We don’t often look at concept cars on Curbside Classic but every once in a while, a concept car harkens back to the past. But far beyond being merely a retro throwback, the Honda Urban EV concept represents the very best of the past and the best of the future. And it’s actually going to be produced.
The last time a retro Japanese concept car really wowed me was the Nissan IDx. Sadly, Nissan decided it wasn’t profitable to launch a compact rear-wheel-drive coupe – it hasn’t even confirmed when a replacement Z-car will arrive – so that concept may never see the light of day.
The Honda Urban will reach production, however, with an estimated launch date in 2019. It may be referencing a less iconic design – it pays homage to the first Civic – but its minimalist detailing is refreshing in an age of sculpting and feature lines. So is its size: the Urban measures almost 4 inches shorter than the Fit.
Gosh, would you just look at this thing? It’s adorable. Even if you’re too young to remember the first Civic, you might be tempted by this car. Imagine a production version little changed from this concept, and how it could dent Fiat 500 or Mini sales as well as appeal to buyers of electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt.
The interior is both futuristic and austere, with shades of the Tesla Model 3. A panoramic screen sweeps across the dashboard with additional screens in the doors.
It’s not the only retro-themed electric car at this year’s Geneva show. VW has an electric revival of its Kombi/Bus with the ID Buzz, but it seems Volkswagen has miscalculated—instead of putting the compact Bus-themed Bulli into production, it is launching a Ford Explorer-size van that will undoubtedly carry Ford Explorer-size pricing. I’m sure it’ll sell in reasonable volumes but it won’t capture the zeitgeist like the New Beetle or the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Or, well, the original Bus.
Ignore the touted ability to display messages in the grille, and the coach doors, and you can imagine what this would look like in Honda showrooms. Technical details haven’t been released but the Urban will use a new a dedicated EV platform. Honda seems to be regaining its mojo, as evidenced by the hugely successful new Civic. If they price the production Urban correctly, they may have another hit on their hands.