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November 2, 2023

Closer Look, First Drive Impressions Of The 2024 Honda e:N1

Honda is launching their first-ever EV for the ASEAN region, and it could be this: the Honda e:N1. For those who’ve been waiting and clamoring for the Honda e, we could almost hear your sigh of disappointment—believe us, we had the same feeling as well—but putting aside our enthusiast hat for a minute, this battery-powered compact crossover actually makes a whole lot of sense for the region.

What exactly is the Honda e:N1? Called the e:Ny1 in Europe and the e:NS1 or e:NP1 in China (depending if it’s sourced from Honda’s JV with GAC Motor or Dongfeng), it’s basically an HR-V-based battery-electric vehicle. Since it shares its basic platform with Honda’s compact crossover, it’s been confirmed to head to production in Thailand, probably at the same line as the HR-V in Ayutthaya or Prachinburi, Thailand.

Honda being Honda, they didn’t simply rip out the HR-V’s gas engine to shoehorn an electric motor in there. Engineers reworked the entire thing by adding to its overall rigidity. Oh, and despite the addition of high-tensile bracing to its floor and roof sections, the overall weight is over 100 kilograms lighter compared to other EVs of similar size (curb weight is less than 1,500 kilograms). This also gave birth to a new platform: the Honda e:N Architecture F. This is Honda’s next-gen platform that will underpin small to medium-sized Honda EVs.

The “F” in e:N Architecture F stands for “front-motor, front-wheel drive,” and as such, the e:N1 comes with a cleverly-packaged three-in-one motor which uses the power drive unit, electric motor, and transmission all over the front axle. Moreover, it weighs just 77.4 kilograms in total making it even lighter than the already bantam weight L15B engine. The 204 horsepower (150 kW), 310 Nm motor boasts of 92 percent efficiency and helps propel the e:N1 to 100 km/h from zero in 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 160 km/h. It even has advanced thermal management through a water-cooled circuit ensuring consistent power delivery without overheating.

Providing power to the motor is a 68.8-kWh (61.9-kWh usable) under floor-mounted lithium-ion battery. This provides a range of up to 412 kilometers on a single charge. Plus, thanks to Honda’s specially-developed charging system, the e:N1 permits a sustained higher charge rate over a longer period of time. It also helps prevent premature battery deterioration helping it maintain its range over the vehicle’s lifespan.

Continuing with the HR-V’s “Amp Up” styling motif, designers decided to give the e:N1 a more EV-centric design. The result is the “Smooth Flow Advanced Front Face” you see here. Since EVs require less cooling, the front grille has disappeared. In its place is a blank plate that also happens to hide the illuminated CCS charging port. On top of that is a fine horizontal strip which Honda calls “Heart Beat” indicators that serve as a new kind of user interface. The sporty front spoiler lip appears to float beneath the lower grille section, which closes to hide the radiator when the e:N1 is parked.

Debuting Honda’s new EV identity, the e:N1 features white “H” badges all around from the nose to the wheel center caps and even steering wheel and infotainment interface. At the back, a new typeface spells out “HONDA” at the back—something that the brand will carry on all its future EVs.

Inside, the e:N1’s HR-V origins are obvious, but because EV users demand cutting-edge technology, Honda plopped in a giant 15.1-inch touchscreen in the middle. The menu itself has been zoned into three areas—the upper two measuring at 9.6 inches and the lower one measuring at 8.9 inches. Meanwhile, the driver gets a visor-less 10.25-inch full TFT gauge cluster. The tunnel console itself has been redesigned with a push-button style shifter (cringe), while the wireless charger, Drive Mode Selector and EPB switch have been moved to a single vertical axis as not to interfere with things like the cup holders.

Now that we’ve tackled the e:N1 in detail, the big question is: how does it drive? For better or worse, it doesn’t drive like your typical EV. In fact, if anything, it sticks close, dynamically, to a conventional Honda gas-powered car. And that’s by design. Honda says it’s all too common for people to feel car sick in EVs simply because they’re too jumpy. So, they tuned the acceleration to be much more linear. Since we did only three laps around a proving course, we can’t comment about the car sickness part, but the throttle is appreciably more sedate. We imagine that this would be perfect for people transitioning from ICEs to BEVs.

Compared to other EVs, the e:N1 makes more of a wee-wee-wee-whirr-whirr-whirr sound. It’s part RC and part sci-fi. Again, Honda says it’s part of the overall design to help increase driver engagement. Mind you, we found it alluring for these short stints behind the wheel, but as to whether it’ll be annoying during longer stints is best left to a full-blown drive.

The course itself is billiard smooth and since we were told to stay away from the curbs, it’s hard to get an idea on the e:N1’s overall handling and ride quality. That said, the steering’s variable ratio setup is far more obtrusive here than, say, the HR-V’s. It’s far too light during initial turn and far too weighty as you head through a corner. Handling though, is par for the course—balanced, sensible, and competent.

How Honda will position the e:N1 is perhaps the biggest question, but they went out of their way to cite the likes of the GWM Ora 03 (Good Cat) MG ZS EV, MG 4, Kona Electric, and Leaf as its chief rivals in Thailand. That puts a wide breadth price-wise, but Honda has confirmed it will slot below the likes of the Toyota bZ4X and the Hyundai Ioniq 5. So, a pricing of about P 2-million (converted from Thai Baht) could be a possibility.

Now, as far as the Philippine market is concerned, Honda has yet to confirm whether we’re getting the e:N1. The commitment so far is to launch it in ASEAN, specifically in the Thai market by early 2024. In case Honda Cars Philippines does bring it in, it is a competent, middle-of-the-road choice that would be a great first EV not just for would-be car buyers, but for Honda, as brand. In the mean time, expect more e:HEVs to be offered in the Philippines by next year.

1 comment:

  1. it would be great if Honda updates the HRV's interior same as this one. The current's hu looks like a small crt tv


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