Visually reaching back to Honda’s roots, powering its electric future.
Honda’s recent production cars are among the more adventurously styled in their respective classes—we’re looking at you, Civic—so it is curious that the automaker is going retro for its advanced concept cars. Case in point: the oh-so-adorable Urban EV concept from this year’s Frankfurt auto show, which resembles an original 1973 Civic hatchback reimagined for a preschool version of Blade Runner. Now upstaging even that car in the quest for retro-cuteness is Honda’s latest idea for an electric runabout, the Sports EV revealed at the 2017 Tokyo auto show.
Whereas the Urban EV melded classic 1970s Honda styling cues into a boxy, modern hatchback body with an electric powertrain, the Sports EV reaches back further to the early ’60s, when motorcycle-centric Honda was starting to try its hand at cars. The most memorable of those early autos came in 1964 with the S600. It featured a motorcycle engine, chain-driven rear wheels, and microscopic dimensions. Those plucky little models clearly inspired this Sports EV’s upright profile and facelike, happy-go-lucky graphics front and rear.
Like the original S600—as opposed to today’s gas-powered S660 mid-engine roadster sold only in Japan—the Sports EV concept has a traditional long-hood/short-rear-deck layout, with its cabin set far back in the body. Like the Urban EV concept, the Sports EV uses the dedicated platform that Honda is developing for its future electric cars, although it isn’t clear which axle (or axles) is powered or where the electric motor mounts to the chassis. Fingers crossed that it’s rear-wheel drive, with the electric motor situated someplace between the front and rear axles. We assume the batteries are stuffed into the floor, given Honda’s claims that the Sports EV has a low center of gravity.
Frankly, the Sports EV could be one-wheel drive and we’d still dig it. Just look at the little bugger! The front looks like a smiley mouth with round eyes stuffed in it, and the rear end has an emoji-like soulless stare (we can’t unsee “o____o”). For something so small, the Sports EV wears its curvy lines gracefully, and its subtly bulging fenders fail to make it look stubby. Honda has so far kept to itself details about the Sports EV’s interior and electronics, besides noting that artificial intelligence (AI) technology is somehow involved.
That the two-seater shares a few cues with the Urban EV concept—including blue battery-charge indicators in the rub-strip-like displays along its flanks and black surrounds for the headlights and taillights—gives us hope that Honda might add something similar to its future EV lineup. We know the Urban EV concept previews a fully electric production model that will be sold in Europe and Japan. Here’s hoping that the Sports EV finds its way to Honda’s U.S. dealerships, too.