Concept Cars

Honda confirms Urban EV order books to open in 2019

The company reveals, at the Geneva Motor Show, that its captivating electric hatchback will bring its retro cuteness to the streets.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Remember Honda's utterly adorable Urban EV Concept? The neo-retro EV bowed in Frankfurt last year, and while Honda telegraphed that it would eventually produce the car, on Tuesday, it announced at the Geneva Motor Show that order books will open in 2019.

At the Japanese automaker's press conference, Honda revealed it will start taking orders in Europe beginning in early 2019, with product soon to follow. "A production version of this highly acclaimed concept will be introduced to Europe during late 2019," said Philip Ross, senior vice president, Honda Motor Europe.

Exterior-wise, Honda should be able to build something similar to the concept, albeit with some production-friendly changes. Say goodbye to those ultra-slim roof pillars, as they're not crash-test friendly. Bid adieu to those side-view cameras, and more than likely, those pedestrian-facing message screens, too. (Neither the cameras or the screens may be legal in all markets yet.)

Inside, it's fair to assume that while the Urban EV will still have a large screen, it won't quite be of the sexy-but-expensive full-width variety. I'd also expect the street car to lose the concept's low-cut bench seat in favor of more traditional buckets up front, and all seats will have to get appropriately sized headrests for safety reasons. 

As long as all this is done in a fashion that's sensitive to the original design's simplistic brilliance, there's no reason to think that the production car won't be a sensation.

Never mind that huge screen, the Honda Urban EV has a front bench seat! 

Honda

If you're wondering why Honda hasn't already committed to bring this car to the US and Canada, it's not out of the question, but at least two major factors are against it: size and price. 

Size, because it's tiny -- in show car form, the Urban EV is 3.9 inches shorter than today's Fit hatchback, its current smallest offering in our market. North American buyers just don't snap up many cars that are scaled like this anymore. Conversely, thanks to their tighter streets, tougher parking and higher running costs, European and Japanese buyers still do.

Price is also a major concern, because even though Honda hasn't detailed the production model's performance or range, building an electric car of this size will certainly be costlier than its gas equivalent, if only because batteries are still so expensive. 

Will Honda manage to preserve the concept's "taillamps under glass" look?

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

A Honda of America spokesperson would only say, "We cannot comment on future product."

Having said all of that, given a strong enough response, anything is possible. Battery costs seem to be dropping by the day, and a car this novel and high-profile could well give Honda cause to reconsider its viability in America. That said, I definitely wouldn't bet on it showing up in our showrooms at all, and I certainly wouldn't plan on seeing it in our neck of the woods until the model has proven to be a success elsewhere in the world.

Now, if we can get Honda to agree to give us its Sports EV Concept...