A Honda e Type R? It might happen

By topgear, 22 January 2020

If you don’t already want a Honda e, you soon will. The cheeky-looking, tech-heavy electric supermini is probably the coolest car of 2020, but its cuddly styling might not last forever.

We cornered Takahiro Shinya - the Assistant Large Project Leader, Head of Dynamic Performance, no less - on the Honda e press launch (stay tuned for driving impressions next Monday) and in the time-honoured tradition grilled him on whether a faster version was on the way. His response was… unexpected.

“Well, this new platform, the motor and tyres can all take more [power],” Shinya explained, clearly itching to tell me things he wasn’t supposed to. “What I can say is we love Type R, it’s such a strong halo brand for us. As engineers we want to make Type R of every model, but it’s whether the customer wants it that matters.”

OK, hardly a cast-iron confirmation that an e Type R is in development, but a will to make it happen and strong indications that the tech is ready if and when the numbers stack up.

Let us not forget, the standard Honda e isn’t exactly slow - available with either 134bhp or 152bhp, both with 314Nm of torque (more than a BAC Mono, irrelevant stat fans) it’ll do 0-100kph in 8.3 secs, has fully independent suspension and is RWD. Better for weight distribution and handling says Honda… better for skids says us.

This also raises the possibility of the first rear-drive Type R since the 1992 NSX Type R. Imagine that. OK, we’re ahead of ourselves, but the idea of an electric hot-hatch isn’t the risible idea it once was. Peugeot is making noises that the next 208 GTI will be a pure EV, same goes for the new Corsa VXR and VW ID3 R, and with Cooper S performance from launch, the Mini Electric already fits into the warmish-hatch bracket.

And then came Shinya’s big revelation: “You’ll probably see something more in a couple of years, not a Type R, but something.” A Type S perhaps, or simply a more focused chassis option for the standard car, who knows?

What we do know is if Honda wants to boost performance to Type R-worthy levels, the 35.5kWh battery needs to grow or improve in energy density, otherwise the already meagre 136-mile (219km) range could become unusably low.

So, a Honda e Type R: good idea or missing the point entirely? Here’s hoping they don’t follow the Civic’s styling lead and crash it into a branch of Halfords.