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Honda’s Urban EV: form a disorderly queue

Published: 06 March 2018

► Cute retro-styled electric-only concept
► Production version scheduled for 2019
► Minimalist interior with panoramic dash

Remember Honda’s gorgeous Urban EV concept from 2017 Frankfurt motor show? You know the one: the funky little hatch that juxtaposed its contemporary battery-electric powertrain with painfully cute retro-inspired styling? Confirmed for production late next year, the Urban EV just got a step closer with the news that Honda will open order books for the BMW i3 rival ‘in early 2019’.

A compact four-seater with cool, minimalist interior detailing and similarly unfussy exterior surfaces (certainly compared with a lot of Honda’s current output…), the Urban EV has received ‘positive feedback’ according to Honda Motor Europe’s Philip Ross – he’s not kidding. The concept was the unlikely star of last year’s Frankfurt show and the scale of interest since has taken the Japanese manufacturer by surprise.

Honda’s not saying too much about what powers it, instead concentrating on its Honda Power Manager technology, as showcased on CAR earlier this year, and the company’s ‘Electric Vision’ for 2030 and beyond.

Honda Urban EV Concept - cute, retro-styled all-electric supermini side view

We do know that the Urban EV Concept is based on a bespoke electric car platform, which features a high-density, lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and what’s described as the evolution of energy transfer functions – both to and from the vehicle.

Speaking at the 2017 Tokyo show Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said: ‘We are going to create a dedicated EV platform for the Urban EV. This is city commuter-sized vehicle, so a small segment car. The Urban EV will be your close friend as a city commuter. We will connect the driver to the car with artificial intelligence – people will have fun driving this car. The model will change the image of Honda and present our determination to electrify our cars in Europe.

‘We will position these EVs as iconic cars for the Honda brand because they present our intention to accelerate electrification,’ continued Hachigo. ‘We are also going to launch a commercial vehicle based on the Urban EV Concept model. The challenge for Honda is reducing the cost of EV production by incorporating EVs in with conventional car manufacturing.’

Little is known of the engineering of Honda’s electric platform, with Hachigo suggesting at Tokyo that elements of the project were far from being set in stone. So long as the design is faithful to the concept, what’s underneath will scarcely matter.

So, not much tech – let’s talk design

It’s a lovely looking thing, clearly referencing the original Honda Civic and the N600, with many shades of the Volkswagen Golf Mk1, too – which is a good thing in our books. It’s simple and sophisticated, and although it’s 100mm shorter than the Jazz supermini, it looks longer, wider and more purposeful.

Honda Urban EV Concept - illuminated communicating grille

The blue backlit Honda badge is an interesting feature, which will find its way to all future EVs from the company. And rather like the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo Concept, the Urban EV has interactive multilingual messages that can be displayed between the headlights. Cute, eh?

What’s the Honda Urban EV like inside?

The Honda Urban EV’s a doddle to get in thanks to rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors. It’s light and airy, with slim A-pillars and a wide windscreen.

Interior of the Honda Urban EV Concept

The dash is a thing of beauty – it’s finished in wood and wraps around, with a panoramic display screen sitting on top and a minimalist ethos. The Urban EV also comes with a quartic steering wheel like an Austin Allegro. What’s not to like?

Despite being so small, it’s an easy four-seater, with four adults accommodated across two bench seats finished in different materials. The front row is upholstered with natural grey fabric, with the seat backs, squabs and arm rests embellished with the same wood as the dash.

As for the production version? 'It's still under development,' said Ikuo Takeishi, Honda R&D Executive. But we're hoping our shouts of 'build it!' across the table at Frankfurt didn't go unnoticed. 

Good news for Urban EV then, not so much for Sports EV...

At the Tokyo show in late 2017 the Urban EV Concept was joined on the Honda stand by the equally pretty Sports EV Concept, a low-slung all-electric sports car whose chances of making series production are about as slim as its ground clearance. Boo.

Click here for the full Geneva motor show A-Z on CAR magazine

By CAR's road test team

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