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Honda's baby electric car has the 'e' factor but price will play key role

First Drive in Valencia: Honda e

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Honda E

Honda E

Honda E XX

Honda E XX

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Honda E

One thing is certain about Honda's new little electric car, the 'e'. It is different. Due to arrive in Ireland by the end of summer it will add to the growing number of smaller EVs on the market. And I think you will find it a noticeable departure from anything in its catchment area.

But while we know, or have an idea of, what the likes of the new e-Corsa and Peugeot e-208 will cost (around €27,000/€28,000), Honda in Ireland insists it doesn't even have a ball-park figure yet. I'm certain it won't be below €27,000 anyway; it usually charges a premium for its cars and this will be no exception. In justification of that in this case are a number of factors.

Built on a special platform, it looks more 'future electric' than most, especially at the front where the charging slot is conspicuously in the centre of the bonnet.

Inside, the entire dash is bathed in five screens, making it the most futuristic layout I've seen in a car of this size. The digital dashboard has five screens:

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Honda E XX

Honda E XX

* Two act as internal wing mirrors (none outside). I can see that Side Camera Mirror System replacing conventional side-view mirrors in more cars;

* An 8.8 TFT screen lies directly in front of the driver;

* And there are two 12.3ins LED infotainment screens.

Additionally, there is a digital rear-view mirror for the Advance trim level.

It is jammed with technology: connective, safety, driver-aid and comfort. And there are several input points beneath the centre console for charging and device connection, as well as two USB ports at the front and rear.

Being the 'most connected' Honda yet, there are all sorts of things you can do with the apps and smartphones. One nice touch: you can switch stuff between the two infotainment screens.

I liked the timber-effect around the displays and the retro two-spoke steering wheel.

It drove exceptionally well; rear-wheel-drive, an electric motor and strut suspension combining to provide power and poise.

While entry-level is well specced, it expects Advance trim to be in higher demand. The extra Advance power (154PS v 136PS) is accompanied by more equipment.

Against all those pros are a few cons. Maximum range is just 222km (210km with Advance), though Honda points to average European daily commutes of 40km. It is a city EV, after all.

The boot is tiny at 171 litres, though rear seats fold flat for an 861-litre capacity. Ultimately price will be a major factor, I believe. Overall though, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

The 35.5KWh battery is under the floor (helps lower the centre of gravity) and you can boost to 80pc in just 30 minutes of rapid charging; a home charge can take 18.8 hours, however.

The water-cooled lithium-ion pack lies beneath a 3,895mm long body that is 100mm shorter, 38mm lower than a Jazz and is 57mm wider (1,750mm). We had good elbow room but rear seating was tight. The Parking Pilot system worked well for us with a 4.3-metre turning circle a boon for urban scenarios.

You can (we did) use the Single Pedal system to drive on the accelerator alone with paddles on the steering wheel to regenerate energy when slowing down, for example. There are two drive modes: Normal and Sport.

As alluded to, we're promised comprehensive standard specification but it expects Advance to be the bigger seller with 17ins (v 16ins) alloys, more power and the digital rear-view mirror. Other upgrades include a more powerful audio system, heated windscreen/steering wheel and the Parking Pilot driver aid.

It was an unexpectedly nice drive; whether tipping around in Valencia traffic, nipping along country roads or motorways, being rear-wheel driven and getting instant electric power was fun. It's a great little package.

All Honda's European mainstream models will be 'electrified' by 2022 - including a hybrid Jazz, an SUV and an additional EV.

It has certainly made a convincing start to that rollout with this little 'e'.

* You can share digital key technology with up to five people

New technologies include:

* Collision Mitigation Throttle Control (designed to prevent sudden acceleration if there is something in the way)

* Low Speed Brake Function

* Lead Car Departure Notification System

Also:

* There is a MacPherson strut independent suspension for each wheel, giving the car flexibility to respond to different road conditions

* The Parking Pilot can slot into parallel spaces, bays or diagonally if the space is marked with a white line

* For such a small car, it weighs a bit: 1,514kg

* Flush handles pop out to let you open the door.

Indo Motoring