Un­ex­pected star of the show

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Mark Smyth

You have to feel a lit­tle sorry for Mercedes. It had a huge, mul­ti­storey hall at Frank­furt packed with cur­rent and fu­ture mod­els. It re­vealed its in­cred­i­ble 1,000hp Project One hy­per­car, a model that it un­doubt­edly ex­pected would be the star of the show.

But it wasn’t. Tucked away in the back of an­other hall was Honda. Like most car mak­ers, the Ja­panese com­pany an­nounced its elec­tri­fi­ca­tion strat­egy. It also re­vealed its Power Man­ager, smart en­ergy trans­fer sys­tem for your home, but no-one was pay­ing much at­ten­tion. All were cap­ti­vated by the Honda Ur­ban EV (elec­tric ve­hi­cle) con­cept. So cap­ti­vated in fact that I, like many oth­ers, went back to the Honda stand more than once to look at it again.

Some will be won­der­ing how a lit­tle Honda con­cept could eclipse a 1,000hp hy­per­car, but they are prob­a­bly millennials, peo­ple with no knowl­edge of the 1980s ex­cept for what they Google on their smart­phones.

There were some iconic mod­els in the 1980s, such as the Volkswagen Golf, Peu­geot 205 GTi and the Honda Civic. All of these fea­ture in some way in the de­sign of the Ur­ban EV con­cept. It’s like the mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Atari games con­sole. It’s the 8-bit car but with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy.

Most of all, it looks like a car we could all own and be happy to own, un­like many EV con­cepts and pro­duc­tion mod­els. It looks retro and cool yet with the right dose of ur­ban at­ti­tude. And we might well be able to own it, be­cause Honda Mo­tor Com­pany pres­i­dent and CEO Takahiro Hachigo says “this is not some vision of the dis­tant fu­ture; a pro­duc­tion ver­sion of this car will be here in Europe in 2019”. And SA please, Hachigo San.

We are not con­vinced the mul­ti­me­dia grille will make it to pro­duc­tion. Honda says it can dis­play mul­ti­lin­gual mes­sages such as greet­ings or charg­ing sta­tus up­dates. It also says it can dis­play “ad­vice for other driv­ers on the road”. We all know what kind of ad­vice that might be on South African roads.

It has rear-hinged coach doors which open to re­veal a min­i­mal­ist in­te­rior dom­i­nated by front and rear classic bench seats with space for four. The float­ing wood dash­board with a wide screen on top dis­plays all the charg­ing in­for­ma­tion and con­nects the oc­cu­pants to the out­side. In ad­di­tion, there are screens in the doors, which act as the wing mir­rors, re­lay­ing a pic­ture from ex­ter­nal cam­eras.

The Ur­ban EV con­cept was the coolest car at the show — and if Honda pro­duces a car in 2019 that is close to the con­cept, then it might well have one of the coolest cars on the road.

The de­sign of the Honda Ur­ban EV con­cept echoes some of the great icons of the 1980s. Be­low: The in­te­rior blends retro with tech in a way that ac­tu­ally works.

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