Honda already has an electric car in the shape of the glorious Honda e, but that super-stylish electric city car costs a billion pounds and has the range of an unfit person’s bicycle (actually £36,920 and 137 miles, Ed)
The e:Ny1 is much more mainstream. It’s a five-seat electric SUV that’s not big and not small, with styling that’s neatly conservative and fine-but-not stand-out everything else. Honda themselves say its rivals are the best selling Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro EV, although the pricing is actually closer to another big seller – the Tesla Model Y. But more of that in the pricing section later.
Honda e:Ny1 styling
The Honda is a smart looking car, but it isn’t going to turn many heads. It doesn’t exactly break many rules.
There’s a very neat face with LED headlights and a charge port at the front, then there’s a long bonnet under which is a single motor rather than a frunk. On the back doors are little hidden door handles which sort of make it look coupe-ish but are likely to confuse passengers the first time they use them, Then on the tailgater there's and a full width lightbar with HONDA in big script… in case you forget what car you are driving.
The 18-inch wheels are attractive enough but manage to look quite small within the big wheelarches.
Honda e:Ny1 interior and practicality
Interestingly, it’s inside where the e:Ny1 looks more snazzy and attractive, if not crazy. The dashboard is quite low, and with the standard panoramic sunroof in the top Advance model, it feels quite light and spacious.
There’s a 10-inch driver-information display and a huge 15.1 inch touchscreen in the middle with ‘zoned’ areas - they never move from that part of the screen - so there’s the Connect zone at the top, the Driver Assist bit in the middle and the Climate zone at the bottom. So you’re not poking and swiping quite so much, which is always better when you’ve actually got driving to do.
You can throw all your apps on the big screen, too and there are over-the-air updates and a phone app.It all seems logical and fuss-free, even though I’d probably go for more buttons than we have here.
The rear space is impressive for this size of car, and the seats have been designed so that your hips sit slightly lower - a lot of electric cars feel slightly tall in the rear seats, as the batteries are generally under the floor.
And there’s a decent boot - though not massive. At 361-litres it’s about the size of a normal hatchback under the load cover, or just under 1,200-litres if you fold the seats down. Again, useful, but my mind remains unblown.
Honda e:Ny1 driving and performance
Honda reckons that the e:Ny1 is supposed to be comfortable but fun-to-drive, and also smooth and refined. Which translates as ‘nice’. As mentioned earlier, there’s a single electric motor up under out front, and that drives the front wheels only. This means there is a little more squirming than you'd get through the steering than in a rear-drive rival such as the Cupra Born.
There’s just over 200bhp to play with, and that’s bang-on what a car of this size usually has. It’s like all the electric SUV manufacturers got together to decide what horsepower these things should have as standard and stuck with it.
And it’s… fine. There is no neck-snapping going on when you hit the accelerator. Honda says that it’s supposed to offer smooth and comfortable acceleration to combat motion sickness, but that sounds like an excuse when your car is slow. To be honest it’s not that far off the pace – a 0-62mph time of in 7.6 seconds is pretty good - it just never feels that keen.
The steering isn’t too sporty either, but that’s fine in a car like this. It’s light at parking speeds, but it gets a little bit heavier and full of feel the faster you go. That’s a development specifically for the European version of e:Ny1 as we Europeans like a little more feedback, apparently.
That also helps make it feel more engaging in corners. Because the Honda feels really competent and solid; there’s a tiny bit of roll, but nothing troubling. And if you want to adjust the car’s character a smidge, there are some modes accessible through the inevitable ‘modes’ button - Sport, Normal and Econ Drive, and they do pretty much what they say. Although ‘Sport’ might be stretching things a bit. “More Normal’ might be more accurate.
It’s also very quiet - even for an electric car. Honda has things called resonator wheels, which have bands around the alloys inside the tyre with little holes in them. When the wheel rotates, it produces a hum that’s the opposite of what the car’s tyre makes on the road - a bit like when you blow across the top of a bottle - cancelling out some of the road noise! Clever, eh?
Honda e:Ny1 battery, range and charging
Under the e:NY1’s body is a 68.8kWh battery, which has a usable capacity of just under 62kWh. This gives a claimed 256-miles of official WLTP range, which is almost double that of Honda’s little e, and means the e:Ny1 is more efficient too.
But it’s not as efficient as most of its rivals. The new benchmark is the Vauxhall Astra which manages to better the Honda’s range by two miles but has a battery which is 11kWh smaller.
More comparable is the Kia Niro EV, which has a slightly larger 64.8kWh battery but a WLTP figure of 287 miles. A Tesla Model Y is a fiver less than the Honda so is worthy or comparison too. The cheapest version has a 283 mile range from a 55kWh battery.
So the Honda is far from the most efficient. Does it perhaps charge faster? Er, no. The e:Ny1 can pull a maximum of 78kW from a suitable DC charger, although Honda say that it will do this for longer rather than peaking and tailing off to a lower charge rate. As a result the company claims a 10-80% top up will take 46 min, which is just about competitive but by no means speedy. At home, it will take 10 hours flat to full on 7.4kW charger.
The charge port is at the front of the car underneath an impressively engineered motorised flap. LEDs pulse as the car is charging and let you know charge status. It also winks at you when you’ve finished charging.
Honda e:Ny1 price and equipment
This was the part of the press conference where we took a sharp intake of breath. The cheapest e:Ny1 is £44,995. That’s the Elegance grade which – in its defence – has a pretty comprehensive specification. It includes an eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat finished in synthetic leather, seat heating for both front passengers, auto dimming mirrors, dual zone air conditioning, a wireless charging pad and multiple USB ports, smart entry and push button start as well as power heated mirrors, sequential indicators, and privacy glass.
All models feature a large 15.1-inch central touchscreen and a 10.25-inch digital instrument display that combine to offer an extensive suite of driving and infotainment features, including EV information, alongside Android Auto and wireless Apple Car Play.
The Digital Key package, which enables the driver and up to five others to lock, unlock and start the vehicle via an app, is free of charge for the first year of ownership - after that you'll need to cough up an as yet undisclosed amount.
The range topping Advance model costs £47,195 and includes either black or light grey ‘premium’ synthetic leather seats, depending on exterior colour. A panoramic sunroof, heated leather steering wheel, handsfree power tailgate and upgraded audio system are all included.
The Advance grade also features Honda’s Parking Pilot system, which uses a multi-view camera system as well as additional side sensors to automatically detect and manoeuvre into parking spots. We didn’t try it because no one ever will.
Compared to some the warranty is competitive though, with all e:Ny1s having a 'Five Year Care Package', which includes five years of servicing, warranty and roadside assistance.
Honda e:Ny1 verdict
Read through this report and you might think we have a real downer on the e:Ny, and not just because it’s an irritating name to type. In reality it is a perfectly competent small family SUV, which does its job perfectly well. It doesn't have the 'we'd forgive you anything' charm of the smaller Honda e, but you could buy one and be very happy driving around in comfort for many years.
But we can’t look at it in that sort of isolation. There is now a very decent selection of other small electric SUVs which do most things better than the Honda and they’re cheaper. Or there are larger electric SUVs which are the same price and the Honda but are bigger and better. The most obvious of these is the best selling Tesla Model Y.
Perhaps the Honda’s finance costs will be super-sharp as the result of strong residual value figures, which will make the cost of owning one look more competitive. Until we see them, the e:Ny1 is as illogical as its name.