The tiny cars Honda and other companies make exclusively for the Japanese market are some of the most drool-worthy fare on the market for petrolheads. While most people want lots of space and features, Japanese city cars are everything that made the original Mini so special, but with modern conveniences; tiny motors, tiny size, and zippy handling, but with Bluetooth and navigation and power seats. They’re sort of like Smarts, but with dignity.
Honda’s latest runabout, the imaginatively-named Urban EV Concept, combines all the fun qualities of a kei or similar small car with electric motors that make it even easier to package a disarming amount of space into a tiny vehicle. The Urban EV Concept is extremely small, around the length of a Toyota Yaris or maybe a Fiat 500, and electric power eliminates the need for a bulky engine and gearbox, instead increasing precious cargo space, which is already at a premium.
On the outside, the squat-stanced UEV Concept does recall cars like the original Mini, with lots of glass and a nearly-square wheelbase. It also replaces the wing mirrors with cameras (something Tesla tried to get away with, but failed) and suicide doors, which don’t require more space to open and make getting in and out easier, though they sadly probably won’t make it to production.
Honda claims the car has a “lounge environment,” presumably a lounge which can pack in several clowns and not much else. Being a concept, it’s naturally laden with strange features like screens built into the doors, a squircle steering wheel and wood on the armrests. But the design inside is refreshingly simple, free of the tortured insectoid shapes that have been a hallmark of Japanese concepts for years. The front seat looks like a bona fide couch rather than buckets, harking back to American Malaise barges (which is literally the last thing I ever thought I’d say).
Honda says the Urban EV Concept is actually going to go into production, though it’s doubtful that we’ll get one in America since it’ll probably have very little power and Honda still can’t match Tesla’s charging infrastructure. Still, it’s great to know that a car like this will at least exist somewhere in the world; I never thought we needed a modern interpretation of the Nissan Pao, but now that we have one, I actually kinda love it.