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Amidst a scaling back of local operations and a focus on key models, Honda Australia is missing out on bringing some of its most promising models to the local market.
This includes the brand’s ‘e’ fully electric hatchback, which is the first in a range of electric cars under the ‘e’ sub-brand, but now also includes what could be the brand’s most promising electrified model yet.
Dubbed the e:NS1, it’s a fully electric small SUV which shares its dimensions and even most of its body with the new-generation HR-V destined for the Australian market.
Interestingly, Honda says it actually rides on a different fully electric platform called the e:N Architecture F, apparently different from the platform which underpins the e hatch, which is a dedicated rear-drive set-up as opposed to the e:N platform’s front-drive layout. Regardless, the e:NS1 almost exactly shares its dimensions with the HR-V, being only 50mm longer and 12mm shorter but precisely the same width.
The e:NS1 is impressive too, featuring a fully electric range between 420km to 510km (using the Chinese testing cycle rather than the more reliable WLTP standard) and an electric motor putting out either 134kW/310Nm or 150kW/310Nm depending on variant.
Standard features include a blanked-out grille with bi-directional charging port behind, LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and a 15.1-inch portrait-oriented multimedia touch panel, quite the departure from the smaller 9.0-inch touchscreen seen in combustion HR-Vs set to arrive in Australia. In China it costs between the equivalent of AU$37,629 and 46,873 (almost mirroring the cost of our combustion and hybrid variants!).
So, what’s the big catch? Well, strictly the e:NS1 isn’t built by ‘Honda’ as we understand it, rather one of the brand’s joint ventures with Chinese domestic automaker, Dongfeng. This all but scatters the chances for this particular electric model to make it to Australia.
Honda’s e:N Architecture will go on to underpin a further 10 models for the Chinese market by 2027, with Dongfeng Honda building a dedicated EV plant to support the brand’s expansion set to open in 2024.
Meanwhile, there is no word from Honda Australia on when we will see the brand’s first electric vehicle locally. The HR-V will arrive in Australia in both 1.5-litre combustion (89kW/145Nm), and 1.5-litre e:HEV ‘self-charging’ hybrid (96kW/253Nm) forms. The combustion VTi X will start from $36,700, while the e:HEV L wears an MSRP of $45,000.
Interestingly the e:NS1 is not the only electric spin-off of an existing combustion car exclusively for the Chinese market, with Toyota offering an EV version of its C-HR, Kia offering an EV version of its K3 (known in Australia as the Cerato), and Mazda offering a (very awkward-looking) fully electric version of its CX-30.