There a several different reasons for building a car at major manufacturers. You get passion projects, where engineering and financial might are thrown at development to flex a bit of muscle. You get financial projects which are designed to boost the bottom line. Then you get common sense projects, giving the customer what the customer wants. These can overlap on a Venn diagram. The Honda e:Ny1 falls into the latter two categories. It’s an EV, and everyone is being forced down that path. You want an SUV? The chances are you do, so here you go.
What the Honda e:Ny1 lacks is a bit of passion. It’s very functional. It’s also very comfortable. What it’s not, is on a par with Honda’s own outgoing Honda e. I really liked the Honda e. It looks funky and the interior is a reimagination of the city car. Sure, the range is low, but it’s tiny stature and retro chic took that out of the equation. You’re not going to attempt long journeys in one. If you’re just after a city car that’s also an EV, it’s one of the best options. You’d take it over something like a Mercedes EQA, have a much better time and save yourself many thousands of pounds in the process.
The Honda e, alas, is no more. Where it was unapologetically a tootling around town car, the range anxiety and £30,000+ price seemingly put people off. Yet range isn’t something that’s been entirely addressed by the Honda e:Ny1. What Honda has done, however, is address the cost of ownership. The cost of the Honda e:Ny1 might be £45,000, but Honda is offering it at the same price as the HR-V; £346 p/month after your deposit contribution. Hybrid or EV? The choice is yours, the aesthetics the same.
Living with the Honda e:Ny1
The first hurdle is the name. How do you pronounce it? I thought it was “ee-nigh-1”, a bit like “anyone”. The bloke who called from Honda, however, called it the “E. N. Y. 1.” Telling people you own a Honda HR-V will be much more straightforward.
The next is the range. There are some mitigating factors. It was -2°C when I first had the Honda e:Ny1. That sort of cold is the enemy of range. The beauty of January in the UK is that, later in my week with the Honda e:Ny1, it was 14°C. I averaged 2.4 miles p/kWh. With a battery capacity of 68.8kWh, that means a range of 165 miles.
Consumption was, obviously, much worse in the biting cold. You can probably adjust that to an average of nearer 3 miles p/kWh. That would give you around 200 miles. It’s hardly game changing and makes long distances a faff. It’s a problem for every single EV if you do need to cover longer distances, but the price does bring the Honda e:Ny1 into competition with Tesla. Much improved range and a vastly superior public charging network make that decision a no-brainer for long distance travellers.
Despite its size, 4.4m long and 1.8m wide, the Honda e:Ny1 has a disappointingly small boot capacity of just 361-litres. That’s smaller than the Honda Civic.
Very much on the plus side, however, is the interior. The Honda e:Ny1 is superbly assembled, with comfortable seats and loads of cabin space. The infotainment via a large central touchscreen is really easy to use. The Honda e:Ny1, unquestionably, is a nice place to be.
One final gripe. It states your range as X-mile, not X-miles. On the left, consumption is quoted as X-miles p/kWh. A minor frustration, but an odd copywriting error nonetheless.
What’s the Honda e:Ny1 like to drive? The good stuff
The Honda e:Ny1 is positioned as a city car. In this setting, it excels. The higher vantage point will undoubtedly hold appeal and I suddenly noticed several Honda e:Ny1s on the road around me. Or were they Honda HR-Vs? Impossible to tell, but this shape has clearly hit the mark. It’s an attractive car in the crossover/SUV segment.
The Honda e:Ny1 deals with potholes and speedbumps really well. There’s a bit of intrusion through the cabin, but it’s more than acceptable.
With reversing cameras and sensors, parking is made very straightforward. The self-drive functionality also works very well, with adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. Out on the motorway this is very useful. In that setting, too, the Honda e:Ny1 has perfect cruising manners, progressing serenely at higher speeds.
That it excels in motorway conditions makes the range and charging capabilities all the more disappointing. If you were to undertake a 200-mile journey, you’d need to stop to charge on the UK’s unreliable charging network. When you do find a charging station, you can achieve a maximum charging speed of 78kWh. The Honda e:Ny1 really only works if you only do shorter journeys and can charge at home. Much like the Honda e, then.
What’s the Honda e:Ny1 like to drive? The bad stuff
The Honda e:Ny1 weighs 1730Kg, yet somehow manages to feel far heavier. All this weight feels loaded towards the rear of the car. This is a problem with the front wheel drive set up, making it difficult to pull away quickly. The front wheels spend a lot of time spinning. On one occasion I went to pull away from a junction and ended up creeping slowly into the road as the front wheels groped hopelessly at the tarmac for traction. And no, I hadn’t floored it. Circumspection in the Honda e:Ny1 is essential.
There is a sport mode, which livens up the throttle response, but wheel spin is only made easier to access. Get on the throttle too early exiting a roundabout and a huge dollop of understeer is presented. Multi-story car parks, or any sort of ramp, are an issue with traction so hard to come by. It’s entirely at odds with the overall laid-back demeanour.
Now, you might remember I mentioned how cold it was. I had the same thought; it must be struggling due to the freezing temperatures. But the struggles endured in milder weather, too. Dry roads, 14°C and still loads of wheel spin. The traction control was on the whole time, too. The money you can save on Honda offering the e:Ny1 at the same price as the HR-V should be reserved for all the new tyres you’ll need.
The next problem is the steering. It’s desperate to get back to centre all the time. The steering wheel is covered in a faux leather that just slips through your hands. You must firmly grab on the whole time. It also feels vague and entirely devoid of any feedback whatsoever, like a computer game.
The Honda e:Ny1, then, is a mixed bag. There’s plenty to like. It’s stylish, supremely comfortable and very easy to live with (in the right circumstances). Yet there are a lot of rough edges, from the struggles with traction to the poor range and charging capabilities.
It’s a shame, because the Honda e felt like a passion project, signposting an exciting electric future for Honda. Something like the Honda Civic Type R is class-leading and brimming with passion. Honda has produced some fabulous cars in recent times but this, sadly, isn’t one of them. It feels every inch a car designed by an accountant.
Honda had designed the appealing overall package and brought it together for the HR-V. Then someone decided to just lump a bigger battery in it and sell it as an undercooked EV. You get one battery choice, front wheel drive only and two specs. Rear wheel drive, like the Honda e, or definitely all-wheel drive, would iron out the driving issues faced by the Honda e:Ny1.
Passion, however, doesn’t translate to sales. I’ve seen more Honda e:Ny1s/HR-Vs on the road than I have Honda es. I suspect, however, that they’re HR-Vs rather than e:Ny1s. The HR-V starts from c.£15,000 cheaper, is more practical, has greater configurability and looks the same.
Perhaps the Honda e:Ny1 represents the folly of our surge to EVs. Opt for the hybrid and you can get 50+mpg and a range of over 500 miles. Go full EV and you get met with the UK’s charging infrastructure, slow charging capability and a 200-mile range. Remind me, what’s the benefit of going electric? Because it’s difficult to identify it here. Combine the same package and comfort with superior practicality in the HR-V.