By on February 27, 2019

Image: Honda

Ahead of its debut at the Geneva Motor Show, Honda has revealed the prototype of its upcoming “urban electric vehicle” in full, providing tasty yet bittersweet catnip for eco-conscious American drivers who have neither the funds nor patience to hop aboard the Tesla train.

The e Prototype, a successor to the brand’s 2017 Urban EV concept, should give buyers a good sense of what they’re in for. European buyers, that is. Despite the considerable buzz generated by this car, it stands to remain well out of reach for North Americans. And, depending on your point of view, that’s a shame.

Now sporting four doors (Honda cleverly concealed the rear openings to keep the retro vibe intact; flush handles help) and a screen-filled dash, the pint-sized commuter aims to boost the brand’s green cred while at the same time tempting youthful Europeans with an attainable aspirational car that won’t be mistaken for another model.

Honda isn’t a big deal in Europe, as you may have guessed from the automaker’s decision to pull up production stakes in the UK. Still, the company thinks it can lure buyers to the brand with electric offerings — a strategy outlined in its Electric Vision plan, released in 2017.

Image: Honda

Built on a dedicated electric architecture, the e Prototype sports a long wheelbase and wide track for maximum interior volume in a small package. A lone electric motor powers the rear wheels. One can imagine that the wide stance, low center of gravity, and rear-wheel motivation might make this electric a fun thing to toss around. And many might just do that, though not for record-breaking distances.

The e Prototype (and its production successor) was not designed to generate headlines with outlandish and impractical acceleration numbers, nor will Honda send its price soaring with the installation of a long-range battery pack. The company says it will go at least 124 miles between charges, putting the EV in the same league as the Volkswagen e-Golf and Hyundai Ioniq Electric. Fast-charging via a hood port should top up the battery to 80 percent in about 30 minutes.

What we have here is an affordable (price yet to come), visually interesting EV designed to appeal to first-time car owners, or serve as a second vehicle to more established folk living in or near an emissions-obsessed city.

Image: Honda

Unlike Tesla’s products, the main appeal here relates more to the car’s “simplicity of design” and “unique character” than the worldview espoused by its creator (and disciples). There’s a car-based fandom at work here. It’s not looking to be first or best or fastest, this EV just wants to be different — while remaining practical.

A sensible electric car needn’t be an anonymous (and maybe autonomous) egg. Assuming a low entry price, your author could see this thing being popular in certain U.S. markets. The same goes for Canada. To do that, at the very least, Honda would have to do something about the lack of side mirrors (the car’s Camera Mirror System displays the view on the outermost dash screens).

The production version of Honda’s urban EV should begin rolling out of the factory late this year.

[Images: Honda]

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