Life with the Honda E: frozen pop-out door handles

Published: 27 November 2020

► New Honda E long-term test
► Meet our new EV daily driver
► What's it like to live with every day?

Diary update: pop-out door handles struggle in the frost

Winter's finally arrived in the UK, icy frosts wrapping the ground with a crisp, crunchy cape some mornings. And it's brought an unusual problem: the Honda E's pop-out door handles were frozen on one particularly cold morning this week. As you'll see in the tweet above - they wouldn't budge an inch!

There were kids to take to school, huffing and puffing impatiently. There was me, wondering whether I could get in via the back doors and scramble into the front seats. And my guilt for having not pre-conditioned the E overnight on this occasion.

After a minute of prodding and trying, the frost thawed, the handle released and I was in. No special measures required. Still, I was left nonplussed. It wasn't even that cold: a night hovering around, and perhaps just under, zero. A heavy frost, granted, but I was suprised that the Honda's door handles were stuck solid.

I'll be using the pre-heating more often in the weeks ahead, and keep an eye on what happens when the temperatures really plummet.

By Tim Pollard

Month 1 of our Honda E long-term test: introducing the baby battery car to the CAR magazine fleet

Honda E long-term test: CAR magazine lives with the electric Honda city car in 2020 and 2021

It’s good to be back in an electric car. Research has proved that deciding to own an EV is pretty much a one-way gate; few take the plunge and then go back to internal combustion. Yet my automotive CV has yo-yo’d wildly back and forth in recent years – from a BMW i3 to a Tesla Model S, via an Audi A8 (diesel, yuk!), Lexus RX450h (hybrid halfway house) and on-the-spectrum Bentley Continental GT (V8, petrol, sledgehammer fast). 

It’s one of the perks of this job that we move between brands, segments and motive powers. And I’m glad to be in a battery car for the next six months.

Why? Because EVs are inherently interesting to live with and write about. Electrification is an irresistible tsunami transforming the car industry, and the benefits are manifold and tangible. I’m hoping I’ll again enjoy the silence and peace of driving an EV every day. The feeling that I’m not pumping noxious pollutants into the local environment from a tailpipe. The addictive thrust so readily on tap from a 152bhp motor driving the rear wheels. And waking up every morning with a ‘full tank’.

Electric cars: further reading

Our guide to the best EVs on sale
How much does it cost to charge and EV?
The most affordable electric cars

So I’m feeling optimistic about life with the Honda E. I have good reason; I penned the Giant Test for CAR magazine, where it took on and damn nearly toppled the Peugeot e-208 and Mini Electric. This is a very special car, one of those once-in-a-generation cars for the marque – ‘the most significant Honda since the 1989 NSX’, I mused. Only its short range and cramped boot held it back from sweeping to victory. Whoops, I’ve blurted it out early: the E does have some compromises, but this test will allow me to judge them afresh.

Ours is a top-spec Advance model, likely to be picked by most buyers. And just look at it! It’s unlike anything else on the roads and is already garnering interest left, right and centre. I imagine the stillborn Apple car project might’ve looked like this – that crisp, minimalist vibe that Silicon Valley would kill for, but backed up with the reassuring Honda badge. 

The early omens are good. The exquisite engineering integrity that so impressed on the group test reminds me of the i3 I lived with back in 2016: the compact footprint, rear-wheel-drive handling and steering feel, extraordinary turning circle and bold purity of concept. The baby Beemer was all the more impressive for arriving seven years ago and Honda’s blazing fewer trails as a result. 

Honda E long-term test: 36kWh battery makes for a short electric range

Get past the cartoonish exterior, slide into the cabin and prepare to be amazed. The first thing that grabs your attention is the wall-to-wall digital interior, huge touchscreens stretching from A-pillar to A-pillar, bookended by electronic door mirrors like on the Audi e-Tron

Will it stand the test of time? I can’t wait to see if the virtual instrumentation works, or whether it’ll be used as much as those dozens of apps you download when you get your first smartphone and never use. 

But you then notice the wool-upholstered seats, the well-judged wooden trim, the carpet-trimmed door caps and the wonderful sense of space cultivated by the flat floor and lack of centre console. You prod and stroke and tap and realise it’s all beautifully built – and the materials are a step up from the usual Honda stuff. 

It’s safe to say I’m really looking forward to spending time in the E. The raw maths of its tiddly 36kWh lithium-ion battery mean I’m expecting to be hamstrung by the limiting (claimed) 125-mile range, but I’m trying to adjust my mindset to accept that. It’s aimed at day-to-day chores and shorter inter-city hops, not long drives to the airport or far-flung family holidays. It has points in the bank for its utterly captivating charms, but real life is about to test the Honda E’s mettle harder than any streetside cooing ever will. Stay tuned.

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Honda E specs and running costs

Price £29,160
Performance 36kWh battery, single e-motor, 152bhp, 8.0sec 0-62mph, 100mph
Efficiency 3.6 miles per kWh (official), 3.2 miles per kWh (tested), 0g/km CO2
Energy cost 3.6p per mile
Miles this month 37
Total miles 241

Spec secrets: how we specced our Honda E Advance

Honda E: some of the most cutesy cartoony styling this side of a manga comic

Which one are we running? 
Picking a Honda E is simple: there are only two trims available – the regular model retailing at £26,660 and this top-line Advance model for £29,160. Both prices are after the £3000 discount afforded by the government’s Plug In Car Grant. That’s a tenth off!

Advance: fully loaded!
Our Advance is well equipped as standard and comes with precisely no options at all. What you see on the spec list is what you get: radar cruise and lane keep, sat-nav, digital everything, keyless entry and ignition. It’s absolutely loaded for a small car. 

No spare wheel
Those 17-inch alloys are decidedly cool: a dual-tone mix of painted black and polished brightwork which look simultaneously retro-kitsch and modernist. There’s no spare wheel, just a can of gunk under the flap of the boot floor. I hope we never have to use it... 

Pay-as-you-go: Honda E finance deals
If you think nearly 30 big ones for a city car is absurd, may we present to you the tempting PCP packages  doing the rounds. At time of writing, Honda will flog you a base E for £249 a month after £5704 down over three years at 5.9% APR interest. Nifty. 

Searing paintjob is Charge Yellow. It’s a no-cost option on the E and contrasts splendidly with the black roof, charging flap, light facias front and rear, and alloy wheels.

More long-term tests by CAR magazine

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet