Honda Urban EV concept is a retro-looking electric car built for the city

The Honda Clarity works hard to advertise its zero-emission powertrain using futuristic styling, but Honda went in the opposite direction for its all-electric concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The Honda Urban EV concept looks like an homage to the first-generation Civic from the 1970s. But it’s actually a preview of a new electric car Honda plans to launch in a couple of years. Like those early Civics, the design emphasizes simplicity over flashiness.

With its flat front fascia, round headlights, and basic hatchback shape, the Urban EV concept’s exterior is anything but complex. The car’s low stance, short front and rear overhangs, and wide track give it a purposeful look, however. The Urban EV is slightly shorter than a current-generation Honda Fit.

Honda’s designers also exercised restraint when it came to the interior. There are virtually no controls on the simple dashboard, with most functions handled by a screen that runs the length of the dash and even extends onto the doors. You could say it takes the Tesla Model 3 dashboard-screen concept a step further.

Refreshingly for a modern design, the front pillars are very thin, enhancing outward visibility. Another touch not seen on many modern cars is a front bench seat in place of the more common bucket seats. The Urban EV concept also features rear-hinged suicide doors, like you might find on a Rolls-Royce Dawn, and cameras in place of rearview mirrors. The latter feature is becoming common on concept cars, but faces stiff resistance from regulators.

Honda did not provide any details on the powertrain, but it did note that the Urban EV concept is capable of discharging power from its battery pack into the grid, allowing the car to act as a mobile energy-storage unit. The concept is also equipped with the Honda Automated Network Assistant, a virtual concierge that “learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments,” according to Honda. This somewhat creepy-sounding feature can then make recommendations based on what it learns.

In a press conference at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo confirmed that a production version of the Urban EV concept will go on sale in Europe in 2019. Going forward, Honda plans to offer a hybrid or all-electric powertrain in every model it sells in Europe. The company hasn’t said whether it will sell the Urban EV in the United States, but, until then, there’s always the Accord.

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