It’s not often you get to drive a one-off. But that’s exactly what happened when we were handed the keys to the only Honda E in Australia – the Japanese brand’s pint-sized all-electric hatchback.
And, straight off the bat, this car represents a missed opportunity for Honda Australia, which has already confirmed it will not be bringing the electric funster Down Under.
Instead, local independent importer OZM Auto Group – which specialises in bringing in Japanese market cars and people movers – has added the Honda E to its portfolio, with a limited number to make their way to Australia under the federal government’s Special Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS).
The Sydney-based importer is taking orders for the pocket EV, however, it won’t be cheap. OZM Auto Group says it will be priced between $80,000 to $85,000 locally – a hefty premium over the roughly AUD$53,000 it costs in its native Japan (¥4.51 million).
For that spend, you get around 200–220km of range depending on driving conditions, which on the surface isn’t great. But, with the unashamedly city focus of the Honda E, we’d venture it’s enough for most city dwellers.
Inside, the Honda E looks the part. Interior design is futuristic, with plenty of quirks. The design is a hot-tech take on cabins.
A digital display runs the width of the dashboard offering a host of information and technology, all in Japanese in this first car to land in Australia. There’s also a cute aquarium function, which turns the dash into a digital fish tank. Quirky.
The wing mirrors are digital, with cameras mounted on the doors projecting an image onto screens on the dashboard. Think Audi's system for the e-Tron, only better. The screens are positioned naturally, unlike the Audi's where you have to look into the door cards to see what's behind you. With the Honda E, it's a quick glance to where regular mirrors would be, and far more intuitive.
Powering the only Honda E in the country is a 113kW/315Nm electric motor getting its juice from a 35.5kWh battery pack. Honda claims that array will have around 220km of range, although real-world testing has indicated a range closer to 170km.
Slide inside the Honda E and there’s just a sense of fun. Make no mistake, this is a cuuuute car. And yet, despite its cuteness, there’s a surprising amount of engagement from behind the wheel.
Honda claims a 0–100km/h time of 8.3 seconds and that feels if anything, a little understated. Moving away from standstill offers a surprising amount of punch despite our E ferrying four adults on our short test. It’s zippy, spritely, and surprisingly agile.
And the Honda E is equally as quick to move in the mid-range. A merge onto a freeway from 80–110km/h proved equally as effortless as acceleration from standstill. It simply hunkers down and piles on speed much faster than you would imagine simply by looking at it.
So too the ride, which while on the firm side offered decent bump absorption and compliance. It never felt jittery or flustered, and settled quickly over bumps too.
The two-spoke steering wheel feels nice in hand, too, and looks good. Yes, there are some buttons to play with, but its overall presentation is pretty minimalist and in line with the rest of the cabin.
The second row, while tight, is reasonably spacious, although it should be noted the Honda E is strictly a four-seater going by the seatbelt count. The boot is tiny, too, measuring in at 171L. That can expand to 861L with the rear seats folded away.
One thing worth noting is the Honda E has small back doors, which bring with them small apertures. Getting into the second row is easy enough, but that small opening presented its challenges when exiting the E. Some contortion is required.
According to the Japanese-spec dash, our short time behind the wheel netted an energy-consumption return of between 4.8km per kWh and 5.1km per kWh. That’s within the spectrum of an approximate 170km range, as reviewers in other markets have experienced.
We didn’t get much time behind the wheel, but we had enough to experience the Honda E’s charm. Surprisingly agile and zippy, the small electric hatchback is at once cute and characterful.