MY CO-DRIVER and I are having an argument. He wants to call the new all-electric Honda e the push-me pull-me auto while I prefer to call it the palindromic car.
Our stand-off comes from a comment from an executive for the Japanese marque that the car looks almost the same at the front as the back.
Either way, it is a singular model. Small, cute, innovative and scarcely changed since it was unveiled to universal acclaim two and a half years ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Then, it was a breath of fresh air. Original in design and bold in substance, Honda was challenged to build it.
Today, I have just driven it and the first cars will be on our roads in June. This could possibly be the small, electric car many people have been waiting for with enough chic to put it up beside those other small icons, the MINI and the Fiat 500.
This is an electric car on a new platform and built as an EV. It is not an EV popped into a familiar body – it is pretty as well as practical, connected and part of the 21st century internet of things, according to Honda.
Certainly, it looks like no other car on our roads, with a neat nose, round friendly headlights and clean, fresh lines. The rear lamps light up like the “equals” sign and our Advance model sits on 17in alloys.
There is also a Honda e entry model that shares the same 35.5kWh powerplant and boasts 136PS as opposed to the 154PS of the Advance. They both have the same 137-mile range and, of course, absolute zero CO2.
Inside, the Honda e is like a TV lounge, with fabric seats, wooden trim and, amazingly, five different screens running horizontally across the dash.
The two at either end replace the wing mirrors via cameras on the doors (the rear-view mirror comes as a screen or a mirror). There is a screen behind the steering wheel and two large screens alongside – one for the driver and one for the passenger, or two for the driver if you are selfish.
They can be swapped at the touch of a button so the driver gets the sat nav and the passenger the radio or the wi-fi, or the power flow, the apps, the phone, the settings, the personal assistant, the trip computer – the list goes on and on.
This car is truly connected. You can send movies to it, plug in and play Nintendo, and the personal assistant will find your favourite restaurant and plot a course to it.
It will also seamlessly move into your life and make everything easier. You can check the temperature from your phone, monitor the charge, find where you parked and check you shut the windows and doors.
You can even send a digital key when you are away to allow someone else to drive. And they will want to because this little car is a humdinger.
It is nippy and smooth, fast out of a roundabout, and solid and agile around corners – partly because of the placement of battery and motor, which give it a low centre of gravity.
It has been built as an urban car and has no pretensions to be a big, lumbering SUV and so it has an incredibly tight turning circle – 4.3 metres – and the Advance model comes with Parking Pilot, which will park the e for you whether it is in a bay or a parallel space.
The higher-powered model comes with a top speed of 90mph and will get to 62mph in just 8.3 seconds.
It is the first of 20 new EVs coming down the road this year and has certainly set down a marker for those that follow – and it won’t break the bank. With a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, the entry level comes in at £26,160 and the Advance will set you back just £28,660.
In the future, Honda is planning that this car will be part of a system both giving and taking electricity from the grid and is already putting plans into place for this as we move forward.
There is a tangible excitement in the Japanese company about this car, which breaks new ground in design and offers systems and features rarely seen in a small city car. As EVs grow in popularity, this could be the little gem you have been waiting for.
Newcomer sparks lots of interest
SCOTS are among the hundreds of motorists queueing up to get their hands on the new all-electric Honda e, according to UK boss Phil Webb.
The 137-mile range makes it ideal for the school run, the daily commute and shopping – and that has sparked interest in some of Scotland’s rural communities, too.
He said: “We have been amazed at the level of interest and the geographical spread – from places in the far south-west of England to the north-east of Scotland. It has been unbelievable.”
The Honda e is the company’s first all-electric venture but it has pledged to electrify every mainstream car in its range by 2022.
The CR-V has already made its debut as a petrol hybrid, with the Jazz hybrid due to be unveiled shortly. The HR-V and the Civic will get the same treatment and then another surprise – a second all-electric car.
Honda was staying tight-lipped about what form it would take but tipsters would probably go for an all-electric SUV, given the popularity of this type of vehicle.