The Honda e was one of the automotive industry’s rare unicorns – an adorable EV that stayed remarkably true to the design of the marque's ground-breaking concept car. But it sadly appears to have already run out of road, with Honda telling Top Gear that it won't be taking any more orders for the EV in the UK and Europe.
The Honda e introduced the world to cameras as wing mirrors way back in 2020 and this writer vividly remembers playing Mario Kart via the vehicle’s myriad infotainment screens (thanks to an HDMI input and three-pin plug socket) during the launch event.
It was innovative, championed in-car tech, proved fun to drive, was brilliantly nippy through traffic and drew admiring glances every where it went. So what went wrong? Well, it was all down to the two biggest factors in any EV buying decision: cost and range for your change.
Unfortunately, the Honda e, which only officially went on sale in Europe and Japan, was a very expensive city car, with even the cheapest versions eventually costing in excess of £37,000 (around $47,000/ AUS$70,000), while its puny 137-mile range is now laughable compared to much more affordable rival machines.
It seems these factors had a big influence on sales figures, with reports suggesting Honda sold just 4,078 units in Europe in its debut year of 2020, dropping to 3,752 units in 2021.
What’s more, Honda, like so many other manufacturers, is on an SUV mission, focussing all of its attention on the crossover class in order to appeal to the masses.
As a result, the Honda e’s European replacement is arguably the bafflingly-titled e:NY1, even if it is a very different stylistic proposition.
But with it, Honda offers an official range of 256-miles, rapid charging, similarly speedy straight-line performance and more interior roominess for just shy of £45,000 (around $57,000 / AUS$85,000). Yes, it’s more expensive, but Honda feels the familiar shape of a high-riding SUV is much easier to sell to customers transitioning from petrol and diesel.
Honda is also still offering both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its popular CR-V SUV, a strategy that fellow Japanese automaker Toyota believes is still important as we transition over to fully-electric cars.
The first collectible EV?
The Honda e's lofty asking price meant residual values weren’t ever a strong point, and the used car market is starting to look like a very attractive place to pick up this unique EV with big savings.
A quick scour of the usual used car buying platforms reveals that it is possible to snare a very low mileage (18,000 or less) example for as little as £16,500 (around €19,000 / $21,000 / $31,000). That’s a lot of car for the money, especially if you aren't fussed about the limited electric range.
But the recent announcement to axe the model could actually have an inverse effect on prices, with the Honda e potentially becoming one of the first genuinely collectible electric vehicles. Best get in there quick.
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Leon has been navigating a world where automotive and tech collide for almost 20 years, reporting on everything from in-car entertainment to robotised manufacturing plants. Currently, EVs are the focus of his attentions, but give it a few years and it will be electric vertical take-off and landing craft. Outside of work hours, he can be found tinkering with distinctly analogue motorcycles, because electric motors are no replacement for an old Honda inline four.