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Honda e Advance

One day, in the not-too-distant future, we’ll all be driving electric cars. I know you’re as thrilled by that prospect as I am. It isn’t, as some might suspect, simply because I’ll miss the kind of visceral drama that accompanies a thunderous V8 or a howling V10 either. While I’m certain things will improve markedly between now and that moment when internal combustion engines are consigned to the history books my experience of living with an electric vehicle has been clouded with both frustration and anxiety.

Frustration at the amount of time it requires to charge a vehicle – and that’s without having to first queue – and anxiety over the battery’s range. The latter was particularly true when I collected the adoringly cute Honda e from the press workshop in Bracknell and drove it the 85 miles home.

2020 Honda e (44879543)
2020 Honda e (44879543)

Officially the Honda e Advance tested here has a range of 137 miles but in my hands and in “turn off all non-essential electrical systems” mode I was able to eke about 110 miles out of the battery but, if you want to travel in a civilised environment with, say, a cabin temperature above freezing point then you’re dealing with a real-world range of about 90 miles.

This is no Tesla, then, but it was never meant to be. Apparently the average commute in the UK is just 23 miles and, in that context, it starts to make more sense. It also looks irresistibly cute with retro looks that hark all the way back to the original Civic.

Despite the injection of 70s nostalgia this is very much a car for the 21st century – and beyond – with pop-out door handles, two huge landscape touchscreens, an LCD instrument binnacles and cameras instead of door mirrors. The cabin really is a technophile’s paradise.

2020 Honda e (44879521)
2020 Honda e (44879521)

It looks the part, certainly, but looks aren’t everything. No, really. Electric cars are pricier than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts and, because it can take several hours to charge their batteries, range is a particularly important consideration.

Let’s start with the interior. It’s a quirky combination of tech and tradition. As well as the five screens lined up across the dash the rear view mirror doubles as an LCD screen that’s connected to a camera mounted just behind the tailgate, there’s a full-size HDMI socket and a three-pin 230V socket that means you could plug in a games console or, probably a little more likely, a laptop.

There’s also a wood-effect panel running the width of the dash – and another on top of the centre console framing the gear-selector buttons – that manages to look both totally out of place and perfectly in sync with the rest of the car at the same time. What it doesn’t do is look at all like real wood. It’s not even close.

2020 Honda e (44879511)
2020 Honda e (44879511)

The dash is comprised of two 12.3in touchscreens, an 8.8in display behind the steering wheel and two 6in screens that display a live feed from rear-facing cameras mounted on the doors. They do take a little getting used to because they’re not quite where you would normally expect to find your door mirrors but you can adjust the cameras to accommodate your driving position and the screens are overlaid with handy guides that help you judge how far away other cars are when you indicate.

While the screens certainly look the business they don’t function with quite as much fluidity as you would hope. They can be a tad sluggish to respond to touch inputs and the operating system isn’t particularly intuitive. It’s strange, as well, that the system graphics appear a little low-res and yet there are some background images that look pixel-perfect. Thankfully, despite the e’s focus on the future, there are still physical controls for the climate control so it’s easy to adjust the temperature of the cabin while you’re on the move.

You should have no complaints about the quality. The fabrics are all high grade and it’s all very solidly put together.

2020 Honda e (44879541)
2020 Honda e (44879541)

Despite its diminutive size there’s a decent amount of space in the cabin. It will comfortably accommodate two tall people in the front but room in the back is, as you might expect, a little more restricted. For a start there’s only two seatbelts so even if you wanted to – and it would be a very tight squeeze – carrying a fifth passenger is out of the question.

Storage is limited to a large cubby between the front seats shallow door bins and a small glovebox in the front while in the back all you get are a couple of cupholders in the armrests.

The boot, for want of a better description, is tiny. We’re talking room for a weekly shop and no more. Access is made easier thanks to a wide opening and the absence of a loading lip and there is, thankfully, underfloor storage to accommodate the bulky charging cables.

The rear seats do fold down but in one piece so you don’t have the option of carrying luggage and a passenger like you would in a car with a 60/40 folding set-up.

2020 Honda e (44879509)
2020 Honda e (44879509)

It goes as good as it looks as long as you remember not to go too far. It’s sprightly and nimble with a turning circle tight enough to embarrass a London cabbie. It’s perfect for negotiating crowded urban streets with narrow roads and limited parking spaces.

It's not too shabby at tackling more challenging roads either. Point it down a country lane and it will demonstrate a laudable degree of sure-footedness and poise. There’s very little body lean through corners and the steering is communicative and precise thanks to its well-chosen and natural-feeling weight. It puts the e into he-he!

The entry-level e outputs 134bhp while the Advance, driven here, boasts a healthy 152bhp. The latter can reach 62mph in a sprightly 8.3sec but it’s at lower speeds where the power unit’s urgency is more keenly felt so when you put your foot down it’s quick to pick up speed making it ideal for zipping around in heavy traffic.

The push of a button enables one-pedal driving which, essentially, does away with the need to touch the brake. Simply lift your foot off the accelerator and the car slows quickly and smoothly, all the while harvesting energy to recharge the battery. If you do want to be involved with the braking process there’s none of the uncertainty that many cars with this set-up display and you’ll be able to bring the car to a halt effortlessly.

2020 Honda e (44879525)
2020 Honda e (44879525)

It’s comfortable, too, and handles sharp-edged imperfections and deep potholes with distinction. The suspension is relatively firm, though, and passengers and jiggled around a bit on roads that aren’t completely smooth.

Refinement is really good for a car whose life will mostly be spent pottering around in cities and towns and, even at motorway speeds, there’s very little wind or road noise permeating the cabin.

It's important to touch on the range again because, well, it’s not great. It doesn’t impress in isolation and things get even worse when you compare it to its rivals who can all travel 200 mile and beyond on a full charge. And they are cheaper.

There are lots of reasons why we choose one car over another. First, for most of us, it’s price. The e is an expensive car, that’s true, but it possesses bags of style and that often has greater bearing on what we choose for our next set of wheels than it should. And, of course, it’s filled with amazing tech.

Honda e Advance

Price: £29,160

As tested: £29,710

Battery: 35kWh

Transmission: Automatic single speed Fixed Reduction Gear

Max power: 154PS

Max torque: 315Nm

Max speed: 90mp

0-62sec: 8.3

Range (WLTP): 137 miles

Charging times (from low charge warning)

7.4kW Public AC Type 2: 4.1 hours

2.3kW Home AC Type 2: 18.8 hours

50kW CCS2 charge point: 31min

100kW CCS2 charge point: 30min

Turning radius (at wheels): 4.3m

For more information visit www.honda.co.uk

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