NEWS: Honda’s retro electric Civic confirmed for production

In a surprise move, Honda has unveiled a new electric vehicle concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show’s press days, which just kicked off this morning. It’s called the Honda Urban EV Concept, and while the official press release makes no mention of it, the car’s design is clearly inspired by the first- and second-gen Honda Civic. More importantly, Honda says it “sets the direction for the technology and design that will appear on a future… production model.”

As of yet there are few technical specifications regarding how much range or power the battery pack provides. However, Honda did say that the Urban EV is built on an all-new platform about 100mm shorter than the Fit’s. That puts it at about the size of the original second-generation Civic.

A Honda logo on the grille appears to be backlit rather than an actual emblem. Honda says this will be a new styling cue that will define its future EVs, implying there will be more than one. The “grille” — technically there is no opening since an electric car does not need a radiator — can say hi to the driver, display messages to other cars (this should be interesting), or denote the charging status.

In its two round headlights, the sweep of the C-pillar, and hatchback proportions, the relationship to the early Civic is unmistakable. In addition, it boasts flared wheel arches that Honda itself says “hint[s] at sporty driving performance.”

This would be a novel idea for the burgeoning electric car market. So far, Tesla has cornered the high-end performance end of the market, while vehicles like the Nissan Leaf have served as mass-market transportation but been uninspiring to drive. An electric hot hatch could be exactly what enthusiasts need to get into EVs and a way for Honda to set itself apart. We asked if you would electrify your JNC in this week’s QotW, but now it looks like you might not have to.

The Urban EV Concept has two doors, reverse-hinged to open in suicide fashion. Honda points out that the windshield is very wide and its A-pillars are thin, unlike most new cars today. A return to Honda’s class-leading visibility from he 80s and 90s would be most welcome.

The interior consists of two bench seats that can seat four occupants. The rear seat belts pull out from the center of the bench, so that they can retract away from the opening as you exit the car.

The dashboard also evokes that of the first-gen Civic, with a single large, sweeping piece inlaid with (faux?) wood. A squared off steering wheel calls back to the small instrument binnacle of the original Civic as well. What doesn’t remind us of classic Civics is a panoramic display that stretches across almost the entire width of the cabin. Screens are embedded in the doors too, acting as mirrors to display blind spot views because there are no actual exterior mirrors, just cameras embedded in the fenders.

This, of course, is not the first time Honda has introduced a retro, alternative-fuel concept. In 2009 Honda showed an N360-inspired electric car and a SuperCub-inspired electric bike. In 2011, Honda showed another N360-inspired concept. Even as recently as this year, Honda was showing a TN360-inspired micro-truck.

Some have stopped at the concept stage, while others eventually became production cars. What is very promising for the Urban EV is Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo‘s statement to the press. “This is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019.”

For comparison:

Images courtesy of Honda.

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