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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25 Responses to NEWS: Honda’s retro electric Civic confirmed for production

  1. Khoua says:

    Oh snap, that’s exciting. Hopefully it can find it’s way into the US!

  2. Lupus says:

    From the side profile and overall proportions it reminds me strongly on the Fiat 126p. Just take a look:

    But still, it’s a cool concept. The suicide doors are awesome by looks, and far more ergonomic than the “normal ones”.

  3. BlitzPig says:


    Put the driveline from the current Civic Si in it, with real seats, instruments and a manual gear box, and I’ll consider one.

    • Randy says:

      Hey BlitzPig – I’m with you, somewhat… A RANGE of them! The Si version, down to the base runaround model. All I’d really need is air conditioning -OR- the ability to have an aftermarket setup installed. Give me good (gasoline/petrol) mpg, and a stick, and let me flog it my own way!

      Can you imagine what mpg a 3-cyl. diesel/cvt version would get?

      That said, I like the above! Yeah, I said that… I’m not saying *I’d* jump on/in, but overall, I like it.

      I think what I REALLY like from the structural aspect, is the thin A-pillar design. You can hide an entire person+ in the A-pillars on my xA. I’m okay with thick C-pillars; I’m not usually squirting around a corner in reverse…

      The Suicide Doors ain’t gonna make it to production. Something about if a person falls out, they’d be killed by the door effectively running them over.

      *IF* it goes into production, I’m curious as to where they’d price it. If it comes in at Accord prices, then only the hard-core greenies will go for it, and the rest of us will admire it from our Fits.

  4. Iwakuni91 says:

    I. Like. This! Though it is not a Nostalgic, it stranglely makes me feel nostalgic. And frankly, most people don’t want to really own a JNC, they want to feel JNC. Cars like these are a win for the masses and JNCs because as the former proliferates, the latter will increase in their estimation.

  5. Randy says:

    If that’s real wood one there, then Honda just blew all it’s green cred!

    It’s not like the stuff grows on trees, ya know!


    • Ant says:

      I see what you did there, but it must be said that wood is still very much a green material – provided it’s been grown in sustainable forests. Given trees absorb CO2 as they grow it’s a relatively “low-carbon” material.

      Not to mention it being a whole lot more attractive (if used correctly in cars) than plastics or metals. I rather hope it stays through to production!

      • Randy says:


        I think there are a couple who use wood (Rolls and Bentley?), but in the mass-market, I doubt it… “They” always cite costs, and I don’t know if it’d be machine-finished, or done by hand; the latter being time-and-labor expensive… Would love to see how they’d do the airbag door on the dashboard. I’m thinking maybe laser-cut, to maintain the all-of-a-piece graining?

        • Ant says:

          BMW uses a wooden finish in some i3 trims too, and I believe a few others do, at least here in Europe. The i3 is a good example of using it in a modern context – open pore, no glossy finish, and I believe obtained from some easily-renewable source or other.

          It’s all veneer, anyway – I expect to use separate pieces for things like airbag enclosures it’d just be a case of slicing it down the middle.

  6. Nathan says:

    This won’t see production for the US market without a thickening of those pillars. There’s not been some magic breakthrough in making thin pillars strong enough to survive various US crash safety standards. Furthermore, that square wheel has to become rounder. While I like the design as a whole, if the Austin Allegro, likely the worst car ever made, taught people anything, it’s that square steering wheels are a terrible idea.

    If drive EVs we must, I’d have no problems being in something like this. The question, if it goes to the US, is will it share the same fate of other “affordable” electric cars here, such as the Chevy Bolt (not to be confused with the Volt), which has sold so poorly its plant had to be idled, which, by the way is a pity, given that, while I’m not a fan of most Chevrolet products, it is clearly the best EV on the market for the money, far superior to the Leaf and the i-MiEV, but likely isn’t selling due to its badge. (People value the “sex appeal” of a Tesla and the appearance of being green more than they do actually being green, sadly.) Perhaps Honda can bring the “cool” factor to EVs that Chevy has not.

    • Randy says:

      I hadn’t read that about the Bolt, which I agree is actually pretty nice, though the price… I find it amazing that people “want” electric cars, but “must” have the $60K one, which most can’t reasonably afford…

      I *ABSOLUTELY* agree with you about: “People value the “sex appeal” of a Tesla and the appearance of being green more than they do actually being green, sadly.”

