashboard. There are no door mirrors, with Honda using little cameras instead, with the image displayed on screens where the corner of the dashboard and door meet.
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The e is a well equipped little car too - a glass roof, heated seats and steering wheel and pop-out door handles are standard on the single trim level. There's lots of room for front seat passengers and its even OK in the back, where the two you'll be able to squeeze in fare better than they if they were in a rival Mini Electric or Fiat 500. The boot is tiny, however - there are schoolchildren with bigger lunchboxes.
The Honda's 152bhp electric motor means it's zippy between the lights and perhaps the real dynamic party piece is a turning circle so tight you could probably do doughnuts in your living room. This is a fun little car to drive, as a tiny EV ought to be.
However, there are two very large flies in ointment. First, you'll not get very far when you're having that fun in your Honda e. The official range is an already small 137 miles, but good luck getting more than 100 miles in real world use.
Second, even if the paltry range doesn't put you off, the price probably will. Honda asks £37,400 for this compromised little car. That's a chunk more than the Mini or Fiat, and straight into the same territory of larger, rangier EVs like the Kia Niro.
As a curio, the Honda e has its place and I'd be the last to discourage car-makers from building small, fun cars. But where's the progress over the BMW i3, launched as far back as 2013 and discontinued last year?