Shanghai Auto Show: Honda Concept M tries to make the minivan cool

Honda Concept M front three quarterMinivans are not cool. Carmakers have tried everything from extroverted styling to filling their ‘vans with legions of LCD monitors, but they’re losing the battle against perception. Honda has tried harder than most, even resorting to a 1970s-themed ad campaign for the Odyssey.

Honda’s latest attempt at a cool minivan is the Concept M, which was just unveiled at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show.

The Concept M definitely looks like a minivan, albeit one designed by the same person who designed the talking robots for Michael Bay’s Transformers movies.

It’s rare to see a car with not one, but two sets of side air intakes, but that front end is pretty tall. Those gaping holes, and the unusual two-tiered grille, hide some of the Concept M’s girth.

Another interesting touch is the intense sculpting of the wheel wells. They’re pulled so far out from the sides of the car in back that some clamp-like pieces of trim can fit around them.

We wouldn’t say the Concept M is pretty, but it definitely stands out and has a more aggressive look than any vehicle designed to haul packs of schoolchildren has a right to.

It’s also truly mini: Whereas Honda’s own Odyssey is getting decidedly maxi in size, the Concept M is intended as a compact minivan, along the lines of the Mazda5.

Vehicles like that have always occupied a small niche in the United States, but that won’t be a problem for Honda if it decides to put the Concept M into production.

Honda Concept M rear three quarterHonda is specifically targeting the Chinese market with this one, hoping to compete with the repurposed commercial vans that makes up the bulk of the country’s minivan fleet.

Since the Concept M is a true car-based minivan and not a small commercial vehicle with passenger seats, it should offer more refinement and better performance than those vehicles.

Honda hopes to have a production version of the Concept M on the Chinese market by 2014. American buyers will have to make due with the Odyssey. At least we get an onboard vacuum cleaner.

Should Honda downsize its American minivan offerings as well? Tell us in the comments.

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