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Tokyo 2017: Honda expands its EV range

26 October 2017 | by Maxine Morland

Lots of product design and car companies want to make customers happy (and thus buying their products) but few place as much emphasis on that as Honda. Chief of Design Tsuyoshi Matsuhashi says that “Honda wants to design happy life moments for its customers.” Judging by the reaction at Tokyo, Honda’s Sports EV Concept made a lot of people very happy indeed.

Founder Soichiro Honda was an engineer, a designer and an eccentric, in the nicest possible way, and we suspect he would be very pleased with the cars and mobility solutions Honda showed at Tokyo this year. Alongside the Sports EV concept, Honda also launched an autonomous driving section of your house complete with animated story. But it was the Sports EV that caught our eye.

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Sports EV with its little brother, the Urban EV

The launch of the Sports EV continues the design direction debuted at Frankfurt earlier this year with the Urban EV Concept. Honda Design has found its groove again.

The launch of the bold new Civic last year hinted that design was in the ascendant at this venerable company, and this pair of concepts confirm it – Honda is using design to make its customer happy again.

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The Sports EV clearly resembles the S600 from 1964, which sits proudly at Motegi in the Honda Collection. It is small, well-proportioned and looks a lot of fun. The Urban EV also references past products, nodding to the original Civic, but there is more than nostalgia going on here. Many of the concepts we see which try to predict the future of mobility look fairly aggressive, but Honda’s designers have put some cuteness back into driving.

Someone at the show commented that the Sports EV looked like Asimo, Honda’s now elderly robot, and you can tell they are from the same design family. The rear view arrangement looks like a robot in standby mode.

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The front view of the Sports EV is more alert, though. Very friendly, round graphic lights sit either side of the black faux grille area with clear charge information displayed between the graphic headlights and the Honda logo sitting in the centre, linking it all together. The curve of the grille area smiles cheerfully, while giving you helpful information in a very clear way.

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In profile, it has very sporty proportions. The long bonnet, set-back cabin and wraparound glasshouse arrangement pulls the eye back, making it look like it is sitting on its haunches, eager, and ready to spring forwards. Unusually too, the B pillar wraps around the all-glass roof.

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The use of a single blue colour for the charging information, used almost as an accent colour on the side strip between the wheels is simple and compelling. Unlike the Urban EV, which featured unusual white wheels, the Sports EV wheels are more conventional and convey performance, but it shares the clean exterior design and absence of bling with the Urban EV.

Door handles are flush to the door, but show a trace outline, so you don’t have to struggle to find them.

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On the stand following the launch, Makoto Iwaki, Honda’s Creative Executive Director told CDN that they were quite nervous about pursuing this design direction [of the Urban EV and Sports EV] because it looks so different to anything else being launched at the moment. We say: different is good.

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Tokyo 2017