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Frankfurt 2017: Honda commits to electrified future


Honda had a big Frankfurt show, revealing a commitment to electrified vehicles in either hybrid or pure electric form. After offering various hybrid options over the years, such as the Insight and Civic Hybrid models, Honda is aiming for 65 percent of its global offerings to be electrified by 2030.

Previewing this future were two new Honda models at the show – a retro-styled concept car dubbed the Urban EV, and a hybrid version of the new generation of CR-V medium SUV. The CR-V also made its European debut at Frankfurt 2017, with the facelifted Jazz, new Civic Type R and new Civic diesel also featuring alongside.

The Urban EV concept was officially introduced by Honda Motor Co. President and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, during his press conference speech. “This is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019,” he added, confirming that the concept is set to be launched within two years.

Confirmed for production in 2019, the Urban EV concept car adds some fresh styling into the Honda lineup, with a retro-inspired look that draws inspiration from the first generation of Civic from 1972. It sits on a new platform, and sits only 10mm shorter than the current generation of Jazz.

The exterior of the Urban EV concept is undeniably cute, in a retro sort of way, and it appears that Honda is aiming to copy manufacturers such as Fiat with their 500, and produce a retro-styled car for modern times. A three-door layout is increasingly rare in the modern automotive world, and simple details such as the car’s large circular headlights, square tailights and glassy greenhouse are also often overlooked.

Being Japanese, there are some cool details with the Urban EV concept – for example, the light bar in between the headlights displays messages to other motorists and can connect with other Urban EV drivers. At the rear, blue badging features, which Honda says is a new design theme for its electrified vehicles.

Inside the Urban EV, the general retro theme with high-tech and modern details continues. Honda claims that the car’s outward visibility is excellent, thanks to slim A-pillars and a very wide windscreen that sweeps around the entire front of the car. The doors are rear-hinged, to increase the car’s practicality, particularly for rear seat passengers – important considering Honda’s claim that the Urban EV is a genuine four-seater car.

The interior layout of the Urban EV is centred around a lounge theme, with two bench seats finished in different materials – the front seat is upholstered in a grey fabric, with the seat backs, squabs and arm rests featuring wood finish accents. The seatbelts for the rear bench are fixed in the middle of the seat, which allows the belt to retract out of the way before a rear seat passenger exits the car.

The dashboard of the Urban EV centres around a floating theme, with the same wood wrapping around it. The dashboard itself houses the steering wheel column, some ‘simple button controls’ and a panoramic display screen, which features in co-existence with a wrap-around screen that runs behind the console and extends into the doors. These extended door screens function as the car’s wind mirrors through digital camera displays.

Further details of the Urban EV concept, such as anything about the car’s drivetrain, are yet to be revealed. Honda claims that a similar production car will debut in 2019, and will compete against other small electric vehicles such as the Renault Zoe, BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-up!.

Honda also chose Frankfurt 2017 to debut the new CR-V hybrid medium SUV. With all the current gloominess surrounding diesel powerplants, Honda has chosen a hybrid drivetrain instead for this generation of CR-V for those looking for more efficiency from their Honda SUV. While hybrid SUVs are currently rare in Europe, Honda sees a big future from electrified drivetrains and will join the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Toyota RAV4 hybrid as one of the only electrified medium SUVs on the European market.

The CR-V hybrid eschews the petrol model’s 1.5-litre turbocharged engine, instead using the same Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive hybrid system from the Accord sedan. The hybrid system is matched to a 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder petrol engine, with an electric motor geared directly to the engine. As yet, Honda has not released any figures regarding the CR-V hybrid’s performance or fuel economy, though the power and torque figures are expected to mirror the Accord’s 149kW and 307Nm total combined total output.

The i-MMD hybrid is front-wheel drive, and features three different driving modes: EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive. EV Drive forces the car to draw power solely from the battery pack, though figures on just how far the car can drive have not been revealed. In Hybrid Drive mode, the petrol engine supplies energy to the generator, which supplies power to the electric motor with excess energy being diverted back to the generator to store. Finally, in Engine Drive, the engine directly powers the front wheels, with the electric motor on standby to provide extra grunt when needed.

The Frankfurt show also provided a glimpse into what the European-spec CR-V will look like when it goes on sale later in the year. Whilst its styling and interior are largely identical to the rest of the world, the car will offer the choice of a six-speed manual or CVT automatic, making the European market one of the only markets to offer a manual CR-V.

Honda Australia have confirmed to local media that they are interested in bringing the CR-V hybrid to Australia, but only if a sound business case can be made. The biggest issue with the CR-V hybrid is that, like the previous generation CR-V diesel, it is only made in the UK whereas our CR-V models are made in Thailand – making the British-built models significantly more expensive to import than their Thai siblings. This means that the CR-V hybrid could be significantly more expensive than regular models, which will dent their appeal.

Honda Australia’s previous hybrid efforts have been less successful – most recently, the Accord, Jazz, Insight and CR-Z hybrids all were cut from Australian sales due to high pricing and a general lack of interest.

Stay tuned to Chasing Cars for news and reviews of the Honda range. You can read our review of the new generation of CR-V here.