It’s not what you drive that matters, it’s how you drive it.
All car enthusiasts love a bit of motorsport; it’s exciting, fun, and just plain cool just to spectate, but even more so to take part yourself. But cars and motorsport are an expensive hobby, so what to do when the spirit is willing, but the wallet too weak to afford a spare car just to thrash around in?
Well, just drive whatever you have, of course! That's what happened at a recent gymkhana open practice session organised by Singapore Auto Gymkhana Group (SAGG).
Amongst all the usual suspects that take part in events like this - Mitsubishi Evos, old BMWs, Lotuses, Toyobaru 86BRZs etc - one car stood out, both for its cute looks and lack of noise out on the course: a Honda e.
Gymkhana is a discipline that prioritises agility and maneuverability above all else, so on paper, the Honda e’s compact size, instant electric torque, and tiny 8.6m turning circle (about 2m tighter than a Jazz’s) sound like just the right ingredients.
But watching from the sidelines, it was pretty clear the pizza-cutter Yokohama Kinergy Eco tyres (185/60 R16) and soft suspension weren’t really up to the task of slinging the e’s hefty 1.5-tonne weight around the cones. Still, that didn't stop its driver, Kian Loong, from driving it on its door handles the whole afternoon.
So what did Kian Loong - who has lots of experience with traditional performance cars, like his old Evo 9 wagon - think of husting such an un-sporty car in such a high-octane environment?
“I love the huge electric torque at zero/low speeds. Valuable to get out of situations where your speed is scrubbed too low due to over-rotation or understeer or whatever. In other words, *carrying speed* is not that important (at least until everyone else also has EVs, haha).
“Handling-wise, it actually has potential. Yes it needs quite a bit of camber and toe out, and of course, better and lower profile front tyres, because the sidewalls are "rolling over". Getting on the throttle with any more than half steering lock and you get terminal understeer. And because of that, I couldn’t get the tail out in tight low speed corners. But at higher speed sweepers (which require less steering lock and are less dependent on only the front axle), it was actually quite nice.”
Yup, snap understeer is totally a thing, and by the end of the day the sidewalls were practically scrubbed smooth halfway down the “Yokohama” logo. Still, no bone-stock daily driver is ever going to be perfect for motorsport, but all it’d take is a few simple mods to drastically improve the Honda e.
“If Honda’s listening, this is what I would tell them to do for the mid-cycle facelift: Give it a more aggressive throttle response (like R button in the Civic Type R haha). Because it's a free mod; just ramp power up vertically. The current motor controller ramps up the power slowly, which 95% of the time is not enough to "shock" the rear tyres into losing grip. And of course, give us back a proper handbrake please!”