Unexpected star of the show
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.