2020 Honda E review: price, specs and release date

According to you, the Honda E is the most eagerly anticipated car of 2020. Can it live up to expectations?...

2019 Honda E review: price, specs and release date

Priced from £30,000 (est) | On sale 2020

When Apple launches a new iPhone, it’s quite common to see massive queues snaking out of the firm’s stores, not just on the day, but on those leading up to the event, too. Indeed, Apple seems to have gained near-religious levels of devotion, with super-excited disciples camping in the streets to be amongst the first to get their hands on the latest slice of tech.

While we’re yet to spot any eager buyers pitch a tent outside a dealership, anticipation for the forthcoming Honda E is reaching similar levels. More than 9000 buyers in Britain have already put down a deposit for a car they haven’t even seen in production form, let alone driven. Plus, it scooped the Reader Award for the most exciting car coming soon at our 2019 Awards. For a city car, that’s quite the reaction.

So far, that excitement has been driven by the cutesy yet minimalistic styling of the E Prototype, which was revealed earlier this year. It references the design of the first-generation Civic, although Honda prefers to label it as “nostalgic”, rather than “retro”.

Aside from its design, details of Honda’s first electric vehicle (EV) have been emerging at a very relaxed pace. However, we’ve had a chance to slip behind the wheel of the E Prototype to see what it’s like for ourselves.

Honda E driving

2020 Honda E on the road

One thing that we do know about the E Prototype is that it will use a 33.5kWh battery that provides a range of around 125 miles. It powers a rear-mounted electric motor that produces about 148bhp and 221lb ft of torque – more power than a Mini Cooper and more torque than a Ford Fiesta ST. Honda has yet to announce full performance figures, but expect a brisk 0-60mph time of around eight seconds.

Honda says the E Prototype’s battery can be charged to 80% in 30 minutes using a 100kWh fast charger, although it’s worth noting that those are currently hard to come by. The firm also believes that the car’s relatively small size and urban focus means owners are likely to use fast chargers less frequently, which could prolong the life of the battery. Sadly, Honda didn’t reveal how long it would take to charge the E from a typical wallbox like you might have at home. 

The E Prototype’s range is a lot shorter than many rivals EVs, such our current Car of the Year the Kia e-Niro or Renault's new Zoe, but Honda says that’s a consequence of the smaller battery that’s required for the car to be compact, light and therefore more nimble. It comes as the result of Honda’s decision to focus on developing a pure city car for use in urban environments.

Honda E driving

We were only able to try the E Prototype for a short run on a relatively low-speed handling course, but its direct, responsive steering helps make it a cinch to place on the road. It benefits from short overhangs and its front and rear axles being close together, and also from the front wheels’ ability to turn by up to 45 degrees, allowing an impressive turning circle of just 4.3 metres.

As you’d expect from an electric car, the instant delivery of power from the E Prototype’s rear mounted electric motor allows for easy progress. But despite firing the E to an indicated 50mph in no time at all, it felt more controlled than the sometimes ragged Hyundai Kona Electric.

Honda says it benchmarked the E Prototype’s ride against larger cars, and it certainly feels as balanced and stable as a larger machine, aided by more sophisticated rear suspension than you'd expect from a car of this size. Combine the immediate power delivery and smooth ride with the prototype’s nimble handling, and it’s easy to envisage that the production car will be well-suited to the cut and thrust of inner-city driving.

Honda E interior

2020 Honda E interior

The E Prototype’s stylish design continues inside the car, mixing retro elements with some eye-catching technology. The seats are covered in a soft, comfortable fabric and are designed to resemble lounge chairs, while the dashboard is finished in a neat wood effect. 

The dash is dominated by two infotainment touchscreens (sadly not working on our test drive), which control the infotainment as well as providing information on battery power usage. The dashboard is digital but you’ll still find traditional controls for the heating and air conditioning systems.
Of course, the E Prototype’s tiny overall size – it’s shorter than a Honda Jazz but actually taller than a Mini – brings drawbacks in terms of versatility. While the rear seats themselves are comfortable, there’s only room for two in the rear and even average adults will find leg room is limited. Head room is good, however. As for the boot: it looks comparable to a Kia Picanto or Volkswagen Up. That means there’s enough space for a weekly shop, but don’t plan on making regular trips to Ikea.

From the driver’s seat, the benefits of the E’s compact size are clear: the car’s upright windscreen and small size makes visibility excellent. Notably, conventional side mirrors are replaced by standard-fit cameras. These pop out from the car’s side when it is in use and each camera’s image is displayed on a screen on either side of the dash. The system provides good visibility, and switches to a usefully low view when reversing. The central rear-view mirror can also be used as a standard mirror or as another camera display.

Next: Honda E verdict >

Read more: the best and worst electric cars >

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