One of the most anticipated new electric cars has been officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Honda e is a refreshing electric rethinking of the compact urban car and it's now in its final production version.
The Honda e has been teased over the past 2 years, first as a concept and then as a prototype. What's remarkable about this little Honda is that it has stuck to many of those pre-production lines.
Often a concept car is diluted and diluted, flushing away the excitement until you're left with a predictable production model - but the Honda e has escaped that predictability. The result is something refreshing, distinctive and entirely new.
We sat down with Kohei Hitomi, head of the Honda e project, who explained that on this model, things really happened the other way around. The Honda e was in development and the concept spun out of that, rather than vice versa.
Car manufacturers talk about emotional design, but often that's exactly what's missing. The Honda e, by comparison, is adorable. We asked why Honda had decided to use a retro design for its most futuristic car and Hitomi responded that it wasn't retro, instead, it was designed to be familiar, comforting, like sitting in your lounge at home.
It certainly pulls that off, not giving a compact car design that's unique, but with an interior that really shakes things up. It’s not like sitting in any of Honda's other cars - there's a real sense of rebirth.
Honda isn't alone in this; the VW ID.3 - also launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show - takes a similar approach, with the sense that electric cars are starting something new, rather than reworking what was already there.
Despite that comfortable lounge interior, the Honda e is packed with tech. From cameras instead of wing mirrors, or a rear view mirror that can switch to a wide-angle camera view instead at the flip of a switch, you can't help but be drawn to the expanse of displays running across the dash.
It's an enveloping display as much entertainment for the passengers as it is informing for the driver. The fact that you can press a button and turn it into an aquarium really is the icing on the cake. Remember when the VW Beetle relaunched with a flower holder? Move over - it's all about the virtual aquarium now.
A quick look at the displays inside the Honda e pic.twitter.com/1TkSwMd1JR— Chris Hall (@christhall) September 10, 2019
What Honda is really competing with is cars like the VW ID.3 - which is promising to bring electric motoring to everyone - and the Mini Electric. We've quickly moved from having a few premium electric models to choose from, to an expanding range of smaller cars.
The Honda e will start from £26,160 for the standard version, while the "advance" model will be £28,660. That standard version is packed with tech (you get heated seats, heated steering wheel and parking pilot on the Advance). The standard version has 136PS, while the Advance can access 154PS, so will be nippier.
You can expect 0-62 in 8 seconds with a range of around 135 miles. The Honda e is rear wheel drive too, which is a little more unusual. We once again asked Kohei Hitomi why this was and he explained that it was partly to meet the requirements of manoeuvrability in an urban car. With the driving coming from the rear, that leaves the front to steer, and gives a really tight 4.3m turning circle.
If we're judging cars on desirability, it's hard not to see the Honda e as a success. There's personality in this little car, it's got character and we can't wait to see how this comes out on the road. Yes, it's not going to win any records for range, but we suspect it's going to tug at the heart strings of a lot of people and win a lot of fans.
You can register your interest for the Honda e now; deliveries are expected in summer 2020.