Autoweek Asks: Should the Honda E be offered in the U.S?

Autoweek Asks: Should the Honda E be offered in the U.S?

09/09/2019

Honda brings a production version of the imaginatively named E hatchback to the Frankfurt motor show this week, months after it appeared in near-production form at the Geneva motor show. Styled with a nod to the original Civic of the 1970s, the small hatch is a big step for the Japanese automaker, fielding a competitor to the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Mini Cooper SE and several other small electric cars on sale in Europe in 2020.

Journalists drove near-production Es earlier this summer, and they liked the cute, retro exterior style, the 14-foot, 1-inch turning radius and tidy road manners. Indeed, with cheeky styling and a small footprint the little Honda appears ready to win over EV fans’ hearts and wallets, at least in Europe.

But it comes with a couple of prices. The first price is the actual price: the E is expected to wear roughly a $45,000 sticker before any local or national incentives, depending on country. The other price is the range, pegged at 137 miles in the somewhat optimistic WLTP cycle. An EPA figure isn’t available and won’t be available unless Honda actually goes through all the steps needed to offer the E here, but we don’t expect it to better the quoted 137 miles. Its electric motor, located on the rear axle, will be offered in 134-hp and 154-hp outputs.

 

Something was lost in the transition from concept to production car, but it’s close enough.

On paper this makes the E somewhat competitive in the U.S., though this kind of range and price might have made more sense more than five years ago, especially considering the long-range Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt’s impressive range. And if you had $45,000 to spend on a Tesla Model 3, you would land a modestly equipped electric sedan with a far greater range. This is where the case for the Honda E breaks down a fair bit.

But does the Honda E still make sense when utilitarian point-A-to-point-B electric motoring is not your primary concern? Lest we forget, the European market has an even greater variety of EVs to choose from than we do and will soon have even more. Surely, there are other parts to the equation — otherwise the Honda E would not have gotten all the way through the pipeline and into production (scheduled to start soon). The hatch is expected to have an audience in Europe and Japan, where huge range isn’t always needed. The shorter-range end of the EV market exists in the U.S. as well, and it has its audience. For example: Mini is about the offer the electric Cooper SE, which will also have a range well below 200 miles but will still be premium priced.

Should Honda offer the E in the U.S., or are its attributes better suited to other markets?

Let us know in the comments below.

 


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