“Now you just stay there,” my wife affectionately admonished the new Honda e…
As she came through the front door of our house and clicked the remote to lock the car on the remote which was standing outside. Seeing her family smirking, she said shamefacedly, “You can’t help but anthropomorphise that car. Next thing, I’ll be giving it a pet name. It’s that lovable.”
I completely agreed. Never have I found a car more engaging and captivating. The Honda e is to fall in love with. A year that has brought a host of great cars came to a close with one of the best.
I was smitten from the first moment it turned through our gates and onto our drive for a week’s lane. “My, that’s cute!” I said to the driver as he got out of the car. Those are not words that routinely pass my lips. I think the last time might have been about 25 years ago for the launch of the Ford Ka.
Like Chris Svensson’s design for that classic subcompact, the Honda e practically reinvents the idea of the car and does it with such brio that it can make you laugh out loud. It’s wonderfully amusing, for example, that the rectangular block that constitutes the Honda e looks broadly the same when it’s coming towards you as it does when it’s going away. The main difference is that the circular lights at the front are white and at the back, they are red.
It does have a lump at the front, which could pass for a bonnet, but there’s no engine beneath. Instead, a flap on top conceals the recharging point, which – besides letting you know which end is which – is the only outward sign that you are looking at a pure electric car.
Concealing and reinventing bits and pieces that normally stick out of the sides of a car is part of Honda’s purpose on the e. The front door handles are recessed into the panels and pop out when you press the remote release. The rear handles are recessed flat into the upper edge of the doors and swing-out in response to a push from a fingertip.
Slim, streamlined nacelles do stick out where wing mirrors would normally obtrude; but these contain not reflecting glass but cameras that transmit the rearview to little displays at each end of the dashboard in the car. The view they provide is as sharp as an LED. They give you the definite feeling you are looking at today’s technology rather than a hand-me-down from the age of the horseless carriage.
That’s the feeling that predominates throughout the experience of using the Honda e: nothing on wheels is more contemporary.
The dashboard display consists of a single touch-screen that runs the length of the fascia (which is unfortunately surfaced with faux wood) and is about six inches deep. It gives an integrated presentation of all the information you need, mostly in digital form. A heads-up display on the windscreen provides speedometer and condensed information on power consumption and supply.
This brings us to the rub with the Honda e: its range is comically inadequate. Charging the battery to the max overnight provides a range of little more than 70 miles when you press the start button in the morning. If you then run the seat and steering-wheel heaters, the demisters and the air-conditioning, the lights and the audio system and take the car on a dual carriageway or a motorway, you can watch that range dwindle by the second.
You couldn’t be confident of a daily range of more than 55 miles, which means that this brilliant car is suitable only for limited life only in a city. That makes its £34000+ purchase price look like that of an expensive luxury reserved for spoiled brats and football WAGs (but I see I repeat myself).
And that’s a real loss because this car is also a wonderful hoot to drive on open roads. If you click the drive options into Sport on this car, you get the nearest thing to a go-kart in legal use on public roads. Its pointability and its grip are unmatched, and you can’t help acquiring a grin from ear to ear.
At the end of our week with the Honda e, my wife finally came up with a name for the car, and she decided to call it Noddy.
Alas, that’s likely to stick – even though it’s a bit of an insult to an outstanding little car.
Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK’s national stage for 40 years, writing for every “quality” newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 – the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.