The Honda Urban EV Concept Is What We All Want Honda to Be

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

“This is not some vision of the distant future,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo says of the Honda Urban EV Concept that debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “A production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019.”

Be a skeptic if you like. Honda’s recent history is full of pie-in-the-sky small car concepts that never came to production fruition: Remix, Step Bus, IMAS, Puyo, P-Nut, Gear. But there are also Honda concepts that ended up in the real world. The Model X Concept became the Element, the CR-Z Concept became the CR-Z, the SUT Concept arrived as the Ridgeline.

Honda has every intention to introduce the delightfully retro-modern Urban EV, albeit most assuredly without suicide doors, gigantic wheels, a front bench, or the unusually minimalistic interior. Yet if Honda can maintain the silhouette, a blend of early Civic and Mk1 Golf GTI, we’ll begin to wonder whether Honda’s lost decade – in which mistakes were made and costs were cut — is about to produce evidence of a reinvigorated Honda.

Granted, it’s not as though the Honda Urban EV Concept will translate to a production model bound for North America.

Honda’s CEO specifically called out a production version of the Urban EV Concept for Europe. Honda’s North American press corps have yet to make a mention of the Urban EV — we’re gleaning official press material from Honda UK.

Numerous vital unknowns remain. Honda says the Urban EV is a pure all-electric four-seat car, four inches shorter than a Honda Fit bumper-to-bumper, and features what Honda calls the Power Manager Concept, which aims to store and share electricity between the Urban EV, your home, and the grid.

But what kind of electric powertrain? How much power? What level of range is predicted? There are no answers to those questions, not yet.

Honda sticks with the backlit blue emblem the company says will be featured on all of the company’s EVs. Honda also says the front of the car can display multilingual messages, “including greetings, advice for other drivers on the road, or charging status updates.” That seems… odd. More importantly, Honda claims slim A-pillars and a wraparound front windscreen — a boon for visibility and a traditional Honda hallmark. Speaking of wraparounds, the infotainment screen stretches across much of the dash, takes a break behind the steering wheel, and appears again on the driver’s door.

North America’s move away from small cars (subcompacts are down 23 percent this year in the U.S.), the very slow rise of electric vehicle adoption, and the forthcoming disappearance of federal tax credits doesn’t bode well for a smaller-than-Fit all-electric. But that won’t stop us hankering after expressive Honda design on this side of the Atlantic.

[Image: Honda UK]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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  • Rocketrodeo Rocketrodeo on Sep 13, 2017

    A few years ago a fellow took a Honda N600 shell, shaved, lowered, and widened it, put a Miata suspension under it, converted it to rwd, and installed an 800cc V-4 from a VFR Interceptor--which sounds a lot like a smallblock Chevy with added gear-driven cam whine, one of the sexiest sounds in motorsport. Though 115hp doesn't sound like much, it's only 1400 lbs and revs to 12,000rpm. It looks a LOT like this. Google VFR N600. Matt Farah took it for a drive not too long ago.

  • Ddroadkill Ddroadkill on Sep 13, 2017

    If the price is right, I'm in the market for one of these. Bigger than a smart, all electric, great look. I'd go with a leaf right now (except for the look) but in Quebec the prices of these damn cars are ridiculous. A 70000KM used Nissan leaf is around 14000$. If at that price it were new I'd have bought one already. I seriously hope this concept becomes reality and gets shipped to North America.

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.