2020 Honda Urban EV
We spoke and Honda listened - The Urban EV is moving into productionby Andrei Nedelea, on
It turns out the rumors that Honda was eventually going to put its Urban EV Concept from the 2017 Frankfurt motor show into production were true. Our spies have caught what is, evidently, a camouflaged production prototype of that study and, while it does do away with some of the concept’s craziness, it’s still an interesting and unexpected model.
Back at its motor show debut, the Urban EV concept caused quite a stir with its retro-futuristic styling and all-electric powertrain, although it was probably the former that made it unique. Honda seems to have left the overall design mostly unchanged for the production version, the big difference being that it has grown from a three-door into a five-door.
The concept also had rear-hinged (so-called “suicide”) doors, but this production interpretation seems to have regular doors. Another change over the concept has to do with the shape of the rear lights that are now round as opposed to square, mirroring the shape of the front clusters.
It’s also going to be Honda’s first all-electric vehicle for the European market, but aside from that, it’s also apparently going to be a sold as a kind of premium vehicle (according to some rumors), so it probably won’t necessarily be an affordable supermini/subcompact.
2020 Honda Urban EV
2020 Honda Urban EV Exterior
Honda has stayed mostly true to the original concept’s deisgn and styling and, while the car will definitely have been toned down for production, it’s still recognizably visually related to the study. The biggest changes are probably the two extra doors (and the way they are hinged), as well as the changing of the rear light cluster shape from squared to round.
The wheelbase also seems to be slightly longer too, but other than that, it looks very similar. I
t looks like it will even retain the concept’s blacked out lid on the hood behind which Honda may have placed the charging port.
The camouflaged prototype doesn’t even have regular side mirrors any more, as they’ve been replaced by rear-facing cameras just like the ones on the concept.
Honda will probably be forced by legislation to also offer conventional mirrors, since camera replacements are not legal everywhere.
It also looks like it has flush-fitting door handles on the front doors and rears; the handles for the rear doors are located in the upper part of the door, next to the C-pillar - this is done in order to keep the design as clean as possible.
The vehicle also appears to have frameless side windows, which is in-keeping with the news that Honda wants to sell this vehicle as more of a premium proposition and not as a cheap, mass-market electric car, like, say, the Renault Zoe.
Overall, it will be this car’s retro flair wrapped in a cutting-edge looking package that will make the car visually appealing to the current buyer.
Honda has capitalized on the interest stirred by the Urban EV concept and it’s tried its best (and apparently succeeded) to keep the production interpretation as close to it as possible.
It will definitely be a car that will most likely end up being bought for the way it looks on top of being a battery-powered EV, and it doesn’t appear to have significantly altered the concept’s look, so we expect it to be quite a desirable vehicle when it does come out.
The concept also had exterior displays embedded into the grille, the side sills and rear fascia too. They seemed to be used just to show the state of charge and it’s very unlikely that all of them will make it into the production vehicle. But maybe Honda will maintain the essence of the idea and offer the production version with a dedicated exterior display to show how much current is in the battery without having to look at your phone or the meter on the charger.
2020 Honda Urban EV Interior
The Urban EV concept had a massive screen that ran all across the width of the dash, from in front of the driver, to in front of the passenger, an uninterrupted super-wide screen that dominates the cabin.
And it looks like it could be retained for the production model, because if you look closely inside the car spotted by our spies, you can kind of make it out and it looks like the one on the concept.
It could just be a design feature that’s not all screen, though; we can’t really tell right now, nor can we tell where the image from the rear-view cameras is going to be displayed. The concept had screens on the top part of the door cards, but that doesn’t seem like the best place to put them as the driver has to look a bit too far down to see them properly - they need to be very easy to see at a glance.
And it looks like Honda has put them at the same level as the main screen, on the corners of the dash, at the base of the A-pillars. The screens seem to be quite big and angled towards the driver, just like conventional rear-view mirrors are.
What’s also clear is that the car will come with a central interior rear-view mirror that doubles as a display showing a feed from a central rear-mounted camera.
If the production car’s interior keeps the concept’s style, then we expect a very minimal approach with few physical buttons, centered around the big screen.
Besides, Honda has kind of lost its way recently with some control setups, like the buttons for gear selection in their latest cars with automatic transmissions, so maybe they can do away with them completely in favor of something that’s less fiddly to use.
The interior should feel quite luxurious overall, and Honda announced its intention to sell the car as a more premium model when it showed off the concept. It had a lot of wood trim used (not only on the dash and doors, but also the seat frames), as well as materials that not only look pleasant but also look like they are nice to touch too. Interestingly, despite aiming to provide a premium ambiance, the concept’s interior didn’t use leather upholstery, but fabric instead - leather seatbelts were present on the concept (to further drive home the idea that it is a posh car) but they definitely won’t make it to production.
2020 Honda Urban EV Drivetrain
We do know fairly certainly that it will be only available as a pure electric vehicle, so no plug-in hybrid or range extender versions will be offered.