      Of course, people’ll drive a total piece of [junk] “until they can get that Lexus,” rather than get a decent Camry or Altima and be happy. I won’t get into the stupid-factor beyond that… Maybe that’s why I’ve gravitated more toward the low end… I saw the Frankfurt show Lambo and, “Eh.” (Watch the vids about those Supercars/Hypercars; they’re apparently NOT all that awesome to own… Not that I’ll ever know…)

      If I remember correctly, from forever ago, you should not spend more than 10% of your income on a vehicle. I’ll have to look up some regional averages for income, housing, vehicle, etc., now that you got me thinking about it…

      Yeah, I know, the new Tesla’s going to be “only” like, $35K, but it ain’t here yet, and looks like it’s a year out. Here’s the article from nerdwallet:

      What DOESN’T sell better than the i-Miev?

      First-gen Leaf was just weird lookin’.

      If GM wasn’t stupid, they could have had the Hy-Wire (2002 concept) and Sequel fuel-cell vehicles out YEARS ago, and the costs to produce would have already come down (relatively). The Hy-Wire was the “skateboard” chassis. BTW, I’d go for a Fuel Cell Vehicle WAY before the plug-in stuff. Given a choice, I’ll ALWAYS take a 10-minute fill-up over a 30-minute 80% recharge.

      Honda had (has?) that Clarity that SHOULD sell well – price depending, and that newer FCV is pretty “Tomorrow-Looking.” I even dig Toyota’s Mirai… (Yeah, that vote was mine.)

    • Randy says:

      Quick note about those A-pillars: The companies could at least make them LOOK thinner…

    • Matt G says:

      The pillars may be sufficient; Look at the window frame of an S2000. Very comparable in size, and in the event of a rollover, it doesn’t even flinch. I wouldn’t be surprised if Honda beefed these ones up in a similar fashion.

  7. RX626 says:

    It would be more wonderful if it is applied Livery inspired in the past of the Civic,

    I want to see the Livery of the Yamato and Meiwa.

  8. Mister K says:

    I hope this isn’t the same “confirmed for production” the IDX suffered from..

  9. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    I’m going to give them a pass on showing a concept. I hope most of it makes it to production because I absolutely love this car! This speaks to me as a car for the masses.

    It will be interesting to see an aftermarket industry evolve for plug-ins ( because we can’t leave well enough alone!?).

  10. Vince Bell says:

    Loving the ‘concept’ of copying the late ’70’s Civic!
    The images of the interior aren’t realistic & shouldn’t be expected. I’d expect the interior to mimic that of the same late 70’s Civics, upgraded of course to digital dash & modern radio, oh… & please include A/C!
    Now, where do I send my request to get one?

  11. Dankan says:

    A practical interior, 400km range and a realistic price tag and I would take that in a heart beat. Maybe I’d swap the wheels for some watanabes.

  12. Ant says:

    This was comfortably my car of the show at Frankfurt (with the Suzuki Swift Sport a close second). Looks stunning inside and out, and if it makes it through to production looking even vaguely like this, it’s a good sign that someone within Honda still knows how to make attractive cars.

    My biggest concern is that Honda hasn’t so far shown much interest in EVs, and I’m worried billing a car (even a concept) as “urban” means they might choke and give it an uncompetitively small range. Even the current Clarity EV, which is far bigger than this concept, only manages 89 miles on a charge.

    • Randy says:

      Two questions:

      1. Isn’t the Swift still the same design as right after they left the U.S.? Attractive, but been around awhile? (BTW, I still like it. Looks good is looks good, regardless of age.)

      2. Isn’t the Clarity a Fuel Cell, so refill time is quick? (Though <100 mi. IS too short.)

      • Ant says:

        1. There’s a new Swift now, as of about a year ago. Googling “Frankfurt Swift Sport” should get you the right one from the show – the colour’s hard to miss!

        2. There is a fuel cell Clarity, but there’s also a pure EV. The fuel cell one has a longer range (366 miles officially) and as you say a quicker refilling time. But Honda doesn’t have a great track record with pure EVs – they just don’t seem interested in them. Hoping this one is a turning point.

        • Randy says:

          Swift looks good… Not that it matters to us in the U.S., but no mention of a 2-door model. I guess they’re out. Over at “carwow,” they say it shares the chassis with the Baleno, which is also pretty decent looking – more conservative.

          New Accord looks a lot like the Clarity – that’s a good thing to me.

          There are practical concerns to me with EVs – a lot because of my trust levels of “people,” and the practical aspects for people who have to park on the street. (In some neighborhoods here, you may have to park on ANOTHER street.)

  13. Hutch says:

    Love this thing.

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