By on September 12, 2017

Honda Urban EV Concept unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show - Image: Honda UK“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.

Honda Urban EV Concept unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show - Image: Honda UKGranted, 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 Urban EV Concept - Image: Honda UKHonda 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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39 Comments on “The Honda Urban EV Concept Is What We All Want Honda to Be...”

  • avatar

    That’s a retro concept I could get behind, other than those rubber bands that are allegedly tires.

  • avatar

    That’s the first retro design I’ve seen in at least 15 years that I legitimately like.

  • avatar

    Amazing. That’s a concept car. Lose the wheels, make it both as a 3 door and extended 5 door (like the Mini), with a turbo 3 cylinder, hybrid, or full EV, and it’ll work. A small crossover similarly styled could also work.

  • avatar

    “the front of the car can display multilingual messages, including… advice for other drivers on the road…”

    Oh no, this will not end well.

  • avatar

    The exterior is so easy on the eyes… hopefully they don’t Hyundai it up before it reaches production.
    The interior looks like someone installed an aquarium in the dashboard.
    Keep it simple, Honda, and keep it normal. Don’t ruin a good idea with too many “good” ideas.

  • avatar

    Looks like an old 70s-vintage VW Rabbit.

  • avatar


  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Love it. Meh to the screen but a big thumbs up to the bench and uncluttered front floor. On a slightly related note, I fully expect all windows to be irrelevant as I cannot remember the last time that I saw passengers front or back and less than thirty five actually looking out the windows. Pasted to an I phone yes, playing punch buggy no. However I certainly would like to see interior mirrors to b replaced with camera images on the touchscreen or whatever it’s called and free up the actual visible windscreen space taken up by the mirror. I find them nowadays to be a real blind spot maker. But good on Honda. I would actually buy one, if it’s not too second gen Toyota Xboxed to hell

  • avatar

    I love the exterior. Reminds me if the NBox and N/ Kei cars, wonderfully retro without going too far.

    Honda, build it, and sell it globally (that means here). Drop the silly message bar and t.v. screen.

  • avatar

    If this makes production, it’ll have the same issues the CR-Z had: namely, that people won’t buy something in profitable volumes without at least a notional rear seat.

    • 0 avatar

      just a quick note: this car /does/ have a back seat.

      and a longer note:
      the CR-Z’s problems had nothing to do with its lack of a rear seat, and everything to do with its naming. If Honda had taken the Prius route and called it an Insight Sport or Insight 3 or even Insight Coo-pay it would have done far better in the market.

      Instead, they called it the CR-Z, intentionally invoking the CRX’s cult-like popularity. However, the brand new CR-Z failed to match the 25 yr old CRX in EVERY SINGLE METRIC that [s]cult member[/s] buyer cares about. Slower than an CRX Si, worse mileage than an CRX HF, out handled by even the DX, it was the car that did nothing well.

      When it debuted, the CRX fan club was stoked. Then, as people got to really drive one, the car became openly ridiculed. The last thing I saw about it was the fact that it most closely matched the EDM diesel mid 90s Civic in performance specs.

      The only thing that makes the CR-Z not Honda’s biggest laughingstock during that time is the CrossTour.

      • 0 avatar

        sorry, mid-00’s diesel civic, not mid 90s. tho, I’m sure that would have been a tight race, too.

      • 0 avatar

        So, it needs to be a brand new 1991, but with airbags and power everything and be quieter and just as light while being safer and more comfortable. So, only the impossible is acceptable? Got it.

        By the way, the 2016 CR-Z is quicker to 60 than a 1991 CRX Si. Not by much, but it is.

        • 0 avatar


          if Honda is going to dust off a badge, the car they put under it had better be comparable. If that’s impossible, then call it something else. No different than Pontiac slapping the LeMans badge on a Daewoo penalty box in the 80s.

          it’s slower in the 1/4 than a 91 Si, and slower to 60 than an 88 Si. (

          and, that’s just the neutered USDM versions. the ZC and B16 powered models were quicker in both races.

    • 0 avatar

      2 door vehicles don’t sell, hatchbacks don’t sell. So this thing is DOOMED. I too love the throw back look but I have a serious case of 3 door love, its a bit too much GTI and not enough Civic hatch however.

  • avatar

    rif on the first Honda car in the US, Z600. i like it!

  • avatar

    Completely adorable! Make mine a 1.5T.

  • avatar

    The bench seat and wheels give me life.

  • avatar

    Hopefully they don’t pull a CR-Z and do the one powertrain option. The car would easily sell as a gas only but why do retro (I.e. Niche) when it’s going to be a niche drivetrain? Niche on niche doesn’t tend to bode well for sales of past experience is an example.

  • avatar

    Looks like an Alfasud front with a Toyota Starlet rear. Next?

  • avatar

    Beautiful. That’s the kind of Honda I want.

  • avatar

    The steering wheel on the Urban EV may be a sign that someone in Honda’s design department is trying to warn us of impending ownership disaster involving this vehicle by way of referencing a turdapple on a distant branch of its family tree. Bear with me on this:

    Before hopping in bed with Rover, Honda provided the platform for the Triumph Acclaim, Triumph’s final car and one that wasn’t completely terrible given that it was made by a company that was part of British Leyland.

    Going not terribly far back into the British Leyland family tree from the Acclaim, we find one of BL’s greatest nadirs: the Austin Allegro. Early Allegros were equipped with what marketing referred to as the ‘quartic’ steering wheel – and the Urban EV’s steering wheel bears no small amount of similarity to the quartic wheel in the Allegro.

    It can’t be coincidence. This is someone trying to warn us that something is deeply, deeply wrong with this car, and that we should remember the lesson of the Allegro before considering a purchase of the Urban EV.

    I am also selling golden shovels at $29.95 apiece.

    (Note: I actually quite like how the Urban EV’s design calls back to the original Civic, and don’t believe that it will be a wretched hunk of crap like the Allegro was. However, I would probably like it better with a high-revving two-cylinder (inline, vee, or flat; I’m not picky) and six-speed gearbox. The wall-of-video interior addenda also need to go, but overall it’s at least likeable to my eye.)

  • avatar

    Why – WHY- can’t anyone steer their designs in this direction? How does Honda design this and offer the civic abomination at the same time?

  • avatar

    Proper way of doing car interfaces is like how certain sound studio interfaces are — physical sliders and buttons and an app for your latest device.

    The display thing is stupid. Have “normal” instrumentation and HVAC controls then use an Android or iPad mount to let people swap devices every few years.

    I have a feeling the reason this is catching on is a big LCD is cheaper than a bunch of dials and gauges. Issue is it’ll make a five-year-old vehicle seem obsolete.

  • avatar

    I dig the bench seat…and what appears to be fantastic forward visibility with narrow A pillars.

    But absolutely nothing else here works for me, even though I know its a concept. The huge screen and far too large wheels are reminiscent of something from the original TRON movie.

    And, as with all compact hatches, you have to choose: rear passengers OR rear cargo, but never both at the same time.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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