We don’t even know how much power it could make, especially since it seems like there is a slight sporty twist to the car, which has a low-slung, wheel-at-each-corner look to it. Honda’s most powerful all-electric vehicle is currently the Clarity whose motor makes 161 horsepower and 221 pound-feet / 300 Nm of torque, so it could be used to make this Urban EV a nippy electric warm hatch.
Range is also unknown right now, but reports suggest it could travel up to 155 miles or 250 km, but frankly that seems very poor compared to the likes of the Renault Zoe which can now muster up to a claimed 250 miles / 400 km on one charge thanks to the use of a 41 kWh battery pack that’s quite large for this size car.
So since Honda wants its city EV to be a more premium and expensive experience, we expect them to offer the car with a comparable range to that of the Zoe if they want to sell the car to other types of buyers aside from style-conscious hipsters who will buy it solely for its looks.
2020 Honda Urban EV Prices
At the moment we literally have no frame of reference in order to deduce how much Honda could charge for its production Urban EV. If they really play the premium card, maybe they could sell it for well over €30,000.
2020 Honda Urban EV Competition
Renault’s all-electric Zoe already boasts impressive figures, the main one being its claimed range of up to 400 km or 250 miles on a single charge. It also looks quite cool for what it is and just their sheer number on Europe’s roads reveal that it is a bit of a success story, even if it’s by no means perfect.
It’s definitely a car that feels built to a price, and this is especially evident inside where materials quality is about on par with that of a Dacia model. It doesn’t feel flimsy or poorly assembled, but the sheer amount of hard plastic inside is not pleasant for the eyes or fingers.
But the Zoe feels cheap because compared to other EVs it really is cheap and you don’t lose on the all-important range when option for one of these. It’s probably the most compelling EV of this size out right now.
Read our full review on the 2017 Renault Zoe
Volkswagen will also sell you an all-electric version of their Up! city car, dubbed e-Up! which comes with a considerably nicer feeling interior compared to that of the Zoe, even though it’s theoretically one size class down on it.
Its range used to be comparable to that of the Zoe, but ever since the Renault received a new larger battery pack, the e-Up! has been left behind - its real-world autonomy won’t exceed 160 km or around 100 miles, so it’s really only useful for city driving and short trips, while the Zoe can drive you to more remote places, provided you can charge it at your destination.
Read our full review on the 2018 VW e-Up!
Since Honda may be looking to sell the production version of the Urban EV as a more premium type of vehicle, it will go up against the DS3 Crossback e-Tense, the all-electric version of the new crossover from PSA’s premium arm.
The Crossback e-Tense comes to the table with striking design both inside and out, as well as decent performance and range - 136 horsepower (allowing it to sprint to 100 km/h in 9 seconds) and a 50 kWh battery pack that the manufacturer claims is good for 300 km or 186 miles of autonomy on a single charge.
Read our full review on the 2019 DS3 Crossback e-Tense
If you still want the reassurance and piece of mind of a conventional combustion engine, then maybe the electrified Toyota Yaris Hybrid is a better fit for you. It is the only vehicle in its class to be available as a hybrid and its main qualities are its usability and practicality, as well as its fuel-efficient nature.
Its interior is considerably better than both the Zoe and e-Up!, but it’s nowhere near as daring as that of the DS3 Crossback and since the Honda city EV will also have an upmarket interior, the Yaris hybrid may not feel as special alongside either of them.
Read our full review on the 2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid
Probably the only direct competitor for the electric city Honda is the BMW i3, a model which has the premium credentials to face any competitor in its class. The i3 has a great, quite futuristic interior which if you spec well can be a really serene and relaxing place to travel in - I recommend going for a lighter colored interior because it has a huge impact on how you feel in the car.
It also has plenty of punch from its electric motor, it’s rear-wheel drive so you can have some fun with and nothing looks quite like it on the road. Not everybody likes the way the i3 looks, but you get used to it and it’s currently the best posh EV to travel around in around a big city - maybe the Honda will challenge this distinction.
Read our full review on the 2018 BMW i3
Honda wants to make sure its first EV for Europe makes a splash on the market, relying on trendy retro-futuristic styling, cool features (like ditching the mirrors for cameras) and the kudos of having not tailpipe emissions. It’s been said that the manufacturer will also intend for the Urban EV (whose production name we don’t yet know) to be a more premium vehicle, so we expect extra tech and good levels of interior perceived quality.
The original concept was also quite a sporty looking thing, with a wheel-at-each-corner, squared off look that really made it look like a fun go kart-like thing to throw around. Honda really needs to make it fun to drive and maybe since they are no longer constrained to have the motor in the front, they could move it all the way at the back and also bestow the car with enthusiast-pleasing rear-wheel drive.
Wraps will fall off the production version most likely at next year’s Geneva motor show and you’ll be able order one shortly after that with first deliveries expected to begin in late-2019, maybe early-2020.
Read our full review on the 2017 Honda Urban EV Concept.
Read our full review on the 2017 Honda Sports EV Concept.
Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Honda Sports EV.