By on March 6, 2018

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

Electric vehicles. Yawn, right? It’s easy to be cynical about the high-flying production promises tossed about by practically every automaker, but if the real-life version of Honda’s Urban EV Concept looks half as quirky as the show car, the big H might have a bonafide green hit on its hands.

As the Geneva Motor Show opens to journalists, Honda has announced a production version of the retro-styled hatchback. It turns out CEO Takahiro Hachigo wasn’t lying when he said the Urban EV wasn’t just auto show eye candy.

Debuting at last September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the Urban EV Concept blends styling cues ripped from Honda’s past — namely, the first-generation Civic — with concept car trappings we wouldn’t expect of a production vehicle (suicide doors, General Electric turbofans in place of wheels). Surely, driver and passenger won’t be playing footsies after this thing hits dealers.

While Honda didn’t — and still hasn’t — provided a range figure, the bug-eyed four-seater’s name alone implies a constrained, around-town lifestyle.

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

Judging by the public’s response to the gas-free runabout, we could be looking at the first aspirational EV that isn’t a Tesla. Surely, prices will take into account the intended buyer’s not-unlimited means.

“A production version of this highly acclaimed concept will be introduced to Europe during late 2019, and in response to the positive feedback to this model, we expect to open order banks for the Urban EV during early 2019,” said Philip Ross, Honda Motor Europe’s senior vice president, in a statement.

The key word here is “Europe.” Honda remains tight-lipped on the possibility of an American launch. While the automaker bills the Urban EV as the “first mass-produced battery electric vehicle” for the European market, the U.S. already has the Honda Clarity sedan. Well, sort of. That five-seater is available only in California and Oregon, as a lease-only proposition.

It will be interesting to see how the production version of this model strays from the concept when it appears next year. Want to take bets on four doors, bulky A-pillars, and longer overhangs?

[Images: Honda]

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29 Comments on “Retro Is Your Future: Honda Confirms Production of an EV That’s Hard Not to Love...”

  • avatar

    First glance I thought it was an electric VW Golf.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…we could be looking at the first aspirational EV that isn’t a Tesla”

    Maybe. Although I like this concept, I’m more interested in the range and utility of the Kia Niro EV.

  • avatar

    Build it!

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Well, this will at most be a Jazz/Fit with an EV powertrain and a nosejob.

  • avatar

    Calls back to the original Civic, right down to the fake wood strip across the dash! I really like this, though I’d like it more with a hybrid setup rather than EV.

    This would simultaneously improve sales and make it more accessible to more people.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe if they did the next Fit in this general style, it’d be good!

      (From the side, this screams “Corolla FX16!” Not that that’s a bad thing!)

  • avatar


    They copy the first generation VW Rabbit, pretty much exactly, and that’s innovative and “quirky”?

  • avatar

    Also a dead ringer (on the exterior) for the Peugeot 106. But that’s fine with me. Maybe not original or quirky, but surely better than the wedgy shape of most EVs.

  • avatar

    As a few others here have suggested… It’s a VW rip off!

    • 0 avatar

      Guess you’re not old enough to remember what the first Honda Civics looked like?

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, I am, and I’m old enough to remember the first VW Rabbit, and I just looked up pictures first generation Civic and first generation Rabbit to refresh my memory, and I am telling you that most of those two cars looked damn near identical, and the grille and headlights of the concept car shown above look MUCH more like the Rabbit than the Civic.

        • 0 avatar

          First generation Civic came out in 1973. First generation Rabbit introduced in 1975. So who ripped off who?

          • 0 avatar

            Why yes, Giugiaro hopped on a plane to Japan in 1972, somehow found his way to Honda, and in halting Japanese asked if he could see the upcoming Civic styling buck and copy it for this car he was designing for VW, the Golf. That’s a Honda fanboi fantasy from the Golden Book of Fairy Tales.

            Forget the 1968 Simca 1100, Fiat 127 of 1971 or the Renault 5 of 1973, and Audi 50 of 1972, all hatchbacks. Honda would never emulate them in extra small size, never! It invented the hatchback, yessir.

            The first Civic was a midget car compared to the Golf which could actually carry normal sized Westerners.

      • 0 avatar

        I think that’s the problem why many here say it looks like a Golf. We remember the original civic, younger folks dont!

        • 0 avatar

          Whoa conundrum, no need to get all smart. Some posts on this thread seemed to have some revisionist recollection happening. Just pointing out that the Civic came out 2 years before and that’s a fact. To those people who see a resemblance between the 2 cars, the chronology changes this argument entirely. To say there’s a resemblance to the other cars that you listed….. that’s a bit of a stretch.

    • 0 avatar

      This has been discussed at length in various blogs and forums, but other than the headlights/grill, it is more MK1 civic than mk1 golf. And mk1 civic came first! It becomes more apparent when you look at direct side views of the cars. The Civics lines are a lot softer than the ‘edgy’ Golf, with the softness carrying into the concept. The Golf also really emphasizes a large greenhouse, and has a more wedge-like hood.

  • avatar

    Glad to see one of my favourite concepts of the last decade enter production. If it was sold as a plug-in or conventional hybrid I would absolutely be a customer. Now bring on the Santa Cruz already!

  • avatar

    Alas, Steph’s last paragraph foretells the future of this concept better than any dream we may have. Good luck seeing out of the vehicle that Honda actually produces!

  • avatar

    “Want to take bets on four doors, bulky A-pillars, and longer overhangs?”

    Yep sounds about right. Lets face it this vehicle has almost zero chance of coming to the US. Strike #1 it is a hatchback, strike #2 it only has 2 doors and strike #3 it is not a CUV thing.

  • avatar

    Damn! Build this and the Bolt will lose lots of sales, not to mention the Model 3, if the driving dynamics are good enough. Heck, they should offer an ICE version with stick and clutch. THAT would tempt me!

    But I don’t like that humongous screen at all.

  • avatar

    That interior image looks just like Bruce McCall’s Bulgemobiles:

  • avatar

    Get the basic story right: the Clarity is for sale, not just lease, in Texas, not just California and Oregon. I have a relative in north Texas who bought one for cash. Nice car, but original Insight ugly.

  • avatar

    Otto a British Leyland quartic steering wheel.

  • avatar

    Honda and VW fans throwing shade at each other needs to be a weekly occurrence.

  • avatar

    I was taken aback by that Quartic wheel! Are they STILL peddling that as a space saver?
    Suicide doors on a two door, really? Gonna need a beefy B pillar to hang it on.

    Not enamored of that slab of butter look and it makes me wonder where they will find panel rigidity if they can’t crease them, extra filleting within just adds weight which is an EV’s enemy.

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