Honda Concept C and Concept S make their Beijing debut

Honda Concept S side viewHonda recently teased two new concept cars with some minimal sketches; now the wraps have come off. The two cars, the Concept C sedan and Concept S minivan, were unveiled at this week’s Beijing Motor Show.

The silver sedan’s initials stand for “Cool,” Challenge,” and “China.” It previews a new model that Honda will tailor to the Chinese market, where the Japanese company hopes to make big gains. The “challenge” may be figuring out how this car differs from any other sedan. Honda didn’t have much to say as far as technical details, focusing instead on the styling.

The design was reportedly inspired by a dragon, and is by far the boldest Honda in years. It has a low “four-door coupe” roof (see Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen CC), and bulging rear fenders help hide the rear doors.

At the front, it looks like Honda took some styling cues from competitors’ cars and injected the whole thing with growth hormone. The chrome strip above the grille, and its centered logo, look like they came from a Toyota Camry. However, this much larger piece makes the Concept C look like a battering ram. The grille, the flat area below it, and the air intakes look vaguely like the ones on a Subaru Legacy, albeit with much more definition. Overall, the styling has some interesting features, but it isn’t “cool.”Honda Concept C front three-quarter view

According to Honda, the Concept S minivan stands for “Stylish,” “Smart,” and “Surprise.” It’s a tad smaller than the Odyssey minivan familiar to Americans, and it doesn’t appear to have sliding rear doors. Honda did not discuss passenger capacity, but it would be odd for any van-shaped vehicle to have less than three rows of seats. Perhaps it will have a “smart” and practical reconfigurable interior when it enters production?

With the current-generation Odyssey, Honda tried to sex up the rather dull minivan segment. The Concept S seems to pull that off more effectively. The absence of the Odyssey’s heavy-looking grille, combined with thin headlights like the Civic’s, gives the concept van a sleek look; one might even argue that it is “stylish.” The grille does look a bit like a whale’s mouth, but it’s hard to make a car look good when you are dealing with this much girth.

The Concept S’ spindly wheels and red brake calipers look sporty, but don’t expect to be burning rubber when this minivan hits showrooms. Minivans are just about the only vehicles that car companies haven’t tried to turn into race cars. Honda would only say that the production version of the Concept S will have a hybrid powertrain. That must be the surprise.

According to Honda, both the Concept C and Concept S will begin production next year. The Concept C will probably be exclusive to the Chinese market, but Honda said it will sell the Concept S in other countries as well.