The Honda e, the company’s first electric model available in Europe, recently won the German Car of the Year award for 2021. This is the first time that a Japanese vehicle has won the prestigious award.
“For Honda e to be the first Japanese car to be awarded German Car of the Year is a great honour and one we are incredibly proud to receive,” said Katsuhisa Okuda, CO & President of Honda Motor Europe. “Customer and media response to the Honda e since it was first unveiled has been overwhelmingly positive. The Honda e is a perfect example of a product with a unique design, featuring cutting-edge technology and advanced intelligent connectivity to keep owners connected with their everyday life. We are very thankful for this award.”
To win the German Car of the Year award, a vehicle has to convince a panel of German automotive journalists that it’s the best in a variety of ways. The panel tests and reviews the cars, ultimately ranking them in terms of usability, driving characteristics, market relevance, and innovation. The winners of five categories – Compact, Premium, Luxury, New Energy, and Performance – then go head-to-head to decide an overall winner. The Honda e won the New Energy category, and then beat the winners of the other categories to win the overall award.
This is not the only award the vehicle won in Europe this year. Awards from England, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and elsewhere in Europe all now sit on the car’s proverbial shelf.
The Honda e is the first of the manufacturer’s electric models in a plan to electrify most European models by 2022. That sounds like an extremely ambitious plan, but keep in mind that to “electrify” a vehicle is not necessarily to go full battery-electric (BEV). Other electrification options for automakers include hybrids, plugin hybrids, and electric vehicles with small range extender engines.
The Honda e, however, is full electric. It comes with either a 134 or 152 HP electric motor, with both variants producing 232 lb ft of torque. This is powered by a 35.5 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack, with sport modes and available single-pedal driving. While none of these specifications are particularly impressive (in terms of either power or range), the vehicle is a dedicated rear-wheel-drive model designed for better performance than front-wheel-drive electric vehicles.
It’s also designed mainly to work in urban areas, where more range and speed aren’t as critical. Additionally, in most parts of Europe, the CCS charging network is far better developed than in places like the United States. Thus, even with a 35.5 kWh battery pack, travel even in rural areas is rarely going to be more than a minor inconvenience. With liquid cooling, repeated DC fast charging sessions to travel longer distances would make for a reasonable experience.
Another area where a smaller battery is beneficial is with handling. While slung low like most other EVs, the smaller pack allows for better handling and better weight distribution. Combined with the lack of torque steering (rear-wheel drive) and other handling optimizations, the Honda e is still a fun car for the city or twisty rural routes in Europe.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the vehicle is its retro-inspired looks. Designed to resemble the first generation Honda Civic, the car has a strong 1970s aesthetic. Like the Honda e, the original Civic was also an innovator. With the CVCC engine, it was able to pass increasingly strict emissions requirements despite lacking the expensive and power-robbing emission control devices often fitted to other vehicles. This, combined with its smaller size and weight, allowed it to outperform vehicles like the Ford Pinto and the Chevrolet Vega. This was also a time when many American vehicles were suffering in quality and even safety (the Vega and Pinto being prime examples).
Sadly, for our US readers, the Honda e will not be coming to the United States. Much of what makes it a great European EV doesn’t apply as much or at all in the US (especially the small battery). Hopefully other retro-inspired models will be available in the future for American buyers.