} ;

Honda teases updated Urban EV ahead of Geneva debut (UPDATED)

23 January 2019 | by Michael Gooderham

Despite having been a pioneer of hybrid drive and hydrogen technology, Honda has been relatively slow on the battery EV uptake. However, when it previewed its first pure-electric platform with the Urban EV concept at Frankfurt in 2017, the clean, approachable design was an instant sensation.

A development of the concept is due to enter production this year, but before it does, we will see a “new electric vehicle prototype” at the Geneva Motor Show, of which a teaser sketch has now been released.

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The sketch shows a revised, rounder take on the glassy front mask with LED headlights that make a complete circle instead of the concept’s Alfa Romeo Montreal-style ‘low eyebrows’ look. The front bumper seemingly protrudes outwards more, too, no doubt in response to crash safety demands. A newly blacked-out roof suggests suitably fashionable two-tone customisation options, while rear-view cameras instead of mirrors are still present, but bigger than before.

Intriguingly, the wheel arches are much more flared and bulging than the concept’s subtle haunches, suggesting a more pumped-up look. However, we all know that car designers often take some artistic licence with their sketches, and if we study spy photos of the real-life prototype, , we can see that the reality is indeed much closer to the concept than this curvy sketch – and that it’s now a five-door car. Naturally, it also loses the comedy oversized wheels.

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Prototype spy shot betrays flatter arches (photo ©Autocar)

The teaser sketch just barely reveals two separated front seats replacing the concept’s bench, but the glowing full-width dashboard suggests Byton-esque levels of pixel acreage for front occupants, as per the Urban EV. Smaller, angled screens either side suggest a more intuitive placement of the rear-view screens than the ones sat flat in the concept’s doors.

Technical details are scarce ahead of its debut, but the productionised Urban EV (or whatever it ends up being renamed in the process) will be the spearhead of Honda’s “Electric Vision” in Europe, wherein they aim for two thirds of total sales in 2025 to be electrified, with the pure EVs on a VW-style common scalable platform.

We will learn more about all this in the run up to the Geneva show...

Update (13/2): We’ve learned more about the car already, as Honda has teased the interior from the viewpoint of someone sticking their head between the front seats. We’ve brightened it up in Photoshop a bit, although you can see the original version in the gallery too.

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There is indeed a full-width screen, although unlike the concept (or indeed the Byton), it is physically divided up into five sections. The outermost screens, angled slightly inwards, are the rear-view displays accompanying the cameras on the doors where your old-fashioned car has its mirrors. The digital IP of course sits behind the (very conventional) steering wheel. 

Further across, the final two screens appear to split the infotainment system’s on-screen buttons for its different features between those only the driver can comfortably reach, and those only the passenger can reach. It will be interesting to learn the thinking behind the layout seen here, and how configurable it is.

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Physical buttons for the audio, cruise control, Home screen and parking system sit atop the wooden dash base, while equally-tangible HVAC controls sit below, underneath the full-width air vents (in the dark). Lower still is an array of sockets – including, curiously, an HDMI port...

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Also visible on the screen is a much more realistic front-end view of the exterior, with the bonnet-mounted socket flap open to receive a virtual charge cable (we doubt the real one will be luminous green...). The wheel arches are indeed slightly less flared than the sketch above wanted you to believe, flatter even than the concept by a small margin, as is the nose.

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The info screen also shows a side profile of the car, which features a black contrast roof, tall ‘sharkfin’ C-pillar and two-tone 10-spoke alloy wheels with a large black centre disc (possibly to cut drag and aid the range). The door handles are either very subtle, or concealed by the glowing green battery graphic.

Photos of the real thing will no doubt appear soon. Don’t forget to start checking CDN Live once the Geneva show starts on 5th March